By Steve Kelman

Blog archive

Harvard's Israel and Palestine student caucuses work together

Yesterday, around lunchtime, I walked into the Forum, our multiuse space and heart of the Kennedy School campus. I immediately saw two large flags -- one Israeli and one Palestinian -- flying right next to each other in the middle of the Forum space. Amazed by the sight, I stopped to look around and see what was happening. I soon saw a table lined with signed petitions, with two students sitting next to each other.

It turned out the petition was a request to President Obama to come to the Kennedy School to address our students. The petition was a joint initiative of the Israel Caucus and the Palestine Caucus, two student groups representing students from those countries studying at the Kennedy School. Most of these students are in mid-career or other programs for somewhat older students, so these aren’t 22 year-olds. (Indeed, in their petition, they describe themselves as “the mothers and fathers of the next generation.”)

The text of their letter represents something we are trying to accomplish at a multinational, international academic institution such as the Kennedy School, though don’t always succeed. The students say they have found themselves “drawn to one another by our past and engaged in sincere dialogue about our future. At Harvard, we soon found a strong will for change emerging among us, built on mutual respect and an acknowledgement of the power of our dialogue. As the American people chanted ‘Yes We Can,’ we, Israelis and Palestinians, embraced and supported by our fellow international classmates, were inspired by your personal determination and commitment. This inspiration propelled us to strive even further for a better future that provides hope to our people, who cannot afford to suffer more fear and sorrow.”

I will without hesitation confess that as I saw the flags, the table, the Israeli and Palestianian student side by side, and the text of their message, my eyes literally began to well up with tears. I felt very proud to be at the Kennedy School and, for a moment at least, more hopeful about the situation in that violence-soaked part of the world.

These students can’t create peace between Israelis and Palestinians by themselves. But we should all feel so encouraged that they are trying.

Posted by Steve Kelman on Mar 19, 2009 at 12:08 PM


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