Dialogue and not Division was the clear message from the South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) during this year’s Israel Awareness Week (IAW) at various campuses around the country.
SAUJS decided to use the week as an opportunity for students at Wits University to learn more about the complicated Middle East conflict.
They had different speakers from around the world who gave different perspectives on the conflict. The speakers line up showed the diversity of Israeli society.
Former Miss Israel, Yityish Titi Aynaw called for an end to fighting. “Those who hate Israel should check their facts because they waste energy on misinformation,” she advised.
Titi Aynaw told her story of how she was born into a poor Jewish family in Ethiopia and orphaned at the age of nine.
Nonetheless, her dream was to go to Israel. When she eventually made aliyah to Israel she quickly integrated into Jewish society and ten years later became Miss Israel. “Media often distorts reality on Israel,” says beauty queen Titi.
Ishmael Khaldi also spoke to students and told his story of being a Muslim Bedouin shepherd and becoming Israel’s first diplomat. Yahya Mahamid an Arab Israeli speaker also shared his personal experience and rejected the the analogy of Apartheid in his country Israel. “There must be more tolerance. “We must work to break the deliberate myths that exist in the Israeli-Arab sector. We also must take the next step to peace, stop the incitement one hears in school, media and mosque,” he said. To close off the dialogue, was Syrian refugee and activist Issam Zeitoun who shared his experience of being a refugee. Zeitoun believes that Israel can play an important role towards a long-term solution to the tragic Syrian civil war.
Inner City Gazette spoke to various students who alluded to the fact that the SAUJS strategy worked. “Throughout the week students passed by the SAUJS tent and engaged with the speakers. There was true dialogue in true South African spirit.”

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