Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, has taken on a different meaning for both Jewish and Islamic students this year with the signing of a peace accord Sunday between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) which places almost all of the West Bank under Palestinian control.
While students of both religions expressed hope that this accord will lead to lasting peace in the territory, which has been under Israeli occupation for almost three decades, both groups remained skeptical about the agreement.
Ariela M. Migdal '96 paused between Rosh Hashanah services and the ceremonial meal that followed at the Hillel last night to express her concern that the real process of establishing peace is yet to come.
"It's an important landmark decision but the real test of its value will be in the coming months as Arabs and Israelis try to implement the decision and create a real sense of security and stability for both populations," Migdal said.
The accord casts a different light on the holiday said Zacharay I., Shrier '99, a Jewish student who spent last year studying in Israel.
"For me, the accord provided more reason to be introspective today," Shrier said. "It's a time to reflect more on what we're here for and increase our prayers toward Israel."
Islamic student Umair A. Qadeer '98 said the accord may be problematic because many Palestinians are skeptical of the PLO's ability to lead.
Because PLO leader Yasir Arafat does not represent all Palestinians, the accord will be limited, he said.
"Anything done by a particular organization will not have that much of a benefit," Qadeer said. "There's always going to be resistance in any agreement because it's never going to please everybody."
Shrirer said that during his stay in Israel, he observed differences of opinion among Israelis as to who should control the West Bank.
"I'm very nervous about it," he said. "Wherever the government doesn't feel a general consensus on the part of the citizens, it's time to be conservative in your foreign policy. Enough of Israel is divided on the issue that it doesn't make sense to be taking such radical steps."
Yousef S. Alherinai, a Harvard Divinity School student from Bethlehem, said that as a Palestinian, he was at first happy to hear the news but then became skeptical about the details.
The two biggest sticking points Alhermai sees in the agreement regard the status of Jerusalem and Hebram, the West Bank city home to about 450 Jewish settlers.
Under the agreement, one third of Hebram would remain under Israeli control, one third would come under Palestinian jurisdiction, and the remainder would be jointly policed. "As a Muslim and a Palestinian, I would say peace is something all Muslims look for, but stable peace has to be built on equity and not concessions," Alherinai said. On the other hand, the accord could mean real gains in daily life for many Palestinians in areas like education, health, social affairs and insurance, he said.
"As a Muslim and a Palestinian, I would say peace is something all Muslims look for, but stable peace has to be built on equity and not concessions," Alherinai said.
On the other hand, the accord could mean real gains in daily life for many Palestinians in areas like education, health, social affairs and insurance, he said.