Berkeley synagogue to host series on Israel, Middle East peace

Ze’ev Maoz

The Israel Committee at Congregation Beth El in Berkeley has planned a four-part speakers series on the topic of Middle East peace.

“Is Peace Possible?” will kick off Thursday, April 24 with J Street regional director (and Beth El member) Gordon Gladstone speaking on the topic of borders between Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The Thursday evening series will continue May 1, when U.C. Berkeley international studies professor Peter Bartu will speak on the topic of refugees. Bartu worked for the United Nations and various NGOs throughout the Middle East, Asia and Africa, and from 2001 to 2003 he served as an adviser to the United Nations envoy to the Middle East peace process.

Eran Kaplan

On May 8, U.C. Davis political science professor Ze’ev Maoz will speak about security. He previously headed the Graduate School of Government at Tel Aviv University and the Jaffe Center for Strategic Studies.

The series will conclude May 22 with San Francisco State University professor Eran Kaplan, who will discuss the peace process. Kapan wrote the 2005 book “Jewish Radical Right: Revisionist Zionism and its Ideological Legacy.”

“The committee members realized we all have different amounts of knowledge about the Israel-Palestinian issues, and knowledge on different aspects of the issues,” said Judy Gussman, a member of the Israel Committee at Beth El. “So we decided to get educated. We are excited to offer this series for our own edification — and also to make the series available to the Jewish community at-large.”

She also said the series was designed with the Year of Civil Discourse in mind. The 2011 initiative was designed to elevate the level of discourse in the Bay Area Jewish community regarding Israel. Each session will include a video from the “Is Peace Possible?” program ( “that explains both the Israeli and Palestinian positions on the topic covered, without any subjective commentary,” Gussman said.

Admission to “Is Peace Possible?” is free. Temple Beth El is at 1301 Oxford St., Berkeley. Temple Sinai in Oakland is a co-sponsor. For more information, call (510) 848-3988 or visit