The week of April 2-5, 2001, an exceptional group of students at the University of the Pacific successfully organized and hosted their first Palestinian-Israeli Awareness Week. Their theme was: "An enemy is one whose story we have not heard."
The invitation to their campus and community affirmed that "college campuses, and religious and non-profit organizations, throughout North America have come together to ensure that essential dialogue remains intact for all people who are affected by this conflict and for those who are interested in learning about this region’s dynamic human relations. As the violence continues and a peace process flounders, effective communication of ideas and concerns is more vital than ever."
Events included documentary film, guest lecturers, and an unprecedented campus Jewish-Palestinian dialogue experience.
Monday, 7:30 p.m.
“Peace of Mind,” a documentary film created by Israeli and Palestinian youth showing their daily life experiences in their homeland. Preceding the screening, each one in the audience introduced herself or himself. This took time but was of great value.
Tuesday, 6:30 p.m. “Historical Perspectives of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict,” with guest lecturers Scott Segal of the Israeli Consulate, San Francisco, and Dr. Elias Rashmawi, civil engineer and Palestinian educator, Davis, California, presented their interpretations of events and needs in the Middle East. The speakers responded to audience questions submitted in writing on 3x5 cards during their talks.
Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. "Palestinians and Jews in Dialogue" was a panel presentation by two Palestinian and two Jewish participants from Bay Area Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue groups. Facilitated dialogue with the audience followed. Middle Eastern food was provided. There were educational exhibits about the history and initiatives of the dialogue groups.
Thursday, 10:00 a.m. Exhibit, then 6:30 p.m. Closing Ceremony Palestinian and Israeli letters and photo exhibits on display all day. The evening ceremony concluded the week: Participants introduced themselves and said what they'd learned during the week. Letters from "back home" were read -- two Israeli, two Palestinian. Two wisdom passages were read: Rabbi Kook's "Song of Songs" read by a Muslim, and Ibn al-Arabi's "Love Is My Creed" read by a Jew.
Fifty students and some faculty, and parents from nearby Stockton, attended and participated in "Palestinians and Jews in Dialogue."
The panel had 2 Jews and 2 Palestinians -- a woman and men, ages 30s to 70s. In 5-7 minutes each, panelists told their "stories" of moving from limited identification toward inclusiveness. They then entered into dialogue with the students. A fifth dialogue partner facilitated the exchange.
Attendees posed challenging, sometimes confronting statements and questions. Sometimes those in the audience answered one another's queries. The youth opened their minds, participated fully, and seemed grateful for the presence and model of the experienced dialogue presenters.
The room had a generous number of photographic displays of successful Palestinian-Jewish dialogue activities from past years. The students also created their own visual displays. Each attendee was also given several informational pages on how dialogue works and expresses itself in social outcomes.
The coordinating team was Dallas Frohib, Nura Khairallah (firstname.lastname@example.org), Sammar Miqbel, Sarah Maia Pooner (Sarah@brendon.com ), Jennifer Ullman, and Randi Kay Stephens (RandiKayStephens@hotmail.com).
Sponsors and supporters of this groundbreaking week were the Bechtel Center, the Chaplain, Hillel, the Humanities Department, the Muslim Student Association, Open Assembly of the School of International Studies, the Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Groups of San Mateo and San Francisco, Residential Life and Housing, and the School of International Studies.
Elias Botto was born in Jerusalem, Palestine. In late 1947, due to increasing violence in the region, his family moved to Bethlehem, in the West Bank. Elias was a clothing manufacturer serving Esprit, Levi Strauss, and other smaller manufacturers nationwide. A 32nd degree Mason, Mr. Botto supports the medical assistance work of the Shriners and is active in the United States Organization for Medical and Educational Needs (USOMEN), providing needed humanitarian services to people in the Middle East.
Jacob Mandelsberg grew up in a traditional Jewish family in Chicago and attended Hebrew school. In 1938 his father's family had fled Germany and the torching of synagogues and increasing anti-Jewish violence. Jacob lived in Israel for 12 years and served in the IDF. He is presently a freelance Web developer, serving the San Francisco Symphony and Bay Area School Reform Collaboration.
Melek Totah was born in Des Moines, Iowa. Her father grew up in Haifa, Palestine, in the 1930s and '40s before fleeing in 1948. Melek graduated from Drake University in 1988, majoring in International Relations. She later earned her M.B.A. in International Business. Melek was volunteer Chief Financial Officer for the non-profit Grady Community Council in Atlanta, Georgia, to establish pre-school programs for inner city children. Melek is now Manager of Financial Planning and Analysis for a large Silicon Valley software company.
Lionel "Len" Traubman recently retired after 36 years from his practice of Dentistry for Children in San Francisco. Dr. Traubman was regional alumni President of Alpha Omega Jewish dental fraternity, and received the 1998 Distingushed Alumnus Award of the University of California School of Dentistry. He wrote and published THE ORECKOVSKY FAMILY: FROM RUSSIA TO AMERICA, depicting his pioneer ancestors' immigration following the first pogroms of the early 1880s. The book resides in 100 libraries in North America and Europe. For 20 years, Len has published on war and peace from personal experience with Russians and Americans, Armenians and Azerbaijanis, and Jews and Palestinians.
Libby Traubman is a retired clinical social worker. In 1982, in response the threat of global nuclear war, Mrs. Traubman was a founding member of the Beyond War Movement, now Foundation for Global Community. In 1992, she co-founded the Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group of San Mateo, based on her earlier experience organizing the Beyond War conference for Israeli and Palestinian citizen-leaders which resulted in a historic signed document, FRAMEWORK FOR A PUBLIC PEACE PROCESS. She is on the Board of San Mateo County 2000, and in 1994 was inducted into the San Mateo County Women's Hall of Fame.