Activism, the Peace Process, and the Contemporary Middle East: A Discussion with US Ambassador Dennis Ross

Written by Avery Weinman and Zachary Brenner

Photo courtesy of Nrbelex

Ambassador Dennis Ross served as Director of Policy Planning in the State Department under President George H.W. Bush, was the Special Middle East Coordinator under President Bill Clinton, and was a Special Adviser to the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He also advised President Barack Obama. We interviewed Ambassador Ross before the talk he gave at Stevenson College on April 19th so we could hear the perspective of an individual who has engaged, firsthand, in the arduous Israeli-Palestinian peace process. In our interview, we aimed to leave our own politics and opinions behind us in favor of attempting to discern a better understanding of how activism and Israel-Palestine rhetoric is viewed by someone who has actually been in the negotiating rooms and directly participated in the discussions, decisions, successes and failures of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.  We hope that our interview with Ambassador Ross encourages all of our readers to engage with some of the most difficult questions surrounding Israel and Palestine and to pursue a more productive discourse on campus.


Zachary Brenner: Our first question is about activism. As college students a lot of our direct contact with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict comes through interactions with various activist groups who endorse a wide range of varying goals and positions.  In your opinion, does activism actually influence Israeli and Palestinian leadership in a meaningful way, a productive way? Or does it pressure the leadership to pursue potentially extreme and unviable options?

Dennis Ross: It depends on what the nature of the activism is.  Activism that is designed to demonize one side is almost always going to be very counterproductive.   It produces a negative defensive reaction from those who are being demonized and it tends to polarize in a way that makes any serious effort at problem solving harder to do.  Activism that’s designed to try and overcome differences between people, activism that’s designed to promote tolerance and acceptance of the other, activism that is geared towards coexistence, activism that legitimizes the very idea of conflict resolution that helps.  It creates a context.  It tends to create a sense of the possible.  It creates a sense of hope. The biggest problem in this conflict, and in others that are really intractable, is that there tends to be a sense of no hope, no possibility.  So activism that is geared towards demonization basically deepens the sense that this impossible because you’re rejecting one side. You’re not peacemaking when you’re rejecting one side.

Avery Weinman: A follow up for that in your own experiences, in your time during negotiations, do you have an example of a time when activism that was happening in either Israel/Palestine itself, or in America, or anywhere else in the world actually did influence how negotiations went down in the room itself?

DR:  I can say this, when we were negotiating the Interim Agreement in 1995, the right-wing in Israel was active all over the country there were demonstrations, blocking traffic it created a climate within the negotiating room that was more tense than it might have been otherwise.  On the Israeli side, there was a tendency to try to prove that they weren’t naive and somehow giving things away that they shouldn’t.  On the Palestinian side, there was a kind of concern that these right-wing demonstrations will get the Israelis to be less responsive, less forthcoming.  So then I felt [pressure from activism] pretty strongly. You could feel the impact of what was going on.

    To be fair, the things that were much more damaging were not the demonstrations, it was the bombings.  The bombings actually brought the negotiations to a halt. And every time we were making progress in the 1990s, we would face that.  I’ll tell you a story. Six months before his assassination I used to see [Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin] all the time.  When I was our negotiator I saw him all the time for obvious reasons.  On Shabbats, on Saturday afternoons, he liked me just to come over to his house just to have a more relaxed discussion that was more strategic in nature and less on the moment.  Six months before he was assassinated, he asked me, “Who do you think will determine the next election in Israel?” So I tried to prove how smart I was about Israeli politics proving the opposite and so I said “Aryeh Deri of Shas (a Mizrahi-religious Israeli political party).” And he said, “No, guess again.” And I said, “No, no. Tell me.” And he said, “Two Hamas bombs.  Two Hamas bombs and [Benjamin] Netanyahu will be prime minister and I won’t be.” So what really made it more difficult than anything else was the violence. And that cuts both ways.  When Palestinians got killed, you had a reaction on their side. So to be fair, that’s what really was much more disruptive and strengthens the hand of those who are rejectors on each side.

