Israeli and Palestinian to speak for cooperation, coexistence at MSU
This coming Monday, an Israeli and a Palestinian will come to MSU to bridge conflict through conversation.
The two speakers are Shadi Shiha, a Palestinian born and raised in Amman, Jordan, and Eve Tendler, an Israeli from Tel Aviv. Both of them studied at the Arava Institute, an environmental research institute located in Ketura, Israel. They became friends, and now serve as the Arava Institute’s ambassadors on college campuses in the U.S.
“They’re young, they’re cool, they’re not faculty giving a lecture on environmental science,” Ari Massefski said. Masseski is the university relations manager for the Arava Institute’s Massachusetts-based non-profit branch, Friends of the Arava Institute. “They’re more sharing their narrative, sharing their story, and their experience of coming from different backgrounds to a place that focuses on environmental cooperation.”
The conflict between Israel and Palestine has been active for decades, since Israel’s declaration of independence from the British Mandate of Palestine in 1948, causing the displacement of many Palestinians in the area.
Massefski explained that Shiha and Tendler’s trip is all about bridging the gap between Israel and Palestine through dialogue.
“One of the initiatives we work on every semester here in the states is to raise awareness of environmental cooperation and dual dialogues and narratives between Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and the surrounding area.” Massefski said. “One of the ways that we do that is we welcome one of our Israeli alumni and one of our Arab alumni to the US every semester, and they essentially share their stories on college campuses.”
The “Dialogue Project” has already visited multiple U.S. college campuses this fall, including Tufts University, Brown University, and New York University.
Shiha, 25, is a recent alum of the Arava Institute. He was born and raised in Amman, Jordan, by his parents who are both Palestinian refugees.
“His father used to live in Be’er-Sheva, his mother used to live in Jerusalem,” Massefski said. “Shadi is a breakdancer, he’s a dance teacher in refugee camps, and he also has an interest in water issues in Jordan which has a serious water crisis going on. Shadi will be sharing his story of being in a Palestinian family and making the decision to study at the Arava Institute, which is geographically located in Israel.”
Tendler, also 25, is also a recent alum of the Institute. She is from Tel Aviv, Israel, and was raised by what Massefski characterizes as “a fairly pro-Israel, Zionist family.”
Tendler participated in multiple research projects that opened her eyes to environmental degradation in the region.
“It opened her eyes to the dual narratives and the need for dialogue within this conflict,” Massefski said. “[She] decided to go to the Arava institute because she wanted to experience what Arava has to offer. She wanted to live with Palestinians, she wanted to live with people from around the world, and really understand the conflict through their eyes.”
The Arava Institute itself has existed for 21 years, and its core idea is that environmental issues in the region are shared by everyone, regardless of nationality, ethnicity or political position.
“Things like clean water, clean air, renewable energy -- they’re issues that transcend the politics of the region, that doesn’t matter if you’re Israeli or Palestinian or if you’re Jordanian,” Massefski said. “You need to live in a healthy and clean environment or the rest of it doesn’t really matter. So we were founded on the idea that we should bring people together over this common interest and use that mechanism to bring people together and build relationships and work on other issues as well.”