GIP holds interfaith panel on the Israel-Palestine conflict

By Katie H. ‘21
Additional photos by Austin W. '20

On the evening of February 26th, Poly’s upper school library opened its doors to a distinguished panel for the GIP-sponsored event, “The role of religion in the lands of Israel and Palestine.” Organized and moderated by Global Scholar Mady B. ‘20, the event brought together members of different religious affiliations to discuss the past and current influences of religion on the region. When asked about her goals for the event, Mady explained that she wanted to “provide a more understandable, human perspective on the region of the Middle East.”

Mady identifies as Jewish and spent four months of her junior year studying in Israel, an experience which at first immersed her primarily in Judaism but, over time, evolved into a broader exploration of religion. While in Jerusalem, she witnessed an environment where the confluence of numerous sacred sites had created an atmosphere uniquely steeped in religion.

After a brief introduction to provide some historical context, Mady announced the three panelists: Bishop John Taylor, Marium Mohiuddin, and Eliana Kaya, each of whom brought a distinct perspective to the dialogue.

John Taylor is the bishop for the Diocese of Los Angeles of the Episcopal Church. Through working under former U.S. President Richard Nixon and traveling to Israel and Palestine numerous times, Bishop Taylor is well-versed in the nuances of politics and religion.

With a background in communications and publishing, Marium Mohiuddin is affiliated with a variety of different religious organizations, including NewGround, which seeks to bridge the division between Jews and Muslims. Mohiuddin’s family is Pakistani-American and Muslim, and she explained that the intersections of her identity led to personal struggles with her faith throughout her life.

Eliana Kaya, who is Jewish and a dual citizen of the United States and Israel, has worked as a journalist, consultant, and interfaith facilitator. Kaya also served in the Israel Defense Forces during the Second Intifada.

The three speakers discussed questions about religious coexistence and the future of the region of Israel and Palestine, among other topics. Throughout the event, each panelist emphasized the idea that the conflict in Israel and Palestine did not arise due to religious differences but rather geopolitical power.

After the panel concluded, attendees had the opportunity to mingle and converse with the panelists in a more casual setting. Following the event, junior Kareem A. explained how his background as Lebanese and Muslim had shaped his perception of the conflict and how the event helped to challenge his biases. Kareem concluded that the panel was a “great way to combine Poly and religion for an academic purpose that led to understanding in the audience.”

Although Poly is a secular school, sparking dialogue and promoting understanding of religion play a vital role in sustaining our diverse school community. This panel was an exemplary instance of productive discourse; despite differences in background and belief, the conversation was guided by shared compassion and shared humanity. Despite its brevity, the event is certain to have a lasting impact on those who attended and the Poly community as a whole.