AW: Another question.  One of the things that makes the Israeli-Arab and Israeli-Palestinian conflict unique is that it has a near mythic ability to reinvent itself in terms of whatever the global political trend of the day is.  For instance, we’ve seen it go through a really Marxist, anti-colonial orientation in the 60s and 70s, we saw it was influenced by the rise of Islamism and political Islam in the 80s and 90s, and I would argue that today we’re also seeing it go through another very romantic-nationalist orientation where the national narrative really takes precedence over anything that is rational.  

DR: Yeah.

AW: So since the conflict changes so quickly, the possibilities of the conflict can also change really quickly as well.  For example in 1960 it was pretty much universal in both the Israeli Right and the Left to oppose the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state, but now it’s pretty much the base position amongst a wide majority of the Israeli political spectrum.  So in terms of strategies that have previously been considered too radical or too unviable to try for instance, a one state binational solution should we consider perhaps trying [radical solutions] or at least not being surprised if they were to come to fruition in the future?

DR: Look, I think the point is that there can be an evolution, but where there hasn’t been an evolution, however, is in the reality of two separate national movements with two separate national identities.  In the Middle East, if you look at any state in the Middle East that has more than one identity whether it’s tribal, whether its sectarian, whether it’s ethnic, or whether it’s national what you’ll find in that state is that it’s at war.  So if you want to take two separate national identities and say one state, what you’re going to guarantee is an endless conflict. You can talk about how the conflict may look different at different periods, but the one thing that hasn’t changed is two separate national identities.  And it’s not going to change. In the end, the Israelis are not going to go any place, and the Palestinians are not going to go any place. Those who say one state and there are Israelis on the right who say one state, and what they have in mind is one state where Israelis have rights and Palestinians have limited rights.  The Palestinians who want one state, they don’t invision equal rights in truth. If you talk to the Palestinians, if you say, “Ok look, let’s say tomorrow you have one state, so what does the state look like?” The Palestinians will say, “Oh, a Palestinian will be Prime Minister.  And there’ll be no Right of Return for Jews.” And you say to them, “Well actually, for at least another twenty to twenty five years Palestinians would actually be a minority in that state, so how could it be that that would be the outcome?”  Because that’s not their image of one state. So the two have completely different images of one state, which is ultimately why the only thing that will ever work is two states for two peoples.  The problem is how do you get there from where we are now.

ZB: Given the United States’ changing position on both the global stage and in its perception as a fair arbiter in the peace process, how do you see the American role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process changing, if you see it changing at all?  Do you think any of the proposed alternatives to changing the structure of the peace process like the implementation of an international, multinational mediating body are viable?

DR: I’m not a fan of multinational mediating efforts because, by definition it’s very difficult to ensure that those different mediators actually view things the same way.  And then the parties will play upon the differences that they see in the mediators. You know if you look at the 5+1 model (the model used in the United Nations to negotiate the recent Iran Deal), there was an umbrella of 5+1, but it was really a bilateral negotiation between the US and Iran which the other members then accepted. Whether the Trump administration can prove that it can be a mediator remains to be seen, but there is a simple reality there is nobody else who can play the role because nobody else has the relationship with Israel.  Israel is the one that has to give up the tangibles, the Palestinians give up intangibles. Nobody else is going to persuade the Israelis, nobody else can give the Israelis the set of assurances or commitments that make it easier to make decisions that are very hard.  In the end, no matter who the mediator is, if the parties aren’t prepared to make certain decisions, you’re not going to succeed anyway.

