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Religious Studies Colloquium features Ellen O'Grady speaking on the Israeli occupation of Palestine

More than 100 faculty, staff and students attended the Religious Studies Colloquium Oct. 11 featuring Ellen O'Grady, an artist and social activist who lived in the West Bank and Gaza Strip for six years. She said the goal of her lecture was to bring peace to all peoples in that area and in the world.

A former college theology student, O'Grady compared the Bible story of Noah's Ark with the media's coverage of the Israeli occupation in Palestine. She believes both examples provide an incomplete picture of reality.

"Was Noah afraid the boat would sink? What did he see in the water?" O'Grady asked. "Did he speak only about a rainbow, or did he speak of other things?"

Where Palestine is concerned, O'Grady said the media only speak of the Israeli side without discussing the occupation. She said that an understanding of life in the occupied West Bank and Gaza is important because it provides context.

Through her paintings, O'Grady told the stories of people she knew in the West Bank, focusing on the impact of the Israeli occupation on the Palestinian people - children killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers, women delivering babies at military checkpoints and O'Grady herself helping Palestinians cross the checkpoints to obtain health care. She also referenced U.S. involvement in the area - hearing the sounds of American-made Israeli helicopters flying overhead and finding a bullet canister labeled "made in Pennsylvania."

"We hear of deaths related to war - 'mistakes' that are the by-products of war," she said. "It's the stories behind the stories - people denied access to health care, work and school that are missing."

The Religious Studies Colloquium is made possible through the Schiffman Ethics Lecture Series.