by Evanne Montoya
Dr. Jonathan Adelman spoke at the Robinson Teaching Theater on the topic of what people “haven’t heard and don’t know” about Israel Tuesday Feb. 7. His speech, while painting a positive view of Israel, had a mixed reception.
Adelman emphasized that like with any topic, when talking about Israel people have preconceptions, often negative.
“When we look at Israel what we realize is like anything else, we have images before us, but when we go there we are surprised by what we see,” he said.
One thing people might discover upon visiting Israel is that people are a lot happier than could be expected Adelman said. Israel is the eighth happiest country in the world on the global happiness index, he said.
That may have something to do with the close relationships formed in the Israeli culture.
“In Israel, people are extraordinarily connected,” Adelman said.
Adelman also stated that Israelis live 1-2 years longer than Americans on average.
Israel has also made strides in terms of economy, Adelman said.
“Israel went from a third world country … to a country that today is $30,000 GDP per capita,” he said. He added that it was the fourth or fifth biggest country in terms of high tech technology, and had foreign trade amounting to $90 million.
One of the major concerns many have about Israel is the treatment of minority groups.
“You get the impression that Israeli women are one of the most oppressed groups of people,” Adelman said.
However, Adelman labeled this a misconception. He supported his point by citing the Israeli women who spend time in the military and rise to leadership positions, as well as their place in Israel’s political sphere.
“Of the three major parties in Israel, two are led by women,” he said.
Some people also express concerns over Israel’s treatment of people of Arabic descent. Adelman, however, describes the country as a place of opportunity for Arabic people.
“Today Israeli-educated Arabs are among the best educated Arabs in the Middle East,” he said.
Still, Adelman admits Israel is not perfect.
“It has a long way to go for full equality, but it has made a lot of progress,” he said.
Freshman Eli Deitz said he found Adelmen’s talk was not exactly what he expected.
“While he was talking about Israel, he didn’t address the conflict between Israel and Palestine,” Deitz said. “He was more optimistic, which isn’t necessarily bad, it just surprised me.”
Whitworth professor and Chair of the Sociology Department Raja Tanas, who specializes among other topics in Middle Eastern and Islamic studies and is from Palestine, took a less ambivalent view of the omission of the Palestine-Israel conflict.
“You cannot talk about [the advances the country has made] without talking about Israel’s prosperity taking place at the expense of the native Palestinians,” he said. ”Israel today is in control of 90 percent of Palestine, Palestine 10 percent, and that percentage is shrinking every day.”
Tanas pointed out that Adelman conducted speaking tours for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, which describes itself on its website as “America’s Pro-Israel Lobby.”
“His job is to present Israel as a rosy place,” Tanas said.
Freshman international studies and Spanish double major Dana Le Roy found Adelman’s lecture to be an interesting contrast to one held at Whitworth earlier this year.
Jewish psychologist and author Mark Braverman spoke in the Teaching Theater Oct. 10. Braverman is co-founder and executive director of Friends of Tent of Nations North America, which supports Palestinian land rights.
Le Roy went to the Braverman lecture with minimal background on Israel, but after going researched the topic and wrote a paper on it for class. So, when Adelman came to speak on Israel, Le Roy attended.
“Braverman’s point was that Christians need to be more concerned and aware of this issue, and not be afraid to engage the Jewish community about the human rights issues going on,” Le Roy said.
Deitz said he found a strong contrast between the two speakers.
“They represent different sides of the spectrum,” Deitz said.
Going to the two lectures has made Deitz cautious about drawing conclusions.
“Now when I hear about Israel I think maybe what is portrayed by our media and government isn’t perhaps accurate all the time,” he said.
While Braverman and Adelman were not lecturing on exactly the same topic, Le Roy said he thought it was good that Whitworth was able to host two lecturers with such different viewpoints. Those differences invite students to think critically.
“I think it’s a really good, healthy thing for Whitworth to be involved with,” Le Roy said.
Contact Evanne Montoya at email@example.com.