Saint Michael’s professors share perspectives on Israel and Palestine

December 1, 2023
Elizabeth Murray
Associate Director of Public Relations

A full house crowd of students, faculty and staff gathered in McCarthy on Nov. 30 to listen to and learn from perspectives surrounding recent and historical events in Israel and Palestine. 

Vice President of Academic Affairs Jeffrey Trumbower moderated the panel. (Photo by Sophie Burt ’26)

A panel of faculty members gave presentations about different aspects, including sharing their own ethnic and religious identities and connection to the conflict. Each of the panelists expressed their deep hope for eventual peace in the region and a just solution that could bring an end to the violence.

Vice President of Academic Affairs Jeffrey Trumbower moderated the panel and facilitated a question-and-answer section toward the end of the event. Audience members were asked to submit their questions in writing after the presentations, which Trumbower then posed to the panelists.  

At the beginning of the event, Trumbower encouraged respectful dialogue and understanding both during and beyond the panel discussion. He also held a moment of silence for all the victims of the conflict, including three Palestinian American college students recently shot in Burlington.  

“I want to stress that our attempts to explore and understand the context of a certain group’s or

Professor Jason Hirsch (Photo by Sophie Burt ’26)

government’s actions is not necessarily the same as justifying or condoning those actions,” Trumbower said. He added, “We must be open to understanding the perspectives of all parties in this conflict if we’re ever to make any progress in creating a just and lasting peace.” 

Trumbower also stressed that the words people use to describe the situation between Israel and Palestine matter – and often have varying meanings depending on the person using or perceiving them. There are also varieties of opinions and definitions within ethnic and religious groups, so he encouraged audience members to avoid making assumptions about individual members of these groups.

“When you have conversations – and I definitely hope that you will – try to ensure that you know what you mean by your words,” Trumbower said. “Our panelists may disagree on some of these definitions, but each of us will take pains to choose our words carefully and explain why we’ve chosen the vocabulary we have.”

A full house of students, faculty and staff gathered in McCarthy. (Photo by Sophie Burt ’26)

The panel included the following faculty members: 

  • Professor Nat Lew of the Department of Fine Arts: Music spoke about the history of the conflict in addition to his own perspective as a Jewish American who identifies as a political progressive. 
  • Professor Jason Hirsch of the Sociology and Anthropology Department gave anoverview of Zionism and spoke about his perspective as an Ashkenazi Jew and as an organizer for Jewish Voice for Peace Vermont. 
  • Professor Trish Siplon of the Political Science and International Relations Department and Public Health Program spoke about the power dynamics and imbalances present between Israel and Palestine, in addition to her own experience conducting research and teaching in the West Bank. 
  • Professor Inaash Islam of the Sociology and Anthropology Department spoke about

    Professor Inaash Islam (Photo by Sophie Burt ’26)

    the role that media has played – and the impact it has had – on how people in western countries perceive the conflict between Palestine and Israel, in addition to her experience as a Pakistani Muslim witnessing the recent violence unfold.  

Further events and support will be available to Saint Michael’s community members as both local and international situations unfold. Included in these events will be a Prayer Service for Peace, which will be held by the Edmundites on Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 12:30 p.m., in the Chapel of Saint Michael the Archangel.  

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