On March 14th, CUNY Hunter’s Emet for Israel group Students for Israel, hosted speaker Lydia Aisenberg from Kibbutz Givat Haviva. Aisenberg was on tour with Hasbara Fellowships, and co-sponsored by CAMERA on Campus. Givat Haviva is a nonprofit educational institute in Israel dedicated to creating a shared society between Jews and Arabs. Having Lydia help kick off “Israel Peace Week,” a series of events focusing on Israel hosted by Hillel and Students for Israel, was an easy choice.
The week is packed with events and came at a crucial time, as the previous week had been billed as “Israeli Apartheid Week” by numerous anti-Israel clubs on campus. For pro-Israel students at Hunter, spreading the truth about Israeli coexistence and free society is a critical undertaking.
Bringing Lydia to present her personal accounts of everyday life in Israel, where Arabs and Israelis live side by side, caused more people to engage in a dialogue about this important topic. Lydia was an interesting and highly effective speaker. Originally, she is from England, but came to Israel in the 1960s due to anti-Semitic incidents she experienced in her youth. Upon arriving in Israel, she worked as a farmer on a kibbutz, and continued this work for nearly twenty years. Lydia felt as though she was living the Zionist dream in its truest form.
Now, and for the past few years, Lydia works toward bringing Arabs and Jews together by hosting events where they can meet and share meaningful experiences at Kibbutz Givat Haviva. For instance, one program she successfully organized involved Jewish and Arab women cooking together. Another was putting together a soccer match for children in elementary schools from nearby towns and intentionally forming mixed teams. Lydia envisions an Israeli society where such interactions are seen as completely normal, so much so that an organization such as Givat Haviva will not even have to exist in order to facilitate them.
Both regular members of Students for Israel, as well as a significant number of outside faces were present to hear Lydia speak. These participants asked a great deal of questions considering the sensitive topic, but she was detailed and gracious when answering.
One student in particular asked what the relationships are like between Arabs within Israel and those living in the Palestinian territories. In response, Lydia illustrated her points by turning the class into an Arab village that was split during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, and then she guided the audience through the subsequent fate of its community all the way up to today. She conveyed the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through this example.
Students for Israel successfully brought their peers together to learn constructively about the nuances of Israel.