A discussion at the University of Indianapolis will bring together two unique voices in the quest for peace in the Middle East. “Painful Hope: A Palestinian Activist and an Israeli Settler Rabbi Talk Peace” is scheduled from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Monday, April 3, in UIndy Hall A at the Schwitzer Student Center on the University of Indianapolis campus. The event is free and open to the public. Online registration is requested.
The discussion, a ROOTS initiative sponsored by the University of Indianapolis in partnership with the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), features Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger, an Orthodox rabbi and teacher, and Antwan Saca, the director of programs for the Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem.
JCRC Program Director Lauren Morgan said it’s a rare opportunity to hear from two speakers who are committed to building productive bridges towards mutual understanding and cultural exchange in Israel’s West Bank. Each speaker will offer a presentation about their work, with a question and answer session to follow.
Organizers hope that “people will leave with a broader understanding of how complex the region is and hopefully they see things from a perspective they hadn’t considered before,” Morgan said.
Rabbi Schlesinger formed the ROOTS organization with Ali Abu Awwad, a Palestinian Muslim, to bring together the Israeli settler population in the West Bank with the local Palestinian population. The goal is to work on joint initiatives to plant the seeds of peace between the two groups, said Morgan.
“One of the barriers to peace in the West Bank is truly what ROOTS is trying to combat,” Morgan said, explaining that the two cultures live side by side “but they don’t know their neighbors.” Some of ROOTS’ activities include teaching Arabic to Jewish settlers and Hebrew to Muslim and Christian Palestinians.
“The first step to any kind of meaningful and lasting peace is knowing one another and not thinking of the other side as the enemy,” Morgan added.
Morgan encouraged Indianapolis residents to take advantage of the opportunity. “It’s a privilege that we’re able to bring them to Indianapolis,” she said.
About the speakers
Rabbi Schlesinger, an Orthodox rabbi and teacher, serves as the Director of International Relations for Roots. Rabbi Shlesinger is a member of the Rabbinical Council of America and the International Rabbinical Fellowship, as well as Beit Hillel, an Israeli rabbinical association. His professional career has been dedicated to teaching Jewish studies in various colleges and seminaries in the Jerusalem area, as well as in different frameworks in Florida and Texas.
Antwan Saca was born in Jerusalem in 1984 to a Christian family from the city of Bethlehem. He has been working towards the dream of peace and justice in the Holy Land all of his adult life. He serves as the Director of Programs for the Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem, and previously worked as Programs Coordinator at the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation and as a research assistant in the area of urbanization and geopolitical monitoring at the Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ).