Opening Minds

December 19, 2012.  Ambridge, Pennsylvania. I was invited to speak for a school assembly of the upper classes at Ambridge High School, approximately 500 students.  To my great surprise, my entrance into the auditorium was preceded by two ROTC Marine cadets carrying flags. The assembly rose for the Pledge of Allegiance. Then I was flanked by six ROTC cadets, three on each side, to the stage.

I shared my story accompanied by six slides illustrating particular moments in my presentation.  I introduced our documentary, “A Look In The Eyes Of the Resistance” where myself and my wife share fragments of our story during WWII.  Questions and answers followed.

One of the students asked the following question: “What right had the United Nations to divide Palestine?” To him I replied, “Your sources of information are from news sound bytes. Since you are in school, you should learn more about the subject — I recommend that you Google ‘history of Palestine’.” I know that that if he does so, he will get a fairly objective view of the actual history of Palestine.

Then the same student asked “Why do the Israelis kill Palestinians like the Nazis did to the Jews?”  To the second question I remarked that it was offensive.  “You just watched historical footage from the Nazi era:  concentration camps, extermination camps, liquidation of the ghettos where elderly and young were herded onto trucks, driven to a vacant building and machine-gunned and burned alive. Nothing like this is happening in Gaza. Again, your information comes from sources whose purpose is to disseminate hate and demonization and brutalization of their perceived opponent.  The comparison between what you watched and what is happening in Palestine is obscene — there simply is no comparison.  You should learn the history of the conflict which might give you the ability to form a more objective assessment of the situation.” I hope that this student will discover that there are more Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank now than there were when the camps were created in 1967.  If the Israelis had operated in the same way as the Nazis, there would be none.

This is why at age 93, I am still going out to speak about my experiences. I was there that day for that particular boy with that particular question, to ensure that he learns that to present one’s view it is not necessary to denigrate or demonize a perceived opponent.

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