     One of the things that Rabin used to say to me was, “I know that we have to give up more than they do, but I need to see that they’re prepared to do something that’s hard for them too.  It can’t be only that Israel takes the hard decisions.” The success of a mediator depends on understanding that you have to meet the needs of both sides, not of one side, and that both sides will have to do things that are hard for them.  And it can’t be just, “Oh yeah, I’ll do things that are hard for me.” I used to say to John Kerry when he said, “They say they’re serious.” I’d say, “That means nothing. Outline the specific steps that they need to take to prove that they’re serious about doing something.  If they’re ready to take on the constituencies that they know are going to be opposed to peacemaking, then you know you’re actually in a place where you can settle the whole conflict. If they’re not, you should scale back your objective.”

ZB: Do you feel that it’s necessary to have a mediator?

DR: Yeah, I do.  I don’t believe that the Israelis and Palestinians on their own can reach an agreement.  They need to have their own negotiations, the US shouldn’t be in every negotiation and there are no negotiations at all right now.  But I can tell you that the Clinton Parameters emerged from our bringing the two sides together after I’d had a conversation with [Palestinian Authority President Yasser] Arafat where, after a conversation on December 11th of 2000, we then brought both parties together on December 17th.  The conversation with Arafat was there were five weeks left in the Clinton administration and I said, “I’m not going to fool you, you’re not going to fool me is there a deal here?  I sort of talked around and I’ll tell you what I believe the Israelis can do on each of the core issues.  You tell me whether you can accept it.” So I went through it in a way that was not that far from what we then presented later on because obviously I knew where the Israelis were coming from.  And [Arafat] said yeah he could do it. This was done in Morocco, so I called Clinton and he said, “How come you’re not more excited?” And I said, “Because I don’t believe him. I think it’s easy for him to say when he’s sitting alone with me that he can do it, the proof will be can he do it when he knows this will have to be exposed publicly.” Then I said, “However, the fact that he said this we oughta test it.”  So we brought both delegations to Washington, they were on Boeing Air Force Base, I actually shrunk the differences between them to start these negotiations, and I said, “Ok, come up with a solution.”  Three and a half days of effort on their part and they say, “We can’t do it we need a bridging proposal.” That’s what the Clinton Parameters were, they were a bridging proposal. I tell you this story because I believe the same if they ever get back into a serious negotiation, let’s say the administration comes out with a serious peace plan that the two sides may not love but they’ll accept as a basis for negotiation at the end of the day they may get here, but to get that final part they’ll need a proposal they both react to.  We shouldn’t be presenting it prematurely unless we know where they’re really coming from. Unless we know how we can tailor it so that it’ll be hard for them not to say yes.  Unless we prepare the grounds so the the Arabs embrace it, the Europeans embrace it, so there’s a context and a climate that makes it hard for them to do anything except say yes.

AW:  You mention that the Europeans need to accept it and that the Arab states need to accept it too.  When I think of how most people think of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I think they think of it in terms of just two parties: just Israelis and just Palestinians dealing with each other.  But, I wanted to know more about the other parties involved like, for instance, a Hamas-Hezbollah-Iran-Russia connection, an Israeli-American-Saudi sphere, how Egypt and Jordan, and how bodies like the European Union and the United Nations factor into the conflict.  So the question is, how important in the negotiating room actually are the goals and aims of those other factors?

DR: They’re not prominent, and they won’t be.  In the 1990s when I was our negotiator the Europeans always wanted to be part of the negotiations.  And the foreign minister [of Spain] Javier Solana used to say to me, “You keep us out.” And I’d say, “I don’t keep you out.  If I wanted you out, but the parties want you in, you’re in. If I want you in, and they want you out, you’re out. I’m not the one who keeps you out, they’re the ones who keep you out.” Anyone who is seen by the two sides as being central to reaching an agreement can play a role.  The truth is the reason I bring in the Europeans and the Arabs on the Palestinian side, the only thing the Palestinians believe that they have achieved is international acceptance of their cause.  If it looks like they’re putting that in jeopardy, then they will move.

AW: As a final question, an overarching question but one that’s good to end on, what reason should we have to be optimistic about how the peace process will go, or what reason should we have to be pessimistic about how the peace process will go?

