On Wednesday night, over 100 people packed a room at Tufts Hillel to hear Maya Roman, a relative of two Israeli hostages, tell her story. She spoke of the enormous pain she and her family are experiencing, the helplessness of their situation and the lengths to which they are going to bring them home.
She also spoke about her work in peace activism, the feminist publication she runs which has featured both Israeli and Palestinian writers and her work in #MeToo activism in the context of the conflict. She demonstrated she understood the humanity of the Palestinians and recognized that most Palestinians understand her humanity too. She showed it is possible to hold these two truths that may seem opposed.
On polarizing issues like this conflict, the most unreasonable voices tend to be the loudest ones, both in person and especially on social media. But the loudest people do not represent the voice of the majority. Reasonable, humane voices like Maya’s are not naturally loud — and as the turnout at the event showed, Maya was heard loud and clear.
Everyone at Tufts knows that students’ diverse commitments make it hard to generate turnout. But on Wednesday night, every seat in the room was taken. The overwhelming attendance at the event sends two critical messages.
The first is that the chorus of voices calling to bring the hostages home is only growing. The 136 remaining hostages represent many different nationalities and religions and span in age from one to 86. Just last week, the youngest hostage, Kfir Bibas, turned 1 in captivity. He was nine months old when he was kidnapped, meaning he has now spent a quarter of his life as a hostage. Bringing them home is not a political demand; it is a fundamentally human demand.
The second message the Tufts community sent that night is that there is a hunger on campus to engage in reasonable, humane dialogue about this issue. The present situations of Israelis and Palestinians are inextricably linked. Therefore, their futures are intertwined as well. Recognizing the humanity of one side does not negate the humanity of the other. It enhances it.
So, to the students on campus asking themselves where all the reasonable people on campus went, Wednesday night was your answer. Join us in expanding the reasonable, humane majority by engaging respectfully with people who do not share your views in any forum, organized or not. The worst thing that can happen when we speak is that we do not see eye to eye, and nothing changes. The best thing that can happen is that we can foster a mutual understanding through which we can build a better future for everyone. In this case, the reward certainly outweighs the risk.