Since its inception in 1995, the Visiting Israeli Scholar Program has brought seven Israeli professors to teach at Knox and give public lectures. Several have addressed, in one way or another, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and none more than this year's guest, Israeli playwright Motti Lerner.
Author of 12 plays and winner of Israel's equivalent of an Academy Award, Lerner concentrates in "political theatre," confronting one controversial episode after another in Israeli history. His works include Kastner's Trial, about a Hungarian Jewish leader assassinated for his World War II negotiations with the Nazis; The Murder of Isaac, about the 1995 assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin; and Silence of the Sirens, about the 1973 Israeli-Arab war. Among his current projects is a play about the founding of Israel in 1948.
"We need negotiations [between Israelis and Palestinians] on the basis of truth, not forced narratives," Lerner said at one of his three public lectures on campus. "The Israeli narrative is that [700,000 Palestinians] ran away [during the 1948 war]. The truth is that Israel initiated the plight of the Palestinian refugees when it expelled them. But Israel is not ready to acknowledge this truth."
In addition to his public lectures, Lerner taught a class, Decoding the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict in Film and Theatre, during the 2006 spring term. "I found the students curious and intelligent," Lerner says. "I was surprised by the level of interest in the conflict. There were 22 students in the class, including Palestinian students and Jewish students. They were honest. I didn't see any hostility in the class."
"I also enjoyed the interaction with faculty members," said Lerner, who participated in classes taught by Roy Andersen, Timme Professor of Economics; Robert Seibert, Murphy Professor of Political Science; Karen Kampwirth, associate professor of political science; and Neil Blackadder, associate professor of theatre.
"The visiting scholars have all been well received, have gotten strong teaching evaluations, and have reached out beyond the classroom," said Penny Gold, professor of history and chair of the Jewish Studies Program. "They have met with groups like Hillel Club, Islamic Club, and International Club, and with groups in the community. They bring an international perspective to the campus and the community."
Now known as the Joseph B. Glossberg Visiting Israeli Scholar Program, the program is supported by a gift from Knox College trustee Joseph Glossberg.
Prior year's visiting scholars have been anthropologists Zali Gurevitch and Gideon Aran of Hebrew University; historians Yoav Gelber of University of Haifa and Daphne Tsimhone of Technion University; and professors Zvi Howard Adelman and Muhammed Abu Samra, both of Achva College in Beer Tuvia, Israel.
Motti Lerner discusses the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with Professor Robert Seibert '63.