Lauren Hannani culture editor
As a pro-Israel club on campus, Normans for Israel usually spends their meetings listening to a guest speaker talk about current events in Israel or having conversations about how to counteract perceived anti-Israel propaganda. However, the club is planning on broadening its perspectives on the issue by inviting a Palestinian guest speaker to a club meeting for the first time to get to know more about their culture and the other side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
After a club member suggested the idea, president Chloe Levian decided to start looking for a Palestinian guest speaker to talk to the students.
“I thought it was a really good idea to get perspective, and it is really beneficial to make [relationships] and represent a pro-Israel, American teen well,” Levian said. “In college and life in general, we are going to be with people who don’t share the same ideals that we do, and it’s important to learn how to properly communicate with them.”
Club members also want to be able to hear the speaker discuss his or her own experiences in Palestine and viewpoint on the current conflict between the two countries.
“We are only viewing this problem from the side of Israel,” senior Daniela Naemi said. “All of what a lot of us hear is Palestine bombing Israel. We should know where the Palestinians are coming from, and why they are doing this.”
For some club members, this meeting won’t be the first time interacting with a person of Palestinian descent. Levian and vice president Rachel Khorshad met a group of Palestinian teens in Israel last year while participating in a program over winter break.
“It was such a surreal experience that I will forever cherish. I was able to connect with the Palestinian teens about things like high school and learn the many similarities and differences between our cultures and countries,” Khorshad said. “Now when I talk about Palestinians in general, I am able to put a face to the people because I have met and interacted with some of them.”
Khorshad is also very thankful that she was able to carry back home the relationships she formed through this program.
“What is really heartwarming is the fact that we still talk over social media and keep in touch with each other,” she said.
As a result of their unique experiences in Israel, Levian and Khorshad hope that club members will also find this opportunity valuable not only during the meeting, but also in their daily lives.
“I learned more than I expected by speaking to Palestinians and getting to know them. I believe it is a rare experience that many people do not get to have or consider doing. I can’t imagine how much the club members will learn,” Khorshad said. “And now, when talking to people about the conflict, we can personalize our points by bringing up the conversations we have had.”
Although the club is looking forward to learning more about Palestinian culture and beliefs, there is still conflict between Israel and Palestine today. However, by making an effort to get to know Palestinians, Levian believes their action is a necessary start to peace between the two countries.
“I experienced first-hand while at a pro-Israel conference in Washington, D.C., that there are a lot of people who will automatically hate you and call you derogatory names because you support Israel,” Levian said. “Having conversations like the one we are going to have in the club are steps toward peace.”