The Thanksgiving break couldn’t have come fast enough this year, or so it seemed to me. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza had been growing worse by the day, with thousands of Palestinians falling victim to bombings and many more living in increasingly desperate conditions because of Israel’s war against Hamas. So many children have been killed, it is heartbreaking. These last few days bring some measure of hope, as some of the hundreds of civilians kidnapped in the terrorist raids in Southern Israel have been exchanged for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel’s occupying forces. A fragile cease fire has provided some modest respite for Gaza’s desperate conditions. We permit ourselves a little hope that this will be the base of a more lasting effort at peace.
But for many people the Thanksgiving break was punctuated by fear and grief. On Saturday evening three Palestinian students were shot in Vermont while on their Thanksgiving break. As I write this on Sunday, the shooter remains at large [update: an arrest has been made], and the men are still recuperating from their injuries. The investigation is ongoing as to the motive of the attacker. All of us should join in solidarity with these Palestinian students and their families by rejecting violence in our own environment as we hope for their recovery and for justice.
And yet in so many places in the United States and around the world, we see expressions of hate and of violence. As tempers flare, old anti-Semitic slurs are hurled by self-righteous protestors, and people who otherwise consider themselves good citizens indulge in base Islamophobia. We can prevent these things from happening on our own campus by remembering that we are here to learn together. We can study together the history of this conflict, together remain open to people with different points of view, contribute together, in whatever ways we can, to possibilities for peace.
There are two weeks left of classes this semester. During this time, we don’t have to agree about the war or about other political issues that face us. But we can work for peace, for mutual understanding, and for the ability to continue to learn together.