DR: Well it’s a lot easier to focus on the latter than the former right now.  The reason to be optimistic is because, ultimately, there is no alternative.  I said it before, the Israelis are not going any place and the Palestinians are not going any place.  They can choose to continue to live in a way that imposes a price on both, or at some point they can find a way to accept what is the reality that they have to live next to each other in a way that both of them will ultimately benefit.  Now how we recreate a climate that makes that possible is the challenge, and we’re far from that right now.

AW: Great. Thank you.

ZB: Thank you so much.

DR: My pleasure.

Waters of Meribah

by Raina Scherer

In Parshat Bamidbar, the Israelites lament to Moses and Aaron about their lack of water in the desert and question G-d’s decision to bring them out of Egypt. G-d then commands Moses to strike a rock with his staff, causing a colossal gush of water to spurt out of it. As punishment for their lack of faith, G-d prohibits this generation of Israelites from entering the holy land.

A Hopeful Sound

Written by Robin Kopf

Illustrated By Chloe Gamboa

My name is Avram and I am a Jewish goat, which is probably the worst kind of Jew that you can be, especially living here. My family moved from our native country of Tayish to Osem, because my father wanted his children to live in a country with a larger community of Jews. I did not know then that we were leaving because he did not just want a larger Jewish community, but to live in a country where even our small, mostly Jewish town would be safe from the growing persecution of Jews that was happening in Tayish’s bigger cities. I hardly noticed that the town was getting smaller; I was still a kid surrounded by Jewish goats, and I was happy.

   I was excited about Judaism, mostly because of my Bahba, who prayed so joyfully that his bell swung and jingeled while he davened, which angered the Rabbi at shul. When he took me with him to shul, I wanted to pray the way he did, with all of the joy in the world. Things seemed normal to me, even when I noticed that fewer people were coming to shul and my class was getting smaller. This was until one Saturday, at the very moment when the havdalah candle went out with a sizzle, my Bahba brayed with a little too much fervor that we would be moving to Osem. Me and my sisters laughed, mostly because Bahba had completely lost it in his excitement, but I remember feeling excited. Mahma had already been packing for some time.

   Of course, there was nothing more that could and would be said. We would be moving and that was final. We would find a new barn, a new school, and a whole new way of life that was different from Tayish. Only, it wouldn’t be new. We would still have the Jews, only they would look different. Bahba reassured us that we would be welcomed with open hooves, but I was still nervous about moving to a new place, with a whole new community of Jewish animals.

   I had heard about Osem in school. It was apparently very large and had a very large Jewish community. The Jews came from different countries, but there were mostly sheep, chickens, horses, and goats, just like me. It reassured me to hear about another country with goats in it and I wondered what the goats in Osem would be like. I also wondered about the other Jews: were their customs like ours? Did they eat hay? Did they wear bells around their necks? All of these questions would be answered when we moved, and like Bahba, I was excited to explore a new place, despite my nerves.

      We moved to a typical barn in a small town in Osem. The barn was far from the shul and from my yeshiva in the city, but nothing unmanageable. I remember the way my knees shook when Mahma got me ready for my first day of school. I would really learn what other Jews were like and I did not know what to expect. I was slow to get ready and Mahma hurried me while I munched on my breakfast hay. Before shuffling me out the door, she stopped me.

   “Avram, this was your Bahba’s bell that he wore to his school when he was a kid. He asked me to give it to you before your first day. This way we can hear you coming home. But don’t be like him and go swinging it around in class. If I hear that your bell got taken away, no one will listen for you to come home and then I will ‘forget’ to warm your dinner hay. Understand?”

   I hardly had enough saliva to gulp let alone to answer. “Yes Mahma.”

   “Run along now and have a good day.”

    When I got to school, I saw lambs wearing woolen kippot ambling around clumsily and a few older sheep with great horns that I guessed were the teachers. I walked up to one of them and before I could open my mouth, he smiled at me.

