First Presbyterian Church of Evanston hosts panel discussion on Israel-Hamas war

First Presbyterian Church of Evanston hosted a Sunday panel discussion in collaboration with nonprofit Bright Stars of Bethlehem on the role of religion, politics and solidarity in the Israel-Hamas war.

Panelists included Rev. Mitri Raheb — co-founder of Bright Stars and Dar al-Kalima University in Bethlehem, a city in the West Bank — Rabbi Brant Rosen, founding rabbi of Tzedek Chicago, Palestinian-American activist Rami Nashashibi and Iva Carruthers, the general secretary of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference.

Linda Edens, vice chair of the Bright Stars of Bethlehem board of directors, moderated the discussion. Each panelist had 15 minutes to speak about the topic.

Raheb started the conversation and spoke about what he called the “settler colonial project” that Israel has exercised in Gaza over the last century. 

“It’s always about two issues: geography and demography,” Raheb said. “Israel would like to take all the geography, from the river to the sea, and to kick out the demography — the Palestinian demography, in all different kinds of ways.” 

Raheb also spoke about Israel’s ground and air offensive in Gaza and the thousands of children that have been murdered. He said there are no more universities left in Gaza.

Israel’s military action in Gaza has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, according to Palestinian officials. Israel’s ground and air offensive follows the militant group Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel which killed about 1,200 Israelis, according to Israeli officials.

Raheb spoke about Bright Stars, an organization committed to uplifting Palestinians by raising awareness and support for Dar al-Kalima University in Bethlehem, the first and only liberal arts university in Palestine. The university’s Gaza training center was destroyed in an airstrike by Israel during Holy Week, according to Raheb. Several volunteers of the center were killed or escaped to Rafah, Gaza, Raheb said.

“We were reaching out to thousands of kids through our program,” Raheb said. “All of this was totally destroyed during Holy Week.” Read More