By Nicholas Sauma, Reporter
Israelis and Palestinians have been in diplomatic and violent conflict for well over 50 years. Disillusionment with peace in the Middle East dominates the minds of many.
Over 5,000 miles from the violence, local Palestinian Americans are trying a different approach in an unlikely place – Omaha.
“Much has been written, researched, documented and implied about Palestine and the Palestinian people,” said Naser Alsharif, professor of pharmacy at Creighton University. “This Part I of an educational and cultural event will introduce Palestinians in their own words. [It will be] an ethnic festival, which will include Palestinian food, a book fair, artifacts, cooking classes, music; and a movie that highlight the Palestinian experience as told by three generations.”
Naser explained that while the first part takes place on Creighton’s campus, a future spring event will hopefully share campuses. No matter the venue, he explained that anyone is welcome, and the event is supposed to benefit the greater community, not just Creighton’s campus. So far, the Muslim Student Association at UNO and Creighton are helping to promote the event, and Nebraskans for Peace are sponsoring it. This makes for an opportunity to meet Palestinians, Muslims, and fellow Nebraskans focusing on people and peace in the Middle East, and cooperating instead of condemning.
The event kicks off on Oct. 29 with a panel discussion by Palestinian Americans on the history of their people and land, how Israel’s creation and expansion affected them, and why they still feel the issue matters. These personal accounts, spanning three generations, will convey how families were disrupted, adapted, or left to neighboring countries or the US always with the hope to return to their ancestral homeland. The event will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Harper Center Ballroom on the Creighton University campus.
Those with an appetite can join the group on Tuesday for traditional foods and cooking classes, as well as exposure to artifacts and music retained by the culture. From stuffed grape leaves to baklava for dessert, food serves as the ultimate factor in connecting people, regardless of culture. While some of the food is for sale, the event is completely free. The food sale will take place on the Skinner Mall at Creighton, while cooking classes will be inside the Union Pacific room. The classes span from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., with the sale in between.
Finally, on Nov. 2, a more serious discussion of the future of the Palestinians will begin. After a screening of the movie “Belonging,” a question and answer period between the public and Palestinian people will discuss themes behind the film. The film is directed by Palestinian director Tariq Nasir, and focuses on the loss of his people’s land, as well as the more tragic lost of their identity in belonging. Alsharif said many Palestinians are not opposed or bitter toward their Israeli neighbors, but they do feel forcibly disconnected from the homes they knew not long ago. This event also takes place in the Harper Ballroom, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Overall, the three days will each expose attendees to a different culture, and to a perspective that is hard to find in the media. The goal is to ultimately remind everyone that behind political battles, wars, and rival nations lay people who aren’t much different than family and friends. For more information, contact Seif Nasir at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Naser Alsharif at 402-280-1857.