Faces of Israel panel to visit Skidmore College: Panelists will speak about their experiences in Israel as part of their US college tour

Posted by Julia Leef

Six Israelis will come to Skidmore College on Wednesday, Feb. 29 as part of their tours to colleges in the U.S. to discuss their experiences in Israel. They will address current issues including women's rights, Israeli-Palestinian relationships and the effect of war on civilians.

These panelists will visit the College as a result of the efforts of Hillel President Erika Wohl '14, Hillel Publicist Zoe Silver '14 and Hillel Treasurer Claire Rossi-de Vries '14. Hillel is the student-run organization for Jewish campus life. Wohl, Silver and Rossi-de Vries are organizing the panel for their Honors Forum Citizenship project. The project is one of the requirements for Honors Forum members and provides students with a chance to give back by performing some kind of service to the community.

"We want to make sure that this is a useful and important thing for a lot of people," Rossi-de Vries said. "I think it will be a pretty interesting panel."

Wohl said she received an email informing her that the "Faces of Israel" members would be in the New York area for one week, and that interested schools should apply to ask them to speak.

"It was really competitive to be able to get them. There were already a bunch of schools that had asked for them," said Wohl, adding that the group was able to secure the panelists only after Union College cancelled its appointment.

The panelists all come from different backgrounds, thus providing a diverse set of views on various aspects of Israel.

The panelists will include:

  • Kinneret Beltzer, who served in the Northern command center during the second Lebanon war in 2006 assisting civilians to safety. She is pursuing her Bachelor of Arts in political communication at Tel-Aviv University.
  • Amir Shibli, who specializes in the contemporary relationships and conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians and is currently a doctoral candidate in Arabic literature.
  • Esther Solomon, an ultra orthodox who pursues women's rights, promotes youth at risk and integrates the orthodox community within the general society.
  • Gal Menasheh, a partner and owner of the law firm Metzner, Spielman, Menashe & Co., which specializes in real estate, litigation and commercial law. He is also a legal officer in the Israeli reserves.
  • David Zviel, who served in the Israel Defense Force as a military medic during the breakout of the second intifada, and who witnessed acts of terrorism.
  • Reut Portugal, who holds a master's in conflict research, management and resolution from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where she also earned her Bachelor of Arts in Islam & Middle Eastern Studies and Sociology-Anthropology. She also served as logistical officer in the Search and Rescue Unit of the Home Front Command, where she allocated military equipment, managed logistics and lectured soldiers.

The three students worked with several faculty members to execute the event, including Lollie Abramson, coordinator of Jewish Student Life, and Rick Chrisman, director of Religious and Spiritual Life. The "Faces of Israel" is taking place in conjunction with the In-Between program at 7:30 p.m. on March 6 in the Dance Theater, featuring Ibrahim Miari, a theater artist and educator and a member of the Acco Theatre Center Ensemble, which sponsors projects for young and adult audiences throughout Israel, Europe and the U.S.

Miari will perform a 50-minute one-man show regarding his dual Palestinian-Israeli identity. Students will have the opportunity to engage in a question-and-answer session following the program.

"We wanted a program that would share and educate people," Wohl said. "It's important to stay educated and to be able to meet people who live there and can share their experiences."

Prior to the panel, the panelists and several student and faculty members, including Chrisman and Rabbi Linda Motzkin, will share a communal, kosher dinner, provided by Wohl, Silver and Rossi-de Vries through funding received from the Jacob Perlow series, the Speakers' Bureau, Hillel, the Christian Fellowship and the International Affairs and Religion departments.

The dinner, which Rossi-de Vries said cost approximately $500 to $600, will give those involved an opportunity to speak with the panelists outside of the event.

"It's a great opportunity for the people who provided the funding and for us to really sit down and talk to them as people, rather than as guests at a lecture," Rossi-de Vries said.

The panel will take place at 7 p.m. in Gannett Auditorium and is open to the entire College and Saratoga Springs community. Refreshments will be available afterwards.

"We want the big diversity that exists on campus and in the Saratoga Springs community to share their view[s] and have dialogue with the ‘Faces of Israel'," Wohl said. "That way we can make it an overall unique and enriching event for everyone."

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