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ISSUE 118 VOL 15 PUBLISHED 4/8/2005

Speaking on Israel: Tour features different religions

By Clare Kennedy
Contributing Writer

Friday, April 8, 2005

The women of "Jerusalem Women Speak: Three Women, Three Faiths, One Shared Vision" tour brought their message of peace to a packed house in Rolvaag Memorial Library Tuesday. Turnout for the event was high; many had to sit on the floor or stand in the hallway. Aitemad Muhanna, a Muslim Palestinian; Nina Mayorek, a Jewish Israeli; and Diana Kattan, a Christian Palestinian, spoke in turn to an audience of nearly 100.

The lecture began with a slide show "occupation tour" of the West Bank, using an array of maps, diagrams and pictures to recount injustices, human rights violations and political aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in detail.

Though the speakers were of three separate faiths, they all viewed Israel’s policies as a major source of turmoil. "The real important thing they have to understand is that Israel has to withdraw to the green line and evacuate most of the settlements," Mayorek said. "I am convinced that the problem is the Israeli government and the imbalance of power."

The three also unanimously supported the "two state solution," the creation of an independent Palestinian state which would share the capital city of Jerusalem with Israel, as the best way to peace. "Having been born in the west side of Jerusalem and yet working and living in the east side, I strongly believe in the importance of a just and enduring peace for Jerusalem," Kattan said. "It should be a city for two nations and three religions."

Muhanna agreed, saying, “I believe that the Palestinian and Israeli people have to live as two equal nations cooperating, rather than fighting against each other.”

Muhanna, a development professional, grew up in the Shati refugee camp after her family fled a village (now part of Israel) in 1948. She has recently begun coursework for a Ph.D. in developmental studies at Swansea University. She has been engaged in the struggle for women’s rights as well as Palestinian national identity and self-determination for many years.

Mayorek is now a senior biochemist in the Department of Human Nutrition and Metabolism at Hebrew University. She and her family moved to Israel in 1968 to escape Polish anti-Semitism. She has actively promoted understanding between Palestinians and Israelis by coordinating Israeli volunteers at a Palestinian school, lecturing on women and family health in a refugee camp in Bethlehem and monitoring checkpoints as a member of the Israeli women’s human rights group, Checkpoint Watch.

Kattan holds an M.A. in English literature from Hebrew University. During the 1948 war, her family took refuge in a church after their home in west Jerusalem was seized. They eventually bought it back.

Most student reactions to the lecture were positive.

"I think it was pretty eye-opening to hear the opinions of women of three different faiths," Kristin Rau '07 said. "It was interesting to see what they choose to present as a part of their argument independently of the others, and how the differences supported the same cause."

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