Israeli_Knesset

Northeastern hosts Knesset delegation

Members of the Knesset delegation engage in discussion at Town-Hall Boston: A Discussion on Israel and American Jews.
April 2nd, 2014

Northeastern Uni­ver­sity hosted a Knesset del­e­ga­tion for a town-​​hall event Tuesday night at Northeastern. During a spirited yet civil dis­cus­sion, the six del­e­ga­tion members from the Israeli par­lia­ment discussed a range of topics, including the Israeli-​​Palestinian conflict, Israel’s current economic challenges, and the con­nec­tion between Israel and the Jewish com­mu­nity in America.

The Rud­erman Family Foun­da­tion brought the del­e­ga­tion to the United States as part of its Knesset Fellows Program. More than 300 people gathered in Blackman Audi­to­rium for the event, titled “Town Hall Boston: A Discussion on Israel and American Jews,” which was held in part­ner­ship with the Rud­erman Family Foun­da­tion and the Combined Jewish Phil­an­thropies and The Jewish Advocate.

The Knesset del­e­ga­tion com­prised Dr. Nahman Shai and Itzik Shmuli (Labor Party), Dr. Shimon Ohayon (Likud-​​Yisrael Beitenu), Shu­lamit Mualem Rephaeli (Habayit Hayehudi), Michal Rozin (Meretz), and Shimon Solomon (Yesh Atid). Veteran journalist Kasey Kaufman mod­er­ated the event.

Jay Rud­erman, pres­i­dent of the Rud­erman Family Foun­da­tion, said the goal of the delegation—the third that has been brought to the U.S.—“is to educate the Knesset members on the pluralism, the diversity, the con­nec­tion of the Jewish com­mu­nity to Israel, and how that con­nec­tion may or may not be shifting.”

The del­e­ga­tion rep­re­sented the political spectrum, and each member emphasized the importance of finding a peaceful res­o­lu­tion to the Israeli-​​Palestinian conflict.

The discussion—and audience interaction—remained civil throughout the evening, despite Knesset members’ diverse viewpoints on certain issues. This was most evident with regard to the Israeli-​​Palestinian conflict. Rephaeli supported a one-​​state solution, in which Palestinians are cit­i­zens and have equal rights. Rozin and Solomon, however, supported a two-​​state solution. Shai, for his part, said “in order to finally end this longtime conflict between us and the Palestinians, they should accept Israel as a Jewish demo­c­ratic state.”

Later, when asked about prisoner-​​soldier exchanges being part of peace nego­ti­a­tions, Solomon said they are necessary to bring both sides together, despite the dif­fi­culty in releasing people who’ve caused harm. Rozin agreed, though she emphasized that not all pris­oners are ter­ror­ists. Ohayon, for his part, warned that releasing pris­oners before peace nego­ti­a­tions are completed could jeop­ar­dize progress.

When the con­ver­sa­tion shifted to Israel’s economy, Shmuli noted not only sig­nif­i­cant housing issues but also that one-​​third of Israeli children live in poverty. In response, he said Israel must invest more in edu­ca­tion, stop the erosion of social services, and help sub­si­dize the cost of housing for young Israelis.

Knesset mem­bers all agreed that it’s crit­ical for the Israeli gov­ern­ment to learn more about and con­nect with the Jewish com­mu­nity in America. “We must be accessible,” Shai said. “They look at Israel as a second home. … Israel is their country as well as ours.”

Rud­erman noted the foundation’s long­standing rela­tion­ship with Northeastern, which includes the estab­lish­ment of the Rud­erman Pro­fes­sor­ship in Jewish Studies. The town-​​hall event at Northeastern is the only public event during the delegation’s trip to America, which includes visits to Mass­a­chu­setts and New York.

Earlier on Tuesday, the student orga­ni­za­tion Pro­gres­sive Student Alliance hosted author and activist Ali Abunimah, who discussed and signed copies of his latest book, The Battle for Jus­tice in Pales­tine. Abunimah is the co-​​founder of Electronic Intifada, which according to its web­site is an inde­pen­dent online news pub­li­ca­tion and educational resource focusing on Palestine, its people, politics, culture, and place in the world.

In welcome remarks at the evening town-​​hall event, Stephen W. Director, provost and senior vice pres­i­dent for academic affairs, noted Northeastern’s com­mit­ment to being a global insti­tu­tion that strives to “help our students become cit­i­zens of the world.” “This means learning to listen to different voices and consider the world from perspectives of those who challenge us,” he said. “Tonight, we’re gathered to exchange ideas and learn from one another’s questions.”

The event, Director said, aligns with Northeastern’s com­mit­ment to fostering an envi­ron­ment that embraces civil discussion of many viewpoints and diversity across campus. He noted that Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun last year announced the for­ma­tion of the Pres­i­den­tial Council on Diversity and Inclusion, comprised of students, faculty, and staff. It kicked off a yearlong civic sus­tain­ability series titled “Conflict. Civi­ilty. Respect. Peace. North­eastern Reflects.

In a fitting end to the event, Kaufman asked if the six Knesset members liked each other. They col­lec­tively agreed they did, despite their differing views.

- By Northeastern News


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