“Jerusalem Women Speak” addresses Israeli -Palestinian conflict

Tammy Tran

(Nhi Nguyen)

The Lawrence University chapter of Amnesty International hosted “Jerusalem Women Speak” Oct. 25. The “Jerusalem Women Speak” tour aims to raise awareness of the Palestinian and Israeli conflicts. The tour consists of three women of three different faiths who have united to share their stories and inspire a movement against the conflicts occurring between Palestine and Israel.
“A lot of what we hear about the conflict is from officials who talk about policy decisions,” stated Salem Barahmeh ’11, an active member of Amnesty International. “But these women talk about their actual experiences and what is actually happening on the ground.”
Skylar Kogelschatz, a senior and former intern at the Council for the National Interest, introduced Lawrence to the “Jerusalem Women Speak” tour.
“This is a very important issue that tends to get overlooked because it’s been going on for so long,” said Kogelschatz. “People forget that these are real people just like us who are going through these struggles and conflicts.”
Alison Weir moderated the panel. Weir is president of the Council for the National Interest, the foundation that orchestrates the “Jerusalem Women Speak” tour. Weir is also the founder of If Americans Knew, a non-profit organization that provides unbiased information about Israel and Palestine.
Weir began the evening by sharing historical information on the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians and expressing hope that the two groups will eventually be able to live together in peace.
“Christians, Muslims and Jews all live on land that is sacred to all three faiths,” stated Weir. “They have lived together for centuries without violence. We all strongly feel that they can and will do that again.”
Marianna Khoury, a Palestinian Christian who grew up in Nazareth, Israel, moved to America at age 18 and has remained active in raising awareness about the conditions facing Palestinians in Israel.
Khoury urged Lawrence students to strive to understand the conflict: “Get more information and share it with people who don’t know it. college students of today are the next generation [of] policy makers. [They] deserve to know what’s going on.”
Khoury also explained students’ right to know about America’s investment and influence in Israel. She said, “America contributes an average seven million dollars daily to Israel. Students should know where their tax money is going… so they can be responsible citizens and make responsible votes.”
Ruth Hiller is Jewish and currently lives in Israel. When Hiller’s son decided to resist the mandatory military draft, she noticed a lack of options for children who did not want to enroll in the military. she then co-founded New Profile, a not-for-profit organization that aims to demilitarize Israeli society.
“We bring a different voice that’s not heard and not publicized,” said Hiller. “In my perspective, it’s really important for the American public to understand that there is a lot of opposition to present Israeli policies. That’s why meeting in these kinds of settings – people to people – [is] important to me.”
Raja Khata, a Muslim Palestinian, currently resides in America and goes home to visit her family every year. During her travels, Khata experiences cruel discrimination at security checkpoints because she does not have an Israeli ID.
Referring to instances in which Israeli officers took away her U.S. passport and cursed at her in Hebrew, Khata said: “I don’t see any hope. Palestinians are suffering. Open your heart, we all need to pray for Jerusalem.”
Members of the Lawrence community can join the movement to end the conflict in Jerusalem by becoming more knowledgeable about the issues.
“The more educated Lawrence students make themselves,” stated Kogelschatz, “the more likely they are to share the knowledge with family and friends. It is thousands of miles away but we should pay attention to it like it was right next door.”
Chuck Demler ’11, president of Lawrence’s Amnesty International chapter, urges students to become more aware of international conflict. “The crisis in Palestine is not the only human rights issue,” stated Demler. “There is crisis going on all around the world and they are all interrelated. This is something Amnesty International works to address.”
“This oppression and tragic violence that creates dangerous world instability has gone on for 60 years,” said Weir. “I’m hoping that this generation of students will be the one to bring peace and justice.