Promoting peace in Mideast

File photo. Carissa Harris//The Miami Hurricane
File photo. Carissa Harris//The Miami Hurricane

It all began on Skype last spring. A group of University of Miami students were talking to University of Michigan students about how to bridge the centuries-old divide between Israelis and Palestinians.

The two groups decided that rather than continue the virtual discussion, it would be better to bring their message to an even larger audience.

“At the end of the day, we are all people,” said senior Reem Habash of the UM student organization Jews and Muslims (JAM). “We need to look past our differences, especially religious, to create a brighter future.”

In March, students from JAM and other campus groups began planning a conference that would provide a platform for dialogue, education, networking and social action on Middle Eastern issues for students in the United States and abroad.

The months of hard work will culminate with the Yad b’Yed, or Hand in Hand, National University Student Conference, which takes place Oct. 24-26 on the Coral Gables campus. The conference is to provide a pluralistic approach to interfaith relations and peace in the Middle East.

The event stems from JAM’s Clinton Global Initiative University commitment to “bridging the divide” between Jews and Muslims though discussions, donations and community service.

The conference will feature a variety of sessions that examine some of the age-old conflicts between Israelis and Arabs.

“This event is a way people can feel and understand the pain going on overseas,” said  Shoshana Gottesman, a Hand in Hand organizer.

One of the chief goals of Hand in Hand is to provide students with the connections and tools needed to build trust among religious and ethnic communities in order to establish social change.

The conference speakers include Middle East policy experts, interfaith land community leaders and peace activists. The speakers will emphasize the importance of interacting and developing relationships.

“This conference is extremely important because small misunderstandings can lead to serious problems,” said Alyssa Mische, another conference organizer and JAM co-founder. “As long as we stay ignorant, it’s easy to fall victim to outside ideas.”

Christopher Watson may be contacted at