In the wake of recent negotiations in Washington between Israeli and Palestinian leaders earlier this month, students gathered in the Marvin Center for a town hall meeting Tuesday night to discuss the conflict in the Middle East.
Hosted by GW Interfaith Action and the grassroots OneVoice Movement, the event featured Israeli speaker Danny Shaket and Palestinian Ahmad Omeir, who both shared their personal experiences in the violent region.
Shaket studied communications and economics at Tel Aviv University. Surrounded by bombings and threats since his childhood, Shaket said it became second nature for him and his family to always be suspicious and aware of anything out of the ordinary.
He spent four years in the Israeli army, and said that after confronting the dangerous people he had seen on the news, he “wanted to do something more” to engage people about the conflict.
He added that he hopes for a compromise soon so people can study, raise their kids and work without worrying about the conflict and their safety.
“I don’t look for peace. Seriously, I couldn’t care less. I’m looking for an agreement,” Shaket said.
He encouraged students to stay informed and take small steps toward making a difference.
Omeir moved to the United States in 1990 after the first Gulf War. In 2000, he said he learned more about what it was like to be Palestinian and “how intense it gets to be.” His father used to come home with razors, advising him to shave his beard so people wouldn’t recognize where he came from.
In 2003 and 2004, Omeir lost two of his close friends to the conflict. He described a day when he was sitting on the second floor of a building while his friend was on the first. He heard Israeli soldiers coming in but could not understand what they were saying, and didn’t pay any attention to them until he heard a gunshot. Omeir ran downstairs to his friend’s side.
“My friend was lying down on the ground with a lot of blood everywhere. I started yelling. I don’t really remember what I was saying,” he said. Omeir said the soldiers warned him to get up unless he wanted to face similar consequences. The next memory Omeir said he has is of waking up in the hospital with doctors asking him to identify his friend’s body.
Omeir said he fell into a depression after the incident, until he had a dream where his friend told him to move on with his life. After that, Omeir joined the OneVoice Movement to encourage others to work toward a resolution.
After Shaket and Omeir spoke, they posed questions to the audience and had the attendees break into groups to discuss the issue among themselves.
“It’s clear that there are different sides,” said senior Tmnit Nur. “We shouldn’t only be trying to promote a two-state solution, but try to change the mindset of people and make it clear that peace is possible.”