Palestinian Doctor Calls for Coexistence, Despite Loss at Program Moderated by Professor Rivka Dori

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Profesor Rivka Dori, Director of Hebrew Studies at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles, moderated a program featuring Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Palestinian obstetrician and gynecologist whose three daughters and niece were killed, and another of whose daughters and a son were wounded, along with his brother, by Israeli fire during the recent Gaza war and who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize last month.  He came to Los Angeles not to talk about peace, but to “focus on more realistic goals: working together so that both sides live in equal conditions, with equal rights and with mutual respect“ at Temple Ner Maarav in Encino on April 22, hosted by “Americans for Peace Now.”

The volume was high and the emotions were evident, as Professor Dori, director of Hebrew studies at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion opened the floor for questions, and individuals expressed different viewpoints, especially as speaker Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish described the war as a terrible mistake. The audience listened attentively, and though one particularly outspoken man called out, “What other alternative did we have?” there was no disrespect throughout.  One might say that for both, the speaker, Abuelaish, and the Israeli audience, the discourse mannerism was familiar as Dori fielded questions such as: “What can we do here as Israelis in the United States to encourage dialogue?“ and even more pointed questions such as: “You speak of dialogue between the two nations, but who do we have to talk to? Hamas? You say we need to respect one another, but your elected leaders are not even willing to recognize the existence of the state of Israel. What kind of respect is that?“ 

 

Both parties were genuinely engaged during this event, as David Pine, West Coast Regional Director of Americans for Peace Now wrote to Dori, following the event: “Thank you so much for your help in advance of the event with Dr. Abuelaish and then during the evening in providing the opening remarks and moderating.  It was his first event in California and he was very energized by it -- despite or perhaps because of the "liveliness" of the discussion…He works with Israelis all the time; he understands fully the culture and mentality and was not at all fazed by the shouting. He really was pleased with the event.“


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