Conflicts during Passover show cultural disconnect


Jessica Jutzi

The Israeli Apartheid Week started Monday April 10th and goes till Thursday April 13th. Columnist Hayley Nagelberg believes that there are important questions surrounding this event that all students should be able to participate in discussing.

By Hayley Nagelberg, Columnist

If in the last few days you had checked my or my roommates’ Snapchat Stories, or those of many of our friends, you would know we have been on a cleaning spree. This is not unique behavior; we try to keep our apartment as clean as four busy college students are expected to. 

We were specifically cleaning because the holiday of Passover was coming, and our apartment needed to be ready. In the biblical story, the Jewish people were slaves in Egypt. They fled in such a hurry that their bread did not get a chance to rise. Therefore, on this holiday, all bread is removed from sight and all surfaces normally touched by bread are cleaned.

While taking a break from cleaning, we saw a Facebook event go live by Students for Justice in Palestine titled Israel Apartheid Week. We instantly recognized a major scheduling conflict.

The event is occurring this week, just like the Passover holiday. The Passover holiday is based on community. Families and friends gather for long meals, called Seders, and recount the entire story of the exodus from slavery in Egypt. Many Jewish students go home for numerous days, and the students who remain on campus spend time away from dining halls and restaurants on Green Street full of bread and grains, opting instead to spend time together and enjoy the holiday with friends.

We wanted to attend Israel Apartheid Week events to hear various perspectives on a topic we care deeply about, but we quickly realized we couldn’t. During Passover, Jewish students are encouraged to stay off of social media, instead focusing their time in observance of the holiday.

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Events highlighting the culture of the Palestinian people are wonderful. The frequency of events on campus for cultural exposure is endless, and it is amazing as college students to have the opportunity to learn about heritages and ethnicities we otherwise may not have known about. Yet these events should truly be open to the entire campus community.  

Having events during the hours when Jewish students were at a Seder on the first night of the holiday, or serving bread in the midst of a holiday where Jewish students — nearly 11 percent of the student body — may be unable to eat it is an unfortunate hindrance to the prospects of such a goal.

The reality at this University is that topics connected to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict breed interest from many people. This event, over the course of the week, is set to discuss the ideas of apartheid, appropriation and erasure of cultures in the Middle East. These are massive topics that warrant conversation.

Israel Apartheid Week’s description on Facebook says it will address “aspects of Palestinian culture and how Palestinians around the world work to fight against erasure and appropriation”.

The event is not called Palestinian Culture Week. The very name and description of the event sets up a narrative that is not grounds for healthy dialogue on campus. The notion of apartheid in the Middle East, specifically in Israel, is one discussed at length. Apartheid was the word assigned to explain South Africa’s legislative system of racial separation that regulated every faction of daily life. This does not exist in Israel today.

Israel is a democracy — home to people of all religions, races and ethnicities. Twenty percent of its voting population is non-Jewish, and they have every right to attain the same positions as any Jewish person. Yes, Israel is a Jewish-state and work must be done to better bridge Israeli-Palestinian relationships.

However, mainland Israel, including Tel Aviv, is not a place of discrimination. Thirteen government members and a supreme court judge identify as Arab. The democratic state did nothing to prevent them from reaching their esteemed positions.

The event’s structure around discussing appropriation presents further trouble. The idea of appropriation of cultures implies taking something from another culture and presenting it as your own. Israel is not a place of appropriation.

The Middle East, like America, is a melting pot of  many cultures. With this, numerous elements of culture in the region, from food to music to religious practice, have been brought in from foreign groups and adapted by locals.  

In this way, cultures have grown and flourished together through the interconnections with their surrounding ideals. In an increasingly blended world, seeing the possibilities for Jewish Israelis, Arab Muslims and many groups of Christians, Bedouins, Bahai and Druze people to all live within the State of Israel shows a reality of cultural coexistence the rest of the world should strive for.  

Israel Apartheid Week is a national event on campuses across the country and world, and has been linked to acts of religious intolerance. This has led the event to be banned from numerous universities internationally, such as University College London and University of Central Lancashire in the last few weeks.

Our campus is no stranger to intolerance, so the conversation is important and must not be silenced. I am not advocating for banning Students for Justice in Palestine’s event; however, their event needs to be accessible for all students to share facts and not dispel lies that breed hate and intolerance. If there is not an in-person opportunity for that to happen this week, I hope this column may be another forum to have this vital conversation.

Hayley is a sophomore in ACES.

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