U.Va. Symposium to Examine Jews, Palestinians and 1948

March 21, 2012 — Sixty-four years later, the events of 1948 still influence the world.

The Jewish Studies Program at the University of Virginia is presenting the first Gunst Colloquium, "Jews, Palestinians and 1948," on March 25, starting at 11:30 a.m. in Newcomb Hall's South Meeting Room.

The symposium, organized by Gabriel Finder, director of Jewish studies, and professor Alon Confino of the Corcoran Department of History, both in the College of Arts & Sciences, seeks to present new research on the Arab-Israeli War of 1948 and its continuous memory and significance in present-day politics.

The conflict was between the newly created state of Israel and a coalition of Arab and Palestinian forces. The war ended in 1949 with an armistice establishing boundaries.

"The symposium is to present diverse perspectives covering the topics of memory, cultural history and literature," Confino said. "The focus is the personal experience of Jews and Palestinians during the war, and how they lived through the hopes, fears, tragedies and victories of the war. To achieve this aim, all the speakers will present accessible papers based the letters and diaries of people from the period. Their voices will be front and center."

Each presentation will be about 40 minutes long and followed by brief commentary from a member of the U.Va. faculty, with time for debate and discussion.

The colloquium will open with professor emerita Anita Shapira of Tel Aviv University, a leading scholar on Israeli and Zionist history, who will discuss "1948 in Real Time: Diaries and Letters from Jerusalem." U.Va. history professor James Loeffler will provide a commentary.

The second session will offer Palestinian scholar Salim Tamari of Birzeit University in the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank, who is currently at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University. He will speak on "Autobiographic Narratives and the 1948 War," with commentary from U.Va. English professor Caroline Rody.

In the final session, Confino will present a paper, "Miracles and Snow in Palestine: A History of 1948," with commentary from U.Va. history professor Allan Megill.

Scholarship about the 1948 war "is experiencing great changes, and senior as well as new scholars seek to rethink old paradigms and apply new methods," Confino said. "Of special interest is the continuous implication of the war – the creation of the state of Israel and the making of the Palestinian problem – to current-day politics and to the possibilities of a peaceful solution between Israel and the Palestinians."

The colloquium is open to the public. A light lunch will be served at 11:30 a.m. and refreshments will be available throughout the day.

Shapira will also give a public talk March 26 at 5 p.m. on "Tel Aviv: The City Raised from the Sands," about Tel Aviv as the first Hebrew city, in Newcomb Hall's Kaleidoscope Room. Her presentation is open to all.