The Binghamton University Zionist Organization (BUZO) held its second-annual Zionist Education Development (ZED) Talk, hosting speakers who shared their perspectives on currents topics concerning Israel.
The talk featured Robert Holahan, an environmental science professor at BU; Jasmine Patihi, a 2013 BU alumna and a member of the Israel advocacy group Stand With Me; Jonathan Karp, a history professor at BU; and Chuka Ikpeze, a medical student from University of Rochester medical school.
Speakers covered different topics, ranging from water sustainability and government structure to political theory and experiences of a non-Jewish person in Israel.
Holahan described the problems that Israel may face in the future with a dwindling water supply from the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River and highlighted how problems with sustainability stem from agricultural policies enacted by the Israeli government.
“The challenges that Israel faces are not ecological, they are political and economical,” Holahan said.
In addition to a decreasing natural water supply, Holahan said that Israel’s water problems may be exacerbated by its policy of large-scale agriculture, international treaties and water rights for other nations in the Middle East, the needs of growing urban populations and climate change.
Karp delved into the conflicting political ideologies of the importance of personal freedom and absolute equality regardless of religion. Karp also mentioned a law that has been discussed in Israeli government that would define the national identity of Israel and how it could affect the non-Jewish citizens, who make up approximately 20 percent of the population.
“In this case the aim of liberalism becomes how to limit and reduce the security threat while at the same time maximizing the equality of Israeli-Palestinians,” Karp said.
Ikpeze spoke about visiting Israel as a Christian. He encouraged students to form their own opinions about current events in Israel by looking past what is shown in the media and doing their own research.
“There are a lot of things that are being said and they’re not necessarily a lie but they’re incomplete,” Ikpeze said. “That’s what I think gets lost in translation.”
Kaskeset, the Jewish a cappella group, performed the Israeli national anthem and other traditional Hebrew songs.
Joshua Seed, the education vice president of BUZO, said that he hoped the event was accessible to all attendees.
“The idea was to give a really diverse group of people a way to connect with Israel through their personal experiences,” said Seed, a junior majoring in urban and regional planning. “We had a really diverse audience that hopefully through their own interests, whether it be their major or their background or politics, [found] something in the ideas presented tonight that they can connect with.”
Joshua Fisher, the vice president of BUZO and a junior double-majoring in psychology and Arabic, said that the event aimed to spread awareness of issues facing Israel today.
“We wanted to have a much broader spectrum of educational discussion,” Fisher said. “A TED Talk style is more engaging because it’s shorter, so they get to the meat of topics much more quickly.”
Steven Shafran, senior majoring in biology, said that Karp’s approach offered a unique and informative perspective on the current events in Israel.
“He really touched base on a lot of different sides of the conflict,” Shafran said. “Oftentimes people look at the conflict as black and white — he made it objective and very even.”