     “Are you lost, kid? The public school is a few blocks that way,” he asked, gesturing with his horns.

    “Is this Yeshivat Ben Tzaon?” He saw my kippah, and realized that I was there to go to school. He turned toward another teacher and started whispering just loudly enough so that I could hear them.

    “I don’t know what to tell him, the kid says he is Jewish.”

     “We have a few other kids in attendance, he can sit with them.”

    “We can’t have another goat at this school. The lambs complain of the smell and then the parents complain.”

   “We will further discuss his attendance after morning prayers. For now, he will wait in the office.”

    After morning prayers, the sheep that tried to send me to the public school returned to the office and hurried me to my classroom. He introduced me briefly to the other students, mostly lambs and a few kids. Everyone stared at me, a few smiled warmly, or what I thought was warmly. I remember how the kids looked at me and then looked back down at the table. I was afraid that they already didn’t like me for some reason. When I sat down with the rest of the kids at my table, the teacher continued the lesson.

   “Can someone tell me how we start the Passover seder?” said the teacher. The room was silent for a few moments before a lamb piped up.

“We start by welcoming those in need to come eat at our table.”

   In that moment, another lamb bleated, “What if they smell?”

       Another lamb at the same table remarked “Or what if their bell is so loud that we can’t hear the seder?”

The lambs at their table snickered and a few stole glances at us kids in the back, all at one table, separate from the lambs. It was only my first day, and I knew who they were talking about. It was only then that the kids at my table looked at me. One of them cracked a knowing smile, which comforted me. They had known for a long time too.

   When I prayed, if my bell made even the slightest noise, the lambs near me would giggle and a teacher would sneer at me. Eventually, I was told that I was no longer allowed to wear my bell to school. None of the other kids wore bells to school, but mine was special to me. It belonged to Bahba and I feared that Mahma wouldn’t hear me coming home from school if I didn’t wear it. When I returned from school that day, I told Mahma about the bell.

   She sighed, “My Avram, I truly thought that here you would be allowed to wear your bell at school, but I was wrong.” My head dropped, and my bell jingled in response. It was a hopeful sound. I started to cry, but Mahma wasn’t finished. She moved my chin upwards so that our eyes met.

    “Avram, you are still Jewish. No one can change that about you. All that say you can’t be Jewish are wrong and you must remember that. You were born Jewish and you will stay Jewish.” Her words made me feel better for the time being.

   One day, during some free time on the school yard, I was approached by a lamb who trotted over to me with confidence. His face looked innocent enough, which was encouraging, but I was still nervous. My heart pounded.

   “My name is Yitzhak. What is your name?”

   “I’m Avram.”

   “You’re new, right?”


   “You know, you don’t look Jewish. Where are you from?”

   I was not sure what he was getting at. I was at a yeshiva, wearing a kippah. How else should I look? “I’m from Tayish. It’s pretty small, but there are Jews there.”

   “Cool! Do you eat hay like we do? What is the bell for?”

   His questions gave me more hope than I had since I started school. “We do eat hay! My Mahma says that if I don’t wear my bell, she won’t hear me coming home, but I don’t think she’s serious.” We both laughed. He put on a worried expression as he looked over his shoulder, stepped closer and spoke to me softly.

   “Listen, Avram, you seem really nice, but you would be better off if you went home.”

   “Home? It’s the middle of the day!”

   “No, I mean home home. What was it called? Tase?”

   “Tayish.” I wasn’t sure what to say.

   “I should be getting back to my friends. Nice talking to you, Avram.”

   My mother’s words rang in my head: “AlI that say you can’t be Jewish are wrong.” I didn’t believe her. Yitzhak looked like he wanted to be friends. I thought that if he liked me, maybe then the lambs would stop laughing at me and the other kids. We were never invited to sit with the lambs during meals and the teachers were especially strict with us. When Yitzhak and his friends walked past our table at lunch, they would hurry up, muttering about the smell. One day, a group of lambs threw wool blankets over our heads while we ate because we had so little fur compared to them. One lamb came to our table and asked us what we were doing at a Jewish school.

