On February 25, 2024, the EFC InterGen Café hosted an informal discussion about the current conflict in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank. The goal was to provide an opportunity for youth and adults in the EFC community to share their thoughts, feelings, questions, and perspectives. An intergenerational team of EFC alums imagined, created, and facilitated this forum, designed to allow people to speak openly in a safe environment about this difficult situation that affects us all.

2023 alum Ola H. started off the discussion: “The Arab world has been cognizant of Palestinian struggles for generations and I am glad to be able to provide my own experiences within the context of our discussion. We can all be glad to have a space to talk about our experiences and emotions surrounding Palestine.”

Roni King, 1971 alum and member of the Alum Outreach and Engagement Committee, outlined the community-building guidelines and safety: Briefly, speak from your own experience and keep your comments to 3 minutes so everyone has time to speak.

Aaron Richardson, EFC 2014+ and also a member of the committee, and Jesus Salcido, Program Director, led an exercise inviting people to create a word cloud responding to this prompt: “What words and feelings come up when you hear about and see what is happening in Gaza, Israel, and the West Bank?” [See graphic.]

Dyanne London, staff 1981 and board co-chair, reiterated the guidelines and reminded people to speak with the understanding that words affect people directly.

1962 Alum Lyn Fine continued setting the tone for the discussion and, in particular, to introduce the brief historical context video that was shown. She started with a deep breath and acknowledging that she was speaking from Berkeley, California (Ohlone land). She said what the Café is about for her was community and connection. She reminded us that it was important to name feelings as we engage in discussion—to notice what thoughts come up in response to what’s said, what feelings; because videos can be overwhelming, noticing what you appreciate and resonates or that you agree or disagree with. Is information missing? What’s the point of view of the person speaking? Where does this information come from? Click for Ms. Fine’s context setting.

As Lyn mentions, this video, chosen out of several by the team, is short and not meant to represent all points of view. Jesus, who was managing tech for this event, let us know that ads might pop up on this YouTube video: A Brief Simple History. After the video, Lyn invited people to share their reactions in a whole group discussion before the creative breakout group.

Education Director Jane Sapp presented the questions that were being considered. They are:

1) How do the current events in Palestine and Israel affect you and your community?

2) What is the lens you look through and how can you expand it? What are the experiences, cultures, history, thoughts, and feelings that you bring to the issues?

3) What is the way forward?

4) How do you know what information is accurate?

A touching discussion ensued with alums and supporters sharing their varying experiences of the Middle East conflict. 1969 alum Carol Hsu started by saying that her father was an Arab Catholic and her mother was Jewish.  She said that her best friend has lived in Israel for 40 years, is married to a Yemenite Israeli, and has been protesting for eight months to oust Netanyahu and his policies. There is a large group of people who want to oust him — possibly a majority. Her friend said that for years, Palestinians had been crossing into Israel to work and returning to Gaza. Carol compared it to the immigrant worker situation in the U.S. Her friend concluded with the information that Israelis are now required to build safe rooms and it is frightening to them. Carol concluded, “I am angry at the situation, at Netanyahu’s response to October 7 and the right wing going along with it. I’m angry at President Biden for allowing us to be supposedly supportive of what Netanyahu is doing. I think there should be a two-state solution. It will be tricky to make that happen.”

Andrea Rabinowitz, who is a member of the Encampment Program Committee, agreed with Carol and talked about various perspectives she has experienced in her 96 years. She described the feeling that people had in 1948 — that it would be so good for Jews who had been in the Holocaust to have a home. She has witnessed the fighting and times of relative peace since then. She talked about a book called The Lemon Tree that shows the human side of the conflict. She said the feeling in that book was that if people would get together and talk to each other, there could be peace. She also talked about a member of her extended family who grew up in Morocco, moved to Paris, and had to leave both times because of anti-Semitism. This woman acknowledges that is hard for her see another point of view than the Israelis’. For her, Israel is a place without anti-Semitism, although she is appalled by what is happening. To hear Andrea’s ending remarks, click here.

