Israel Peace Week, a movement co-founded by UR student sophomore Anna Richlin in January, came to the River Campus this week to educate students about Israel’s contributions to peace, along with other information about the nation.
‘We wanted to make sure that, not from a political side but from a social side, people know about Israel,” she said.
Richlin and four other college students three from the U.S. and one from Canada came up with the idea of Israel Peace Week after going to Israel with Hasbara Fellowships in December 2009. Their purpose was to portray a positive side of Israeli society and educate people about it.
They created the organization and wrote a mission statement in January and launched their Web site and Facebook group in early February. From there it grew faster than they expected.
Since its founding one and a half months ago, Israel Peace Week has expanded to 40 college campuses across the U.S., Canada, England and Australia. Students from many more universities and other community members contacted Israel Peace Week for help hosting their own peace week events.
UR Israel Council (URIC) Co-President and sophomore Vered Idan said that Richlin approached URIC in January to collaborate on an event to educate people about Israel’s efforts at peace and contributions to the world in terms of culture, science and technology.
‘In a lot of people’s minds Israel is correlated with conflict, but [it] is much more than that,” Idan said.
Richlin and URIC designed the event to be a series of exhibits about various aspects of Israeli culture, from innovations in medicine and irrigation to its protection of women’s rights and gay rights.
‘Israel is not just sand and desert and war,” Richlin said. ‘It’s so many things that your average UR student wouldn’t know.”
For Idan, the expo on Monday was a chance to talk about Israel’s contributions to peace without bringing politics into the equation.
‘I think a peace fair for Israel is important because Israel is always in the news for some sort of violence,” freshman Marissa Balonon-Rosen, who attended the event on Monday, said. ‘It’s good to know that Israel is out there for peace around the world.”
Israel Peace Week at UR unfurled with only one minor problem. One promotional flyer showed a woman in a bikini standing next to a woman wearing a veil and listed rights that Israeli women have.
‘Just like American women, Israeli women have all of these freedoms. Women in the surrounding Muslim countries are still waiting,” the flier said.
Several members of the Muslim Students’ Association found the flier’s wording offensive and mentioned it at the group’s meeting. MSA then contacted URIC and proposed that the two groups meet to discuss the issue.
‘We didn’t appreciate the message they were putting out,” MSA Publicity Chair and junior Saleha Vandal said.
They chose to meet in Douglass Dining Center, an open environment, to resolve the issue. Three members of MSA’s and URIC’s executive boards attended, as well as one member of Students for Interfaith Action, to explain their positions and reach a solution.
‘[URIC] felt that as a cultural group they had to confront stereotypes, so they understood,” Vandal said.
In response to the meeting, URIC wrote a letter of apology to MSA members. Both groups said that they were satisfied with the way they resolved the matter.
‘There was no yelling, it was completely peaceful,” Vandal said. ‘We were very comfortable.”
Richlin said that she viewed the meeting as a success and that it represented the values of Israel Peace Week.
‘This is the mission of Israel Peace Week to make peace,” Richlin said. ‘It showed that this initiative can help to foster peace.”
Fleming is a member of the class of 2010.