   Bahba still took me with him to services sometimes, but it was never the same. I stopped noticing the joy in Bahba’s davening. He never talked about it with us as kids, but I used to overhear him talking about it with Mahma. Like shul in Tayish, the Rabbi grew angry when Bahba’s bell was too loud, but because everyone else wore bells, he dismissed it. At the shul here, he could hardly stand the looks from the sheep and chickens in the room. They talked about him as they left services, just loud enough so that he could hear. He wanted to pray at a different shul, but he was too dignified. Through his sadness, he maintained the words that Mahma told me: no one was going to shame him out of his Judaism. Whenever he came home and saw his kids, his downturned eyes sparkled with excitement to see his family. At our barn we celebrated the holidays, traditions, and teachings that were dear to him, as if he wanted to share with us what kept him holding on. This kept me hanging on too.

   As I grow up at Yeshivat Ben Tzaon, my treatment is mostly the same as when I started a few years ago, but I did learn to ignore it, much like my fellow goats. Not everyone was horrible to us; most sheep learned to ignore us and they went about their schooling pretending we weren’t there, choosing not to notice the way we were treated. I stopped listening to their laughter in services. Instead, I pray louder. No one keeps me from coming to school, even though they try. No one keeps me from praying as loud as my bell would be if I was allowed to wear it to school. No one stops me from studying the reasons why my fellow classmates should not treat anyone the way they do while they read the same book as me. When Bahba and I go to shul together, we still wear our bells, and they jingle when we bow and when we rise up again. It’s a hopeful sound.

Get Funky with These Crucial Hebrew Words and Phrases!

Written and Illustrated by Tamar Weir


Learning a new language on your own is extremely difficult. It consumes a lot of time, effort, and can be very draining, but hopefully after reading this short blurb you’ll be prepared with more confidence to try to speak Hebrew. Israel is the homeland of this beautiful language which is spoken by over 9 million people around the world. The Hebrew alphabet has 22 letters, is read from right to left, and is related to Arabic and Aramaic.

Hebrew phrase: איפה‭ ‬השירותים

Meaning: “Where is the Toilet?”

Pronunciation: Ei-fo ha sher-OO-teem

Spelled in English: Eifo ha sherutim

Wherever you go you’ll need to know where the bathroom is or else you’ll be in trouble! This phrase is a lifesaver and you will definitely need to know how to ask for the bathroom.

Hebrew phrase: יָאללָה

Meaning: “Let’s go” or “come on!”

Pronunciation: Ya-a-la

Spelled in English: Ya’alla

This word actually derives from Arabic and not Hebrew. It is a casual slang word used daily to express a desire to get going and get the group moving!

Hebrew phrase:מה‭ ‬שמך

Meaning: “What’s your name?”

Pronunciation: Ma Sh-mecha (female)/Ma Sh-mech (male)

Spelled in English: Ma shmech

This may be the most important sentence, especially when traveling in Israel because you want to be able to connect with others and introduce yourself as well.

Hebrew phrase: אני‭ ‬רעב‭/‬ה

Meaning: “I’m hungry”

Pronunciation: A-ni ra-a-va (female)/a-ni ra-ev (male)

Spelled in English: Ani ra’ava / ani raev

This is my personal favorite because food is essential, especially when traveling. It is important to express your feelings, find awesome restaurants, and satisfy your hunger!

Hebrew phrase: מה‭ ‬מספר‭ ‬הטלפון‭ ‬שלך

Meaning: “What’s your phone number?”

Pronunciation: Ma mis-par ha-te-le-fon shel-kha? (female)/ma mis-par ha-te-le-fon she-lakh? (male)

Spelled in English: Ma mispar ha telefon shelach/ shelcha

When making a new friend in order to connect with them another time, you must ask for their number or other forms of communication —  especially when you find a cutie!

