About 50 members of the University community gathered in the Ross School of Business last night to hear first-hand accounts of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and words of hope for peace in the region.

Members of OneVoice, an international organization founded in 2002 to give voices to those involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, spoke about their personal stories at the event, which was hosted by Israel@Ross — a student organization in the Ross School of Business centered on Israeli students and alumni.

Business graduate student Noy Jacobsberg, co-president of Israel@Ross, said in an interview before the event that the club decided to host the conference because he thinks many people usually only hear biased versions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the news. He said the panel allowed for interactive discussion with those who had witnessed the conflict first-hand, adding that it was not a “political rally” but rather an open and relaxed discussion about a solution to the conflict.

OneVoice encourages a two-state solution — a stance that came as a result of a poll conducted by the organization, in which thousands of Israelis and Palestinians were surveyed. The survey found that 76 percent of people were in favor of a two-state negotiation.

Rachel Steinberg, OneVoice International Education Program manager, said the issues plaguing the region have made it difficult for Israelis and Palestinians to determine how best to move forward.

“There are … issues particular to an area where there has been a conflict for decades and these include issues of trust and fear,” Steinberg said. “Some of these issues have led people to not be able to visualize a better future for themselves.”

As part of OneVoice’s goal to establish a more peaceful environment, the organization has established the Imagine 2018 project, which calls for Israelis and Palestinians to share their visions for what the future would look like with a peace agreement.

Shir Lachish, a 25 year-old Jewish law student at Tel Aviv University, shared an experience that occurred 10 years ago near a club in Israel when a suicide attack broke out. Lachish recalled that 21 Israeli teenagers were killed that night and hundreds of others were either wounded or traumatized.

“Living at that time in this environment makes (it) very hard to think about the other,” she said. “All you think about is for you to feel safe, for your family and your friends to feel safe. It’s very hard to look at the outside and see what’s going on there.”

Lachish said she decided to join OneVoice after several encounters with Israeli Arabs and discussions with law school friends who felt their opinions weren’t significant.

“They felt like there’s nothing they can do in their community, there’s nothing they can do to create change … what they’re doing is meaningless to the bigger picture,” she said.

Lachish added that while OneVoice members have different perspectives and viewpoints, they share the same goal.

“OneVoice understands two narratives that clash from time to time,” Lachish said. “We disagree on many things, we have different motives, we even disagree on facts … but at OneVoice, we can agree on the future.”

OneVoice Palestine representative Mohammad Asideh said one of his earliest memories of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that impacted his life on a personal level was when his family was told that the Israeli army could destroy two of his family’s houses “for security reasons.”

“I believed only in the armed resistance as the only way to end occupation and to end the conflict …” Asideh said.

He added that he was inspired by his father, who told him that rather than seeking vengeance, he should instead look to how he could change the future for the better.

“One of the most important things in my life my father told me (was), ‘Mohammad, it’s easy to get revenge, but you have to ask what’s next? My son, you must think more about the future and less about history,’ ” Asideh recalled.

Though Lachish and Asideh shared different experiences, they reached similar conclusions — that it is more effective to focus on creating a peaceful future for the region rather than concentrating on the past. To work toward this goal, they each began speaking at universities and to public officials about a two-state solution.

Steinberg said she thinks past efforts toward peace have been unsuccessful because there has been a lack of activism from citizens. OneVoice is “asking Israelis and Palestinians to take personal responsibility in ending the conflict,” she said.

“One of the reasons that we believe that past negotiations have failed is because there wasn’t a grassroots engagement and ownership over the peace process,” Steinberg said.

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