By Adam Smith
Ilan Lopez, director of Stand With Us Latin America, spoke about issues in Israel and Palestine at Texas State University on Feb. 20. The organization wants to correct any misconceptions college students have about Israel.
Lopez grew up in Venezuela but left the country when he was 20 years old to finish college in Haifa, Israel. Lopez said his Jewish grandmother had a profound influence on him and his family history inspired his passion for Israel and Zionism.
“During the second World War, she lived in Europe and part of her family managed to escape. They went to Siberia then France, and then a cousin invited them to go to Venezuela,” said Lopez. “At that time, Venezuela was one of the countries opening its borders to Jewish refugees.”
Lopez said he has been pleasantly surprised by the multiculturalism and freedom he has experienced in Israel.
“It’s the only democracy in the Middle East. It’s the only country where freedom of speech is a reality. Where men and women have the same rights. Where minorities are respected,” said Lopez. “It’s the only country where you can be gay and alive at the same time.”
While Stand With Us wants to promote the positive aspects of the Israeli experience, Lopez said Israel is not a perfect country and he has great empathy for the plight of the Palestinian people.
“On the one hand, you have the majority of people. People who just want to live their normal life. To go into Israel to work, provide for their family and save the life of their kids,” said Lopez. “On the other hand, you have crazy people. Terrorist organizations that don’t care about human life and will do whatever they have to in order to promote their terrorist agenda.”
While Lopez couldn’t provide any new insight on how to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the talk humanized the situation and he emphasized that there are a lot of good people on both sides.
Featured image by Adam Smith.