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Israeli, Palestinian peace activists call for dialogue at Skidmore College event

December 1, 2021

Palestinian and Israeli peace activists shared personal stories about their own backgrounds, discussed their initial reluctance to engage the other side, and expressed their shared conviction that lasting reconciliation could only be achieved through dialogue during an event at Skidmore College.  

Shadi Abu Awwad and Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger discussed their involvement in Roots/Shorahim/Judur, a unique collaboration of Palestinians and Israelis, during the Nov. 17 event in Gannett Auditorium. Both speakers stressed the need for mutual recognition and dialogue in a territory that both sides claim as their own.  

“At Roots … we began to understand that most Israelis and most Palestinians go to sleep at night dreaming the other side is going to disappear,” Schlesinger said. “Until we build recognition, trust, and empathy for the other side and the fullness of their identity, there will never been peace.”  

Schlesinger said Roots’ work was not inherently political in nature but aimed to create groundwork that can make a future political settlement possible. Both activists also stressed the group’s uniqueness in working with both Israeli settlers and local Palestinians in the West Bank: Schlesinger is a settler, and Abu Awwad grew up there.  

At the same time, Schlesinger and Abu Awwad also acknowledged how difficult it is to listen to the perspective of the other side and engage in meaningful dialogue.  

“You cannot build peace that is exclusively for Palestinians. You cannot build peace without admitting the Palestinian cause,” Abu Awwad said. “We sit at the table to talk about hard things because our conflict is hard. It’s not easy. It’s not nice.” 

Parker Diggory, director of religious and spiritual life at Skidmore, said the event, “Two Truths in One Heart; Two Peoples in One Land,” was part of a series of ongoing conversations on campus about the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Skidmore students also had the opportunity to participate in small group meetings with the speakers.  

The event was sponsored by Skidmore's Racial Justice Initiative and the Office of Special Programs’ Jacob Perlow Event Series in collaboration with the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, the Office of Student Diversity Programs, and The Center

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