New York, November 4, 2010–The fifth and final International Education Program (IEP) tour of 2011 will commence at the University of Denver in Colorado on Thursday. OneVoice Israel’s (OVI) Eliran Eyal and OneVoice Palestine’s (OVP) Mohammad Asideh will take to the stage as the tour’s keynote youth leaders. The two stopped by OneVoice’s office in New York to introduce themselves.
Eliran Eyal, 29, is a professional stage actor, writer, and theater production manager who stumbled upon OVI by chance. On the suggestion of a friend, Eliran attended a town hall meeting (THM) to conduct research for a play he was writing about the consequences of war on an Israeli solider. From there, it was only a matter of time until the Beit Zvi acting school graduate and Ramat Gan native became a full fledged youth leader.
You’ll find your mood synchronously improve as a conversation with Eliran progresses. His animated personality is what you would expect from someone entrenched in Tel Aviv’s theater world. The evolvement of Israel’s cultural scene is what drives Eliran to work toward an end to the conflict. His philosophy, simply put, is that the establishment of an independent Palestinian state equals a more secure Israel, requiring less money toward its defense and security, and more toward civic and social development.
Eliran joined OVI after learning the results of a OneVoice sponsored poll about the desire of peace amongst the general Israeli and Palestinian populations. “I was shocked to learn that nearly three quarters of Palestinians wanted peace, and I felt like up until then I had been living a lie. From what I had heard in the media my whole life, I thought that the majority of Palestinians wanted to destroy the Jewish people. Being at the THM was the first time in my life that I understood we had a partner on the other side,” he said.
Like most Israelis, Eliran grew up with the understanding that he was without a partner in peace. He cites, among his childhood memories, learning the quickest way to put on a gasmask, and long nights watching television from the confines of a bomb shelter during the first and second intifadas [uprisings]. The conflict, in effect, had robbed him of his youth.
“For Purim one year, I remember dressing up as The Kurgan from the movie Highlander,” he recalls. “I was wearing full leather and had shaved my head so that my friend could draw this really cool dragon on the side. It looked awesome. I was so excited to go out and show it off until it was reported on the news that a suicide bomber had just killed himself and others in Tel Aviv. I went in the bathroom to clean my face, suddenly feeling so naïve and stupid. I thought, ‘how could I dare choose to go out and have fun with my friends when there are people whose families had just been destroyed?’”
This experience is similar to one Eliran had the day Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated on November 4, 1995. Today marks the 15 year anniversary of his death.
“Rabin’s assassination is something that I think I will never forget. My family and I were together in a large banquet hall celebrating my cousin’s bat mitzvah when it happened. For the most part everyone was dancing and having a good time. When it was first announced that he had been shot, some of the men went to watch what was happening on a TV in a backroom. When it was finally revealed that he died, the mood quickly turned somber and everyone left the party. I remember feeling bad for not crying despite seeing the tears of everyone around me. I didn’t understand the gravity of the situation at the time. Despite Yasser Arafat’s condemnation of the tragedy, I felt angry toward Arabs broadcast on the news who were celebrating his death. That instance was an example of the media using its power to deepen the divide, rather than working to unify people.”
One of the things that most impressed Eliran about OVI is its subversion to the common media tactic of fear mongering. As one of OVI’s most enthusiastic youth leaders, Eliran works hard in his community to facilitate the flow of open dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. “I know my audience now,” he says. “Both Israelis and Palestinians wants an agreement that will ensure they live next to each other.”
Catch Eliran and Mohammad on tour this November, as they bring their message of an end to the conflict at these universities and institutions around Southern California:
University of California, San Diego – November 8, 11:30 am - 1:00 pm (Bear Room, Sungod Lounge)
San Diego State University – November 8, 6:00-8:00 pm (Hepner Hall 130)
University of California, Irvine – November 9, Time TBA (Room TBA)
University of California, Los Angeles – November 10, 6:00-8:00 pm (Dodd 121)
Santa Monica College – November 11, 11:15 am-12:30 pm (LS 103); 3:00-4:30 pm (Math Complex 11)
Occidental College – November 11, 7:30-9:00 pm (Fowler 202)
Leo Baeck Temple – November 12, 6:00 pm (1300 N. Sepulveda Boulevard)