July 4, 2022

Seventh Annual Tree of Life Conference on Israel and Palestine to be held in Old Lyme November 5 and 6

Old Lyme, CT –The seventh annual Tree of Life Conference on Israel and Palestine will take place on Saturday and Sunday, November 5 and 6, in Old Lyme, CT, at the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme (FCCOL). Open to the public, the interfaith forum is organized by the Tree of Life Educational Foundation (TOLEF) and supported by organizations and individuals committed to peace and justice. Consistent with the six previous conferences, the event will amplify the voices of peacemakers as  it illuminates issues inherent in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict routinely overlooked or under-reported by mainstream media. Special emphasis this year will be on journalism: how well it reports – or avoids – the truth.

In announcing this year’s Conference, the Rev. David W. Good, senior minister of the FCCOL, commented, “The protests of Arab Spring and the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN bring into sharp relief many of the troubling aspects of the conflict we explore in Tree of Life initiatives. The American public is becoming more sensitive to the complicity of the U.S. in the ongoing tension in the Middle East. So this year, while we’ll again take a look at “facts on the ground,” our special focus on journalism, on the new media landscape, will help concerned citizens fill alarming gaps in news coverage of these – and many other — critical issues.”

Opening concert  –  Saturday, November 5 – 5:30 pm

The first of two conference events will take place on Saturday, November 5, at 5:30 pm, when young musicians from Beit Sahour in the West Bank join The Silver Hammer, a rock band from the CT shoreline, in a program of lively music celebrating cross-cultural friendship. Following the concert, attendees will be welcomed at a Middle Eastern dinner provided by The Islamic Center of New London and the Connecticut Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Speaker program: Voices of Conscience and Hope  – Sunday, November 6, 1:30-6:30pm

On Sunday, November 6, from 1:30 to 6:30pm, first-person accounts of peace advocacy under Israeli occupation will be offered by speakers from Israel and Palestine, and working journalists will tell  their “back-stories” of  communicating the truth in a challenging media environment.

Albert Schweitzer Professor of Philosophy at Quinnipiac University and Professor of Philosophy at Tel Aviv University, Anat Biletzki, will speak about her activism in many human rights projects in Israel, including B’Tselem – the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. Author Mark Braverman will talk about his efforts to project prophetic truths across religious boundaries. Allison McCracken, who has traveled extensively and worked in the West Bank, will share those experiences and report on her current work in Washington, DC with CodePink, a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement. Daoud Nassar, from the Tent of Nations near Bethlehem, will give an account of his efforts to build bridges of reconciliation while trying to save his family farm from appropriation for Israeli settlements. Sahar Vardi, representing the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, will describe the organization’s non-violent tactics in preventing Israeli destruction of Palestinian homes in the occupied territories. Ashley Bates, assistant editor of Tikkun magazine, will relate her experiences as a journalist in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, as well as her work with Palestinian and Israeli youth. Palestinian journalist and author of Gaza Mom, Laila El-Haddad, will tell what it’s like to both cover the story of Gaza and live it. Adam Horowitz, of Mondoweiss, a news website devoted to covering American foreign policy in the Middle East, will bring a progressive Jewish perspective to the discussion. American journalist and blogger Jared Malsin, detained and deported by Israeli authorities in 2010 while working for Ma’an, a Palestinian news agency, will consider the implications of that experience for working journalists. And Alison Weir, president of the Council for the National Interest. and executive director of If Americans Knew, a non-profit, independent research institute, will describe her work to augment mainstream reporting of the conflict.

Following the program, refreshments will be served at an arts, crafts, and information bazaar at which all conference attendees will be welcomed.

Admission, reservations, information

Both the Saturday concert and the speaker program on Sunday are open to the public. Admission: $20 per event, or $35 for admission to both. Students and persons under age 21 will be admitted free of charge. Advance registration and sponsorship commitments may be made online at www.tolef.org, or through the FCCOL office at 860-434-8686 and fccol@snet.net.

The First Congregational Church of Old Lyme is located at the intersection of Ferry Road and Lyme Street, Old Lyme, CT.

About the Tree of Life Educational Fund

The Tree of Life Educational Fund is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established by the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme to provide cross-cultural and transnational travel experiences, educational opportunities, and interfaith events at a variety of venues, helping participants to

engage in making this a more just and peaceful world. In addition to their appearances in Old Lyme, this year’s Tree of Life Conference speakers and performers will also make presentations in West Hartford CT, New York City, Cape Cod, Cambridge MA (Harvard University), and Springfield MA. Information on these programs may be found at www.tolef.org.


Websites of featured speakers, organizations:

Ashley Bates www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/contributors/bio-ashleybates

Anat Biletzki http://www.quinnipiac.edu/x1498.xml?School=LA&Dept=PO&Person=44007

Mark Braverman markbraverman.org

Laila El-Haddad www.gazamom.org

Adam Horowitz  mondoweiss.net

Jared Malsin jaredmalsin.wordpress.com

Allison McCracken www.codepink.org, www.tolef.org

Daoud Nassar  fotonna.org

Sahar Vardi www.icahd.org

Alison Weir councilforthenationalinterest.org,ifamericansknew.org

The Silver Hammer silver-hammer.webs.com