Former professor discusses peace in the Middle East

Dr. Zmora is helping to develop a cross-cultural school to facilitate peace.

by Kathryn Nelson

Former visiting University professor Dr. Arie Zmora returned to campus Tuesday to discuss his new endeavor in international civic education.

Zmora, who taught at the University in 2001 and 2002, is involved in the development of cross-cultural curriculum in Palestine, Israel, Jordan and other Middle Eastern countries.

The College for Reconciliation and Development, an educational facility spanning four campuses and straddling the borders of Palestine and Israel, is a new project for Zmora and his partners.

The mission of the college, Zmora said, will be to provide equal opportunities for both Arab and Israeli students while focusing on issues of coexistence and civic education between the two.

Since 2000, the organization has been led by a team of Middle Eastern partners who helped develop curriculums for approximately 10,000 Palestinian, Israeli and Jordanian middle and high school students.

The College for Reconciliation and Development will use these past examples to reach out to higher education students.

The college-level studies will emphasize tolerance, critical thinking and open conversation between Middle Eastern students – not politics, Zmora said.

The organization has begun to break ground in several areas, but must be flexible on the plans of the college because of the instability in the region, he said.

Zmora said the organization envisions a four-campus college situated on the border of Israel and Palestine that will cater to about 60 students and cost approximately $10 million.

At the college, buses will provide transportation between campuses and security clearance badges will be given to each student which, he said, will lessen the need for constant “humiliation by checkpoint.”

There are numerous checkpoints along the border between Israel and the Palestinian territories at which people from both sides are checked and sometimes searched.

Although the ongoing tension between Israel and Palestine inherently produces debate, Israeli-born Zmora steered clear of politicized issues and instead emphasized the need for young students to find their identity and responsibility in the Middle East.

Zmora said many students he has encountered had never spoken with the “other,” meaning Palestinian or Israeli; therefore, one of the biggest goals for the school is to cultivate “democratic discourse” between the students.

“Success will only work if you have open discussion,” Zmora said.

Political science senior Dan Goodman helped plan the event, which was sponsored by the University Hillel and the Center for Jewish Studies.

Goodman said he chose to invite Zmora because the idea of peace through education should be brought to the forefront of students’ minds.

Returning from his third trip to Israel, Goodman said the situation in the Middle East is very complicated, but there might be hope in future understanding.

“I believe both sides have an interest in peace,” he said.

Sami Tayeb, a junior Middle Eastern studies student, went to Palestine last spring and attended the event Tuesday.

Tayeb said he believes each side needs to accept responsibility for its role in the Middle East, yet nobody chooses to do so.

Tayeb said he had mixed feelings about living in occupied territory for the semester, but he encouraged every American to visit the area and experience the situation firsthand.

The violent consequences of these international relations might lead to bigotry and prejudice, but Zmora said many young people recognize each side is entangled in a tragic relationship.

“It’s a gray area,” he said. “Everyone suffers.”