The University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) has created a program in response to strained Israeli-Palestinian relations on campus. Last spring, six campus departments sponsored a conference on post-Zionism that sparked heated debate between pro-Palestinian and Jewish students. This summer, Santa Cruz Hillel met with University Chancellor George Blumenthal and Executive Vice Chancellor David Kliger to create a new program aimed at educating and healing.
“The purpose of the series is to promote reasoned dialogue between differing perspectives in a way that furthers the university’s core educational mission,” explains Blumenthal.
The program, entitled Illuminating Dialogues, began October 10 and consists of four public lectures by scholars, political leaders and peace advocates intimately acquainted with the Mid-East conflict. Illuminating Dialogues’ final lecture will take place on December 5. Yossi Beilin and Yasser Abed Rabbo, the principal architects of the Geneva Accords, will present.
Illuminating Dialogues’ first lecture drew 350 attendees, including university students and community members. Graduate student Heather Paul says the lecture was an opportunity to learn more about the conflict in a safe environment.
“An Israel-Palestine event that I attended five years ago was too intense for me,” says Paul “and I never wanted to attend another one. But after seeing the first dialogue at UCSC, I am more willing now than I ever have been to engage academically and emotionally in this important discussion.”
Santa Cruz Hillel Executive Director Rick Zinman says the dialogue program allows students to make their own informed decisions on the subject. The program also seeks to engage more Jewish students on campus which is a goal of Hillel.
“A number of students are turned off by the one-sided views expressed on campus,” says Zinman. “A program oriented toward dialogue and peaceful conflict resolution is likely to appeal to students who might otherwise shy away from this topic.”
Illuminating Dialogues is receiving tremendous support from the surrounding religious community which includes interfaith dialogues about the series hosted by neighboring synagogues and churches.
“Santa Cruz desperately needs this kind of conversation,” says Minister David Grishaw-Jones from First Congregational Church. “The dialogue program opens a space for interfaith conversation, exploration and relationship. I believe that it is our duty to make it happen.”
For more information about Illuminating Dialogues or advice on how to run a similar program on your campus, contact Rick Zinman at (831) 426-3332.