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.