Hebrew phrase: למי‭ ‬יש‭ ‬את‭ ‬החומוס‭ ‬הכי‭ ‬טוב‭ ‬בארץ

Meaning: “Who has the best hummus in Israel?”

Pronunciation: Le-mi yesh et ha-khu-mus ha-khi tov ba-a-retz?

Spelled in English: Le mi yesh et ha hummus hakhi tov b’aretz

Hummus is one of the main foods in Israel and when visiting you don’t want to waste your time and money on sub-par hummus. So ask around to find the best local spots and you won’t be sorry!

Hebrew phrase: נעים‭ ‬מאוד

Meaning: “Nice to meet you.”

Pronunciation: Na-im me-od.

Spelled in English: Na im meod

It is important to know a few sentences that are used often when beginning a conversation with someone. Even if this is all you know, people will be impressed that you are able to at least end the conversation in Hebrew.

Hebrew phrase: מאיפה‭ ‬את‭/‬ה

Meaning: “Where are you from?”

Pronunciation: Me-ei-fo at? (feamle)/me-ei-fo a-ta? (male)

Spelled in English: Me eifo at/ ata (male)?

This is another good line when having a beginner conversation. Where people are from can be important for future hangouts plus it expands your knowledge about different places.

Hebrew phrase: אין‭ ‬לי‭ ‬רעיון

Meaning: “I have no idea.”

Pronunciation: Ein li ra-a-yon

Spelled in English: Ein li ra’ayon

This is super important as a beginner learning Hebrew because when people speak to you, and you do not understand, this is a way to communicate that!


The Affair of Church and State

Written and Illustrated by Georgie Blewett

In America, you are


In America, you are

Free to Worship

Whomever you Want,

If you even want to Worship at all.

Don’t ask us why the Dollar Bill says

“In G-d We Trust”

Don’t ask us which G-d.

Just know you are


In America, you are

Free to Marry whomever you Love.

Don’t ask us why we fought marriage equality for so long.

Just know you are


Don’t ask us why a Bible is provided in court.

Or why the all presidents have Sworn on it.

Just know you are


In America, you have

Freedom to Choose.

Don’t ask us why we are fighting your freedom to choose

between your Life or your Fetus.

Don’t ask us why we push G-d’s Will,

Even if church and state are separated.  

Just know you are


Just know in America, you are

free to worship

whomever We want.

Just know

We are



Shabbat Dinner Recipes

Written by Jessica Fischman

Photos by Katie Fischman


This is one of my family’s typical Indian-Jewish Shabbat dinner meals. We would have Chatpatay as a starter dish when everybody would be sitting around relaxing and talking. Chatpatay is an appetizer eaten at teatime or sometimes it is served as part of a meal with lentils and rice. At our Shabbat dinner table we would always have some type of curry and rice. Coconut curry is one of the staple dishes at our dinner table. Agar-Agar is also one of those dishes that is at every shabbat meal. Agar-Agar is an Indian-Jewish dessert that is like a vegan Jell-O. The typical Agar-Agar flavors are mango, coconut and rose water. As a kid, I loved going to my aunts and uncles’ houses to have Shabbat dinner. It was a time that I knew I would be able to have fun with my cousins and eat a delicious meal!


Appetizer: Chatpatay


6 large potatoes

1 can of chickpeas (15 oz can)

2-3 Persian cucumbers cut into small cubes

(I love to add this to Chatpatay!)

