The first time Israeli journalist Etgar Lefkovitz met Yale students Zvika Krieger ’06 and Adina Lopatin ’05, they were in a Jerusalem cafe only a block away from the site of the city’s latest suicide bombing. But their most recent meeting took place in a slightly more peaceful setting — the Silliman College Master’s House.
“To hear a siren and have it just be a fire truck and not an ambulance rushing off to a bombing, it was nice,” Lefkovitz said.
Lefkovitz, a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, spoke about his experiences covering suicide bombings in Jerusalem at a Silliman Master’s Tea Monday afternoon. Sponsored by Silliman and the Yale Friends of Israel, or YFI, Lefkovitz’s talk drew approximately 50 students and touched on various topics, ranging from Middle Eastern politics to his career in journalism.
The talk was just one stop on a 10-day tour of American colleges, including Brown, Harvard and Boston universities.
Lefkovitz began the tea by describing in detail how he covers suicide bombings in Jerusalem. When such an attack occurs, he said he is paged by the chief of police and arrives at the scene within five to 10 minutes. After surveying the attack, Lefkovitz said he always makes a point of going to the hospital to interview some of the victims.
“Besides being physically worrying, it gets emotionally draining,” Lefkovitz said.
He then moved on to discuss issues facing Jerusalem and, more generally, Israel.
“There are a lot of issues that get lost in this jungle of violence that has engulfed our nation in the last few months,” Lefkovitz said.
He also talked extensively about the security fence currently being built to separate the West Bank from Israel. He said the erection of a fence has been a deterrent to terrorism and that Israel will probably continue building the fence.
This prompted a question from Gabrielle Goodfellow ’04, a member of Students for Justice in Palestine, about buildings being razed recently in Rafah, a town near Egypt in the Gaza Strip. When this led to visible controversy at the tea, Silliman College Master Judith Krauss diffused the situation.
“This is not a debate; this is a tea,” Krauss said.
In addition, Lefkovitz answered questions about secular-orthodox relations and the social climate in Jerusalem.
Responding to a question about what Israel should do about Yasser Arafat, Lefkovitz said Israel has four options: continuing the status quo, exiling him, assassinating him, or placing him under stricter confinement. He said Israel’s most appealing option is currently the last one.
Some students who attended the tea said they were pleased by the talk’s informative content.
“I think that what made the tea so great was his ability to discuss hot topics and big issues but still inform Yale students about the smaller domestic issues we don’t hear so much about,” said Krieger, a YFI vice president.
Other students pointed out the biased nature of Lefkovitz’s discussion but said they still enjoyed the tea.
“There’s obviously very different perspectives on the conflict and the wall and the apartheid going on,” Goodfellow said.
Krieger said Yale Friends of Israel made a point to send the announcement of the talk to a diverse group of lists, and that only about 15 of the students in the audience were active members of YFI.
“We don’t hide our events from people who will ask controversial questions,” Krieger said. “The purpose of these events is to educate.”