For the past three months, college campuses have been an ideological battleground. The carnage in southern Israel and Gaza has produced reverberations among student bodies across the country, including on Long Island. Coverage of student responses has overwhelmingly centered on campus hostilities between Jewish/Israeli and Arab/Palestinian students. Antipathy, however, is not inevitable. The raging discord defining our current relationship can be reversed if Jewish/Israeli and Arab/Palestinian students take the integral yet uncomfortable first step toward creating joint spaces for civil interaction.
Ordinarily, interactions between our two peoples on university campuses occur in less than hospitable environments, if at all. Beyond protests and counter-demonstrations, milieus which inherently produce animosity, most Arab/Palestinian and Jewish/Israeli students are unlikely to ever interact, let alone in a civil environment. Recognizing this, students across the country have attempted to overcome decades of entrenched social boundaries through Atidna International, the first joint, university-based peace and dialogue organization for Jewish/Israeli and Arab/Palestinian students.
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The aptitude for decades of interfaith bridge-building in Nassau and Suffolk counties proves that Long Island’s universities have the capability to become national leaders in our peoples’ joint struggle to unify; however, that requires students to first extend the olive branch. Only by Jews/Israelis and Arabs/Palestinians civilly engaging one another can we begin to comprehend the “other” as part of our family, hence breaking down decades of ingrained misconceptions and enmity. We urge our Long Island university peers to take the first step toward grassroots reconciliation by joining our unifying mission.
This guest essay reflects the views of Elijah Kahlenberg and Jadd Hashem, students at the University of Texas at Austin and president and vice president, respectively, of Atidna International.
View this Guest Essay from Newsday on January 15th