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How you can help victims of the war

One Family Together is an Israeli organization providing assistance to victims of terror attacks, with financial and legal assistance, mental health services, support groups, and healing camps for the young.

Magen David Adom, Israel’s version of the Red Cross, is peopled by 26,000 volunteers and provides much of the country’s national emergency medical services. 

World Food Program USA is collecting donations to get much-needed food aid into Gaza and the West Bank.

The International Committee of the Red Cross is donating medical supplies to Gaza and is working with authorities to help identify the missing. They are also partnered with Magen David Adom and the Palestine Red Crescent Society to help the wounded and sick.


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Everyone Has Much to Learn about Israel and Gaza

During Passover week a longtime university president reflects on antisemitism and threats to free speech on campus

Everyone Has Much to Learn about Israel and Gaza

During Passover week a longtime university president reflects on antisemitism and threats to free speech on campus

As I waited for eggs (signs of spring and renewal) to hard-boil for the community Seder in my condo building, I read breaking news from the New York Times, “Campus Chaos Spreads as Administrators Aim to Defuse Gaza Protests.” Times journalist Alan Blinder reports, “Turmoil gripped some of America’s most influential universities on Monday as administrators tried to defuse campus protests and the fears of many Jewish students, who said some of the demonstrations have veered into antisemitism.”

Penn has been a hotbed of continuing protest, leading to the resignation of President Elizabeth Magill after her December 5, 2023 testimony before the Republican-led House Education and the Workforce Committee.

Response to Columbia President Minouche Shafik’s careful testimony before that same committee on April 17 has fanned the flames on all sides of the issue. On April 18, Shafik authorized police to remove a pro-Palestinian encampment from unsanctioned space, with100 students arrested.

Nonetheless, Representative Elise Stefanik (R, NY) has called for President Shafik’s resignation, just as Stefanik gloated over the resignations of Penn’s President Magill and Harvard’s President Gay. It’s clear that Stefanik, who promotes election denial and consorts with white supremacists, is less a defender of the Jews and more an enemy of higher education.

The situation is heartbreaking. The real enemy is ignorance. And it’s the mission of colleges and universities to confront that ignorance. And yet higher education is being undermined as it deals with core values that should not be in conflict: free speech and campus safety.

Gaza is not Vietnam

In the late 60s and early 70s, students protesting the U.S. war in Vietnam were addressing a geopolitical issue. As government lies and coverups became evident, the protests targeted political leaders without any reference to their religions or cultural backgrounds. The only personal — and shameful — targets of those protests were U.S. military personnel who heard shouts of “baby killers,” when they returned home from dangerous and health-destroying assignments.

Learning from each other’s stories depends on free speech in our schools and on our nation’s campuses. Politicians must stop promoting conflict and hatred.

The Hamas invasion of Israel, followed by the war in Gaza, is deeply personal. Israeli and Palestinian students study together on American campuses. Jewish and Muslim students have family members directly affected by the conflict. Most campuses have tried to bring students together to learn from each other under the guidance of scholars immersed in different points of view on Israeli/Palestinian history. Penn leaders have wisely planned a campus-wide listening session for April 25. Let’s hope it works. These teach-ins have been effective to some extent, especially on smaller, less visible campuses, like Wheaton College in Massachusetts, for example.

But the conflicts persist and grow more aggressive on the nation’s large, prestigious and more media-saturated campuses. The Congressional hearings and attacks on university presidents have made matters worse.

Learning from different cultural stories

The great linguist Edward Sapir (1884-1939) taught the world that cultures are defined as people who know and tell the same stories. While the Palestinian and Israeli origin stories have age-old roots, the groups’ beliefs about land ownership could not be more different. Peace in the region depends on each group listening and learning from each other’s stories. Campuses are the ideal places for this storytelling to be orchestrated like a fugue with different strands commenting on one another. But, alas …

For Palestinians, the creation of Israel in 1948 is a tale of displacement and disruption from lands long considered home, including sacred places in Islam. For Israelis, the establishment of the Israeli state has biblical roots, as well as addressing a long history of exile and hatred culminating in the Holocaust.

Stories are emotional. Educated discussion, however, applies cognitive tools that allow redirection of fight or flight.

Before Hamas’ murder, torture and kidnap of innocent Israelis on October 7, several nations in the region were using their intellectual powers to go beyond impenetrable narratives. Saudi Arabia and other Muslim nations were prepared to recognize the existence of the state of Israel (a recognition delayed for 76 years) in return for the creation of an independent Palestinian state. Hamas’ attack could be interpreted as willfully derailing these intelligent efforts and returning to the deep emotion and resentment embedded in the stories.

The brutal attack on innocent Israelis has tragically led to Israel’s violent military reaction that has resulted in the deaths of 29,000 innocent Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Ministry of Health. Let us hope that we may soon see a bold story of reconciliation. Otherwise, the tales of horror on both sides will lead to continuing conflict through this century and beyond.

Free speech and hate speech

As I peeled the hard-boiled eggs for Monday’s communal Seder, I thought about the values embedded in the rituals. The Passover story is fundamentally a celebration of freedom — for every human being. That’s why Moses’ charge to Pharaoh, “Let my people go!” is echoed in the abolition of slavery in the U.S.

The Hebrew word, “seder,” means order. And the chaos on U.S. campuses this week is especially heartbreaking. Core values of the academy are at stake.

I have argued that free speech does not include calls for the genocide of any group. But does the pro-Palestinian chant, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” mean the same thing as genocide, as Rep. Stefanik and others have loudly insisted? The territory is demarcated by the Jordan River to the east and the Mediterranean Sea on the west. It encompasses the entire state of Israel and is interpreted by many as a call for Israel’s destruction. And some who chant the phrase do embrace that meaning.

But as Laurie Kellman writes in AP News, “But like so much of the Mideast conflict, what the phrase means depends on who is telling the story — and which audience is hearing it.” It is not a phrase that should be banned from college campuses.

In fact, the standard for hate speech — calling for genocide is a clear example — should be very strict. Many words and phrases that do not qualify as hate speech will make people feel uncomfortable. Discomfort is not the same thing as threats to safety, and we must make that distinction.

At the conclusion of this week’s seders, participants chant together, “Next year in Jerusalem!” Does that mean that every American Jew expects to emigrate to Jerusalem in 2025? Absolutely not. In fact, I was outraged when in 2018 Trump fanned the flames leading to the present conflict by moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to West Jerusalem, recognizing the latter as Israel’s capital, without insisting on any concessions from Israeli settlements in the West Bank. (As you might have guessed, I join thousands of Israelis in deep opposition to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.) To me, “Next year in Jerusalem” is a plea for civility and cooperation in that divided city.

Learning from each other’s stories depends on free speech in our schools and on our nation’s campuses. Politicians must stop promoting conflict and hatred.

Elaine Maimon, Ph.D., is an Advisor at the American Council on Education. She is the author of Leading Academic Change: Vision, Strategy, Transformation. Her long career in higher education has encompassed top executive positions at public universities as well as distinction as a scholar in rhetoric/composition. Her co-authored book, Writing In The Arts and Sciences, has been designated as a landmark text. She is a Distinguished Fellow of the Association for Writing Across the Curriculum. Follow @epmaimon on X.

Correction: A previous version of this post misstated the date of the Penn listening session.


Protestors outside Columbia University in April 2024. Photo (edited for size) by Swinxy for Creative Commons.

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