posted 2011-04-27 12:00:14

Hunter Hillel Spreads Words of Hope

Hunter Hillel Spreads Words of Hope

“Daring To Hope” Series Moves onto Israel-Palestine Conflict

Bridgit Boulahanis

Contributing Writer

On Apr. 12, Hunter’s Roosevelt House was packed to the seams with people from all walks of life. Students, professors, donors, and art fans all gathered to see the work of Ilan Mizrahi, a photojournalist from Israel. His photographs, all in black and white, depict vivid and powerful scenes from his war-torn homeland.

The Israel-Palestine conflict has been debated heatedly around the world, with Hunter College being no place of exception. Over the past few months, the school has seen incendiary fliers, outraged students, demonstrations, and defaced posters. Groups on campus are continually tackling this divisive issue from both directions, and one of those groups is Hunter Hillel. A pro-Israel organization, Hunter Hillel created this exhibit as part of the “Daring to Hope” series taking place at Hunter this spring.

The pictures exhibited at the event came from Ilan Mizrahi’s book, Existence: Jerusalem 1995 – 2005, a non-fictional account of the extreme violence that has long been a part of everyday life in Israel. Inside the book are horrifying images of a country devastated by war. The images selected for the “Daring to Hope” event, however, are lighter in their message.

Gregory Grobstin, Hunter senior and curator of the event, explains that he chose images depicting hope, and most importantly, those offering “an unbiased account of life in Israel.” His passion for Israel and the art exhibit is palpable; other members of Hillel call him “a force of nature” because of his drive to make events like this one happen.

In his speech during the exhibit, Mizrahi called Grobstin “an angel” and claimed the exhibit would have been “almost impossible to do without him.”

Grobstin’s peers believe the charming art-history major is going to change the world someday. “He is incredible,” said ex-USG president David Wexler of Grobstin, “he makes things happen.”

The photos themselves range from troubling to breathtaking. Many of them are studies in juxtaposition: the affluent near the homeless, snipers next to musicians playing horns, and young children holding toy guns with eerie smiles.

Despite the hate-fueled conflict that inspired these images, some of the most powerful works are the ones depicting love. The first image seen upon entering the gallery room is of two young people from behind, arms around each other, with the woman’s arm resting lightly over a gun visibly tucked into the man’s waistband. Another stirring image, Grobstin’s favorite, is one of a man cleaning the cut of another man – the caption notes that they are an Israeli-Palestinian couple.

The majority of the students present at the event were members of Hillel or friends of Grobstin. One senior, Yan Amlamud, said that on his birthright trip to Israel he experienced “similar incidents, so seeing it in picture is incredibly moving.”

Even those at the event who were not involved with Hillel, such as the USG’s Student Welfare Commissioner Tahira Pierce-Cadet, were very impressed. “The images were very powerful in their own right,” said Pierce-Cadet when asked about her impression of the show.

The politics of an event of this nature are impossible to ignore, but the discourse remained polite and respectful. Hillel members emphasized their desire to have conversations and be educated about the issues at hand rather than encourage the spread of hatred. It is promising that a generation of young people is graduating from Hunter with the understanding that the only way to move past years of violence and pain is through hope and understanding. The “Daring To Hope” events this spring are a starting point towards healthier discourse and a better future.