Gaza students share experiences in seminar

Jen Woytovich

On Thursday, April 7, three Palestinian students from Gaza came to speak at the University to talk about their own experiences and to educate American students on the hardships of studying in Palestine.

The students were able to come to the United States due to the hard work of several college professors throughout the United States, including Dr. Hamideh Sedghi of the University’s political science department. Sedghi was initially anticipating six students to travel from Palestine. Unfortunately, Israel only permitted three of the original six to accept the invitation.

The lecture began with a short reception, followed by a formal introduction by Sedghi. The floor was then handed over to the Palestinian students. Hekmat E. Elsarray of Alquds University was the first to speak. She was also the only woman in the group and the most traveled of the three. She discussed not only her own experiences, but also set the stage for the other speakers by explaining the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians. She discussed the Palestinian way of living on a more objective level and explained what most Palestinians have to go though on a daily basis in regard to employment and travel.

Elsarray explained the injustices of Israeli occupation, the dangers of traveling

throughout Gaza and the numerous causalities experienced each day as Palestinians attempt to make their way to work in Israel.

Another speaker, Adel N. Alghoul, also a student at Alquds University, knows all too well the dangers of trying to travel outside of Palestine.

Upon graduating from secondary school, Alghoul received a scholarship to attend a prominent Turkish university. But when he tried to leave Palestine he was arrested at a check point. Consequently, he spent six years of his life in an Israeli prison.

The youngest of the three speakers was Mustafa E. Elkayali. He spoke only briefly about his own experiences. Being raised in Egypt, he was not permitted to return to his homeland in Palestine until recently. He discussed what it was like growing up away from home and away from his father.

According to sophomore Jim Saksa, “It’s important in any conflict to listen to both sides without bias, and even more so when the conflict is larger.  The students presented the viewpoint of a side that larger goes unvocalized in the discourse over Israel and Palestine.”

The Palestinian students also had the chance to get to know and understand the experiences of several American students. Seniors Diana Rabeh and Imran Punekar had the opportunity to have dinner with the students.

“I found the interaction with the three Palestinian students from Gaza to be very engaging and intellectually stimulating,” Rabeh said.  “Although I have studied the Palestinian-Israeli conflict extensively, I found the personal accounts and conversations with the students to be very touching and thought-provoking.  It is an experience that I will never forget.”