Ola said she was glad that the video defined the word “intifada” [uprising], which is often misused, including in a Congressional hearing with the presidents of UPenn and Harvard in December. The word was brought up in reference to Jewish students not feeling safe. She offered a more accurate word for massacre: written as “مجزرة” pronounced “mej ze reh” for those who were listening “for possibly dangerous or threatening remarks, to make sure that you are not participating in something that is putting people in danger.” She urged people to be aware that there is a lot of cross-linguistic communication going on, so it can help to to use online translation software to be sure of the meaning of a word.

She acknowledged that she is particularly concerned about youth. “One of my close friends — her parents were born and raised in Israel and immigrated to America in the 1980s. The youth are suffering everywhere, not in equal degree, but in Israel, it is a mandatory obligation to be in the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces). It’s not that their lives are more valuable, but they are losing their lives before they can understand what’s going on, what they are fighting for, or meet someone from the other side.”

She talked about the role of colonization in creating this conflict. Europe divided up what were formerly tribes or small kingdoms, not borders. She believes that it’s particularly sad for Palestine/Israel because it is about people who have been persecuted for centuries trying to find a home. She ended with saying that most people are just trying to survive.

2023 Encamper Max added that he had thought this violence sprang up out of nowhere until he dug a bit deeper. He added that violence is dumb and he liked a two-state solution.

Roni offered that there are a number of organizations where Palestinians and Israelis get together to discuss their losses — their personal losses — with each other. “For instance, the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom has ongoing meetings that you can join and listen. It’s illuminating and hopeful in terms of the communication that’s going on. You do have to question your sources online but, when you find people trying to work together, you learn so much just from one conversation. [More groups were contributed by participants in the chat and you can find them in the Resources section below.]

Lyn said that in terms of the way forward, there are “organizations that are planting and watering the seeds of notions that are outside the box of things that have been thought about so far and nourishing the relationships needed to make a society. As we know in the United States and many other places, it’s the friendships and the conditions … it’s what the Encampment brings together: community and connection.”

After a short break, Jane introduced the next activity by giving prompts to help the breakout groups come up with creative responses. She referenced the making of the EFC song, “I Wonder” and how that was created. Jesus joined in near the end. Click here to view.

The whole group convened after 35 minutes and the breakout groups shared their collective creative pieces, including two very different spontaneous improvised poems and a word mobile [shown left with Carol Hsu. To view the creative pieces, click here.

Ola ended the Café by saying how happy she was that she participated and reminding us how privileged we are to be able to talk about this conflict. She offered a thought experiment, asking us to imagine what it would be like to be born on a different continent. Click to hear her comments.

The Café began and ended with songs created at the Encampment: “I Wonder” and “Move Forward


Wahat al-Salam/Neve Shalom (Oasis of Peace), https://wasns.org/

Alliance for Middle East Peace, https://www.allmep.org/

ALandForAll, https://www.alandforall.org/

American Friends of Combatants for Peace, https://cfpeace.org/

Bereaved Families Circle, https://www.theparentscircle.org/en/pcff-home-page-en/

And https://www.familiesforum.co.uk/

Friends of Roots, https://www.friendsofroots.net/

Givat Haviva, https://www.givathaviva.org/

Hand in Hand Schools, http://www.handinhandk12.org/

Standing Together, https://www.standing-together.org/

New Israel Fund, https://www.nif.org/

Women’s Wage Peace, https://www.womenwagepeace.org.il/en/

B’tselem Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolitions, https://www.btselem.org/topic-test/house-demolition

Al-Haq, https://www.alhaq.org/

Jewish Voices for Peace, https://www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org/

Note: The pin that Steve Leibman is holding is available on EFC alum Carol Hsu’s website along with VOTE t-shirts and hats!