Programs, 2015-16


Saturday, June 18
Led by Jennifer Parisi, with Rich Forer

For a moment, let go of distressing news and frustrated expectation in your longing for peace in the Middle East.

Participate, instead, in hearing hopeful alternatives and in sharing your own ideas for ending this endless suffering.

► The Exiled Palestinians: North America Nakba Tour

Friday, May 20

On May 14, 1948, as Zionist leader David Ben Gurion was proclaiming a Jewish state in Palestine, his troops drove out the inhabitants of the ancient Palestinian town of al-Zeeb. 18-year-old Mariam Fathalla was one of them. She and her young husband fled to Lebanon. By year’s end the 4,000-year-old community had been leveled. More than half of all Palestinians were killed or expelled and more than half the cities, towns and villages disappeared, a crime that Palestinians call al-Nakba (the Catastrophe).

Now 86 years old, Mariam has spent the last 68 years in crowded, makeshift refugee camps in Lebanon. She has raised three generations, all waiting to return to Palestine. She has seen five Israeli invasions of Lebanon, as well as the 1976 Tel al-Zaatar camp massacre that killed more than 2000 refugees there

Mariam wants meet you.  So does Amena Ashkar, the great granddaughter of other Nakba survivors.  They have a different message.  They do not live in Palestine.  They have no citizenship anywhere.  They do not live under Israeli occupation. Israel does not allow them to visit their homes, much less live there.  Amena has never met an Israeli, and Mariam not since 1948. They have a different perspective

► Children and Women in Palestine

Sunday, April 10

Dr. Deborah Young of Naropa University, Boulder and Dr. Alia Assali of An-Najah National University, Nablus, Palestine discuss the situation of children and women in Palestine.  Dr. Young has recently returned from a Fulbright at An-Najah University where she worked at integrating Naropa's mindfulness education with early childhood inclusive education as a means toward achieving peace as well as social and ecological justice.  Dr. Assali, Dean of the Faculty of Educational Sciences and Teachers' Training, is an organizer and leader in women's and children's rights.  Drs. Young and Assali's talks will be followed by a screening of  Detaining Dreams, a short film on the military detention of children under Israeli occupation. Discussion will follow.

► Gaza: Does It Have a Future?
with Richard Forer and Elayne Gallagher

Sunday, March 13

Richard and Elayne will discuss the painful modern history of the Gaza Strip, focusing on the past decade. They will clarify the history of Gaza’s relationship with Israel and describe the current living conditions that have led the United Nations to warn that the area will be uninhabitable sometime in the next six years. They will also discuss the the gender work of UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

For his entire life, Richard Forer supported Israeli policy, believing the Jewish State an innocent nation forever eager to make peace with its neighbors. In 2006, he underwent a profound spiritual awakening that led him to write his book, Breakthrough: Transforming Fear into Compassion – A New Perspective on the Israel-Palestine Conflict. A former member of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) with orthodox relatives living in settlements in the West Bank, Richard has been to the West Bank a few times as well as to the Gaza Strip in November 2012. 

Elayne Gallagher began her international career as a program manager in a United Nations refugee camp in the remote Bataan peninsula of the Philippines. Her work involves national development planning and policy development, focusing on human rights and gender empowerment. Most recently, her work with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) on gender equality in Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian border, the West Bank and Gaza has included discussions with senior government officials, prime ministers, women’s organizations and community groups in remote villages.

► Changing the Narrative, Changing the Politics: 

How Literature and Activism are Shifting the US Landscape
with Pamela Olson, author of Fast Times in Palestine

Sunday, February 14

A post-college backpacking trip turned into a two-year stay in Ramallah where Pamela worked as a journalist and served as foreign press coordinator for Dr. Mustafa Barghouti's 2005 presidential campaign. She will talk about her experiences in Ramallah, as well as current realities and trends in US-based Palestinian activism—and what we can do to help. She will also focus on recent literary trends and offer suggestions about books to read and share, and why changing the story is an important complement to activism—and how these pressures are pushing the Israeli government into policies that further alienate the world, including the US government.

Fast Times in Palestine is Pamela's deeply moving memoir of her years in Palestine, covering events from the death of Yasser Arafat and the Gaza Disengagement to the early Hamas election victories. The narrative focuses not only on violence, terror, and politics, but also on the daily rounds of house parties, concerts, barbecues, weddings, jokes, harvests, and romantic dramas that happen in between. Signed copies will be available for sale after the lecture.

► A Black Vision of Palestine

with Denver activist Anthony Grimes 
Sunday, January 10

Grimes describes himself as "a community animator, social entrepreneur, and human rights activist. I engage community building and social justice with a rare combination of lived experience, thoughtful reflection, and innovative leadership. 