1 tbsp ground coriander

2 tbsps ground cumin (always more than the coriander)

1 tsp salt

2 tsp tamarind paste diluted with 4 tbsp water or the juice of 2 lemons (1/2 cup)      

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1 tbsp fresh chopped ginger (optional)

1 green chili finely chopped (optional)



Wash potatoes. While still wet, place in microwave. Cover and cook for 8 minutes. Turn over and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes or until cooked. Rinse and cut into 16 pieces or ½ inch cubes. Then, rinse in cold water and add the spices listed above. Add the chickpeas, cucumber, cilantro, and the tamarind water (thickish) or lemon juice. Stir well. Pour contents into a serving dish. Check to see if the spices are to your taste. Garnish with a little fresh chopped coriander. This can be eaten warm or at room temperature.


Main Course: Coconut Curry


2 tbsp oil

1 cup water

2 onions, sliced

6-8 pieces of chicken (or tofu/vegetables)

3 medium potatoes (cut in 16 pieces approximately

½ inch each)

2 tsp fresh ginger paste (or 1 tsp powdered ginger)

2 tsp garlic paste (or 1 tsp powdered garlic)

1 tsp salt

2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp sugar

2 tsp apple cider vinegar

1 can coconut milk (13-15 oz can)

6-8 curry leaves (optional, but adds a great flavor)

1/2 tsp hot chili powder or chili flakes (optional)


Optional Garnish:

1 tbsp chopped cilantro

1 tomato sliced



In a pan, fry the onions. When slightly browned, add the spices mixed with the vinegar and 2 tablespoons of water (so it won’t stick to the pan). Continue to cook for 2 minutes. Then, add the chicken and potatoes. Sauté for 5 minutes, then add 1 cup of water. Stir. Then cover and cook on a medium to low heat for 30 to 45 minutes or until the chicken and potatoes are cooked. Add the coconut milk and curry leaves. Bring it to a boil, stirring occasionally. Serve with hot rice.


Side Dish: Pilau


3 cups rice (basmati rice is preferable)

1 tbsp oil

½ tsp salt

A pinch of turmeric (optional)



Wash rice in a pot and add oil, salt, and turmeric then stir.

Add 5 cups of water and bring to a boil. Cook approximately for 20 minutes on a medium to low heat.


Dessert: Agar-Agar


3 cups water

1 package of Agar-Agar powder

(Swallow Globe, Gold Cup, and Telephone are a few popular brands)

1/2 cup sugar or to taste

1 cup coconut milk

1 tsp rose water



Combine the water, Agar-Agar, sugar, coconut milk, and rose water in a medium saucepan. Stir and let it sit for 10 minutes. Set the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Stir occasionally.  Reduce heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Pour into a square 8×8 inch dish. Let the mixture cool for 30-40 minutes to set.

Chill in the fridge. When ready to serve, cut into 2 inch squares. Best served cold.


Letter from the Editors – Spring 2018

Having been editors together for the entirety of this school year, we have had many discussions about why we are attracted to and compelled to write for Leviathan. We are both interested in history as well as the importance of engaging our voices with the world when we have content that we are passionate about. As a historical archive, we both agree that Leviathan is unique — few other campuses across the United States have such a legacy with founders and members who have gone on to important journalistic, academic, or otherwise Jewish work. Additionally, this journal has been an incredible way for us to engage with our greater Jewish community. We’ve been able to openly, authentically and accurately express our voices, especially as we have experienced an increase in inaccuracy and divisiveness in the world these past few years. We have a tremendous obligation to report and write responsibly, and we hope that we did so. We hope we’ve expanded conversations and helped to reach the Jewish community around us.

Earlier this year, we decided that because of Leviathan’s tremendous legacy and importance as a historical archive, it would be neat to have a special issue commemorating the 45 years we have gone strong. Now, we could have waited for our 50th anniversary, but we wouldn’t be here for that. We just really wanted to participate and speak to the past editors — so that’s what we did. Our staff loved the idea and we got to work, looking back at all of the issues and contacting graduated Leviathan alumni. We’re excited to finally share all of this will you — the words, stories, and lessons that Leviathan has taught us all throughout the years. To the future leadership and staff – we wish you love and good luck, and we can’t wait to see how you carry on the Leviathan legacy.



Avery and Zach