May 6, 2005

Scholar Oren will speak at Israel Week event

Best-selling author Michael Oren will speak on campus Monday, May 9 as part of a series of events celebrating Israel Week, hosted by the Chicago Friends of Israel (CFI). Oren, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center, a Jerusalem-based research facility, will present his lecture in Social Sciences 122 at 7 p.m.

Israel Week recognizes several important dates in the country's history, including Israeli Independence day, Holocaust Remembrance Day, and an event commemorating fallen soldiers in Israeli wars. Oren, who has written extensively for The New York Times, TheWall Street Journal, Commentary, and The New Republic, will address the many difficulties Jews have experienced since the creation of a Jewish state.

"The topic is especially salient today, the 57th anniversary of the creation of the Jewish State, as Israel struggles to reconcile the contradictory visions of becoming a normal state and a state like all other states, and a light among nations," Oren said. The lecture will also discuss the role of the Jewish state in the modern world, with a particular emphasis on military history.

Oren will serve as one of the highest profile speakers to visit campus during the Israel Week events. He has served in the Israeli Defense Force, and has acted as an advisor to Israel's delegation to the United Nations. During the Gulf war, Oren acted as a liaison to the U.S. Sixth Fleet.

As in years past, Israel Week has come amid controversy. Earlier in the week, posters advertising Oren's lecture were defaced with swastikas, and other posters were torn down or vandalized in various locations around campus. On some posters, the letter "X" was drawn over Oren's photo, and other posters had holes burnt into them. "I know that the community will stand together to condemn these acts and to send a message that racist vandalism will never be tolerated," said Adam Weissmann, fourth-year in the College, member of CFI, and former president of CFI. Both Steve Klass, vice president and dean of students in the University, and Richard Saller, the University provost, have condemned these acts, and have emphasized the University's policy on harassment and academic freedom.

The spirit of Israel Week, for many, is one of acceptance rather than intolerance. "The appeal of Israel Week is that it is an event that does not disparage other groups, but rather reaches out to the wider community," said Jonathan Hirsch, current CFI president, who said that the events during the week are designed to emphasize important events in Israeli history, rather than political antagonism.

"The recurring defacement of RSO posters with anti-Jewish graffiti is a shameful and cowardly act that runs counter to the culture of academic discourse and higher learning at this University," Weissmann added.

Hirsch and Weissmann agreed that Oren's lecture is meant to address Israeli history from a non-partisan view, encouraging academic discourse rather than biased political beliefs.

Several other events will be occurring throughout the week. There will be an Israel Shabbat held at the Newberger Hillel center, and a commemoration of Israel Veterans Day on Wednesday, May 11. There will be a party on May 12 in Hutch Commons, featuring Israeli hip-hop music, free falafels, hummus, pitas, and other foods.

Stand With Us, Hasbara, JUF/JCRC Imitative for Israel on Campus, and the Newberger Hillel Center are co-sponsoring events for Israel Week.