My Park Hill neighborhood was one of the most turbulent in the nation during the nationally recognized gang war that plagued Denver in the 1990's. The context of the city—both its social ills and special sense of community—serves as the mimesis for my leadership in a broad range of social sectors; Yet, in every role, I bring a singular vision of redeeming the soul of America."

Reflecting on his 2014 African Heritage delegation to Palestine/Israel with Interfaith Peace Builders, Grimes created a gallery of photos, a Black Vision of Palestine. He will talk about this experience through the photo collection.

► The Wanted 18

Sunday, December 13
This film is a unique production that combines stop-motion animation, interviews, original drawings, and archival footage to bring to life one of the strangest c

hapters in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Poignant and thought-provoking, humorous and serious, it shows the power of grassroots activism, peaceful resistance and courage in a part of the world that is fraught with negative imagery and despair.

The story is told from the perspective of both the cows and the activists. Directed, illustrated and narrated by acclaimed Palestinian artist Amer Shomali together with veteran Canadian director Paul Cowan, the film gives voice to the principled activists who participated in the dairy, their families and friends, and the people whose lives were changed by it. Nation-building from the bottom up, by the people, not the politicians.

► The Bullet, the Ballot and the Boycott

Sunday, November 8, 2015
Racism in Israel today—a lecture and slideshow about Israeli incitement to racist violence, the focus of his on-the-ground reporting for the past five years. The core of the presentation concerns the dehumanizing discourse towards Palestinians, Africans and other non-Jews by top Israeli political and religious leaders, and the vigilante attacks they inspire, which spiked during last summer's assault on the Gaza Strip. 

David Sheen is an independent journalist and film maker originally from Toronto, Canada who now lives in Dimona, Israel. Sheen began blogging when he first moved to Israel in 1999 and later went on to work as a reporter and editor at the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz. He now writes for a variety of local, regional and international outlets including Alternet and Electronic Intifada. Sheen is currently writing a book about African immigrants to Israel and the struggles they face. David Sheen is and independent journalist and filmmaker from Toronto, Canada, who now lives in Israel. Sheen has been a reporter and editor at the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

More at He tweets from @davidsheen

► Painful Hope

Sunday, October 18
with Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger and Palestinian peace activist Khaled Abu Awaad
founders of the Roots/Judur/Shorashim project in the West Bank

These two men, from vastly different backgrounds, are among the founders of an organization called “Roots: The Palestinian-Israeli Grassroots Initiative for Understanding, Non-Violence, and Transformation.”

Rabbi Schlesinger is a passionate Zionist settler, who although raised on Long Island has been living for the past 35 years in Alon Shvut, in the Gush Etzion West Bank settlement. He has been profoundly transformed by his friendship with the Abu Awaad family, and his understanding of the Middleast conflict utterly complicated by the parallel universe that the Abu Awaad family has introduced to him.

Khaled Abu Awaad is among the foremost figures in the Palestinian community working toward peace and reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis. Khaled and his family have been greatly affected by the conflict which has shaped his beliefs and actions. His brother's death in 2000 marked a turning point in his life and strengthened his commitment to the peace process and to non-violence and reconciliation. He became active in the Bereaved Families Forum and in 2006 he founded Al-Tariq, the Palestinian Institute for Development and Democracy. 

The Abu Awaad family and Rabbi Schlesinger have created Roots/Judur/Shorashim, the Palestinian Israeli Grassroots Initiative for Understanding, Non-violence, and Transformation, located on a piece of land owned by the family in the heart of Gush Etzion and abutting the Palestinian town of Beit Umar—one of the rare places that both Palestinians and Israelis can access without special government permits, thus facilitating grassroots, unmediated get-togethers and deep conversations between people from the two sides. 

► History and Politics of Hamas: Separating Myth from Reality

Sunday, September 13, 3-5 pm

Dr. Nader Hashemi, Associate Professor, Joseph Korbel School of International Studies; Director, Center for Middle East Studies

The US Foreign Terrorist Organizations List annually ranks the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas at the top of its terror list. This is justified due to the long history of terrorism directed at Israeli civilians and more recently Hamas’ missile attacks from Gaza at Israeli cities and towns. Hamas’ political charter is frequently cited as an embodiment of its ideological rigidity and its steadfast refusal to recognize the right of Israel to exist as a nation state in the Middle East. Some go further and label Hamas as an anti-Semitic organization. The general mainstream view is that if Hamas didn’t exist, the prospects for peace between Israelis and Palestinians would be better.

  • Is this perception of Hamas correct?
  • What gaps and misunderstandings exist on this topic?
  • What does the factual and documentary record actually tell us about Hamas behavior, its use of violence and its evolution over time?    

This lecture will address some of these questions by focusing briefly on the origins of Hamas and their role in shaping the contours of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Special emphasis will be placed on the political and ideological context which has produced this organization and whether Hamas can be play a constructive role in bringing about a just resolution of the conflict in Israel/Palestine.