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Local solutions for a world problem

By Kimberly Young

Apr. 24, 2008 10:38 pm

Students, staff and visitors discussed creating social events with music and food where Israeli and Palestinian students could come together and embrace their similarities.

As part of “Dialoguing for Peace” on Thursday evening, students discussed more effective ways to approach the conflict in the Middle East and improve Israeli and Palestinian student relationships on campus.

The event was organized by the UCLA members of the University Students Advisory Board on the Middle East, a panel of students from various universities in Southern California. The board advises the Los Angeles Human Relations Commission on how issues of the Middle East relate to their campus in order to promote dialogue on campus, said Combiz Abdolrahimi, a member of the board and Coalition for Peace.

Organizers said they hoped the event would start a trend toward helping to ease the tension between the two sides of the conflict.

“When it comes down to it, we are all just students and we all have the same goal, and our interactions don’t have to be in a nasty way,” said Liora Moreh, who serves on the board and is a member of Bruins for Israel. Students posed questions about the future and proposed possible events where Israeli and Palestinian students could come together and embrace their similarities.

“We want to come together culturally, because we meet on so many levels,” said Lian Kimia, who moved here from Israel when she was 7 years old. Many students felt that dialogue on campus would send a message that Israelis and Palestinians can work together.

“There has been enough pain on both sides. I feel like, if we can’t come to an understanding on our campus, how can we expect two nations to?” Kimia said.

Many students said they felt that events that are protested by the other side or shouting matches are not constructive because students do not listen to each other.

“Nothing is accomplished when groups argue back and forth,” said Miranda Bogen, director of community relations for Bruins for Israel. “If we sit down face to face and dialogue, maybe something more constructive will be accomplished.”

At the event, students also watched a clip from “Encounter Point,” a documentary about Israelis and Palestinians working together for peace.

Abdolrahimi said it was key that students understand the opposing points of view so that they can work together in a nonthreatening way.

“If you don’t have dialogue, you are going to have people protesting other points of view but not necessarily understanding what the other side has to offer,” he said.

The event also honored Elias Ibrahim, a student and active board member who recently drowned at Sunset Canyon Recreation Center. With Ibrahim’s parents in attendance, students teared up as they shared their memories of him.

“He epitomizes the love and peace that we should all try to be in the world,” said Rana Sharif, a member of the board.

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