On the night before Election Day, a Middle Eastern Multicultural Night focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was held on Mills Lawn. Though not as high-profile as the Uncle Sam's After-Poll Party that occurred there the following night, the outdoor movie event did see a decent student and faculty turnout. Hillel and the Society for a Just Peace in Palestine (SJP) co-sponsored the night, which featured food, speakers, free "coexist" bumper stickers and a film shown on an inflatable screen that exuded a message of hope for the entire region.
Although students trickled onto the lawn slowly near the beginning, the number of attendees eventually built up to about forty individuals at the height of the night. The event began with the clubs' presidents welcoming their guests and introducing the two speakers, Rabbi Jonathan Siger and Brother Yassine Benzinane, both of whom had spoken at a similar event last year showing the film "Promises." Rabbi Siger, executive director of the Central Florida Hillel, focused on the history of the Jewish people's settlement in the land of Israel. Brother Yassine, owner of the Ali Baba Bookstore and a member of the Orlando branch of the Council on American- Islamic Relations, emphasized the need for the audience to think about possible solutions, given the claims that each side has to the land.
While technical difficulties following the speeches were being dealt with, the audience was able to enjoy a spread of Middle Eastern dishes including pita, hummus, tabouleh, falafel and shawarma.
The film "Encounter Point" was an amazing portrayal of the independent grassroots movements for peace that are occurring within and between Palestine and Israel. It focused on the stories of a few individuals and showed how they had turned grief and hardship from the conflict into the drive to make peace.
In one portrayal, two men, one Israeli and one Palestinian, lost their daughters in attacks from the other side. Both joined a group for bereaved families where they now talk to each other, bond and work towards mutual understanding. Another person, Ali, had lost his brother, been shot in the leg and sent to prison, enough to make him a hero in Palestine. However, instead of perpetuating hate, he is now working tirelessly to meet with both Israelis and Palestinians in order to spread the message of peace and dialogue.
When asked about her impressions, Susie Robertshaw said that she "...liked seeing those two young men, the Palestinian and the Israeli, who had changed their stances despite their upbringings and the violence that had befallen them...."
Having lived in Southern Africa (Botswana) during the Apartheid regime in the Republic, Susie also said that she appreciated one woman's comments from the film "about how certain attitudes of the Israeli settlers are just like those in Apartheid S. Africa."
"I also liked hearing from those two speakers again," she said, "and of course the food and company were just great. Breaking bread together helps in all cases."