Arts and Humanities People and Community

Contemporary Israeli Issues to be Discussed

Public affairs expert Ethan Felson and bestselling author Ari Shavit to speak at UM in February.
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Debates about the State of Israel ignite passion and strong opinions. Two leading thinkers on current Israeli issues will visit the University of Miami on Thursday, February 12, and Tuesday, February 24, to share their views on timely topics including boycott/divestment/sanctions and the quest for Israeli-Arab peace, and Israel’s relationship with America.


Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies , the College of Arts & Sciences George Feldenkreis Program in Judaic Studies , the Dr. M. Lee Pearce Chair in Middle East Peace Studies, and UM Hillel are co-sponsors of these events. 

Haim Shaked, director of the Miller Center and the Feldenkreis Program in Judaic Studies, is particularly excited about these programs. He feels that “the combination of these two speakers brings broad and important perspectives and voices to some of the most important issues of the day as they relate to Israel.”

On Thursday, February 12, Ethan Felson – vice president and general counsel of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) – will speak at the Miller Center Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. 

Felson has been on the front lines as the international “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement” – a global campaign aimed at increasing economic and political pressure on Israel – has operated in America. He led efforts to reach out to American churches around their ultimately unsuccessful divestment proposals. 

These bodies “recognized that divestment is not a path to peacemaking,” Felson said. He is widely viewed as the Jewish community’s national point person on this issue.

In his position with JCPA, Felson has guided the organization’s participation in Supreme Court briefs on subjects including hate crimes, school vouchers and religious liberties. He directs the Task for on Jewish Security and The Bill of Rights, and the Task Force on Israel, World Jewry, and International Human Rights. 

Felson’s lecture will mark the launch of the 2014 volume of the American Jewish Year Book – for which he has written the chapter on national affairs each year since 2006. It is co-sponsored by the College of Arts & Sciences Departments of International Studies, and Geography and Regional Studies, and Temple Judea.

On Tuesday, February 24, bestselling author Ari Shavit will discuss the American-Israeli relationship and contemporary issues in Israel. The lecture will take place at the Miller Center Auditorium at 7:30 p.m.

Shavit’s critically acclaimed book, My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, provides a thought-provoking narrative of modern Jewish history, the Zionist project and the geo-politics of the Middle East.

An outspoken columnist for Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Shavit challenges the dogmas of both Right and Left with unique insights into the roles of Israel and Zionism in the 21st century.

Initiated by UM Hillel, Shavit will visit UM as part of a multi-stop university tour. 

“It is my hope that my tour of dozens of universities throughout North America will promote a deeper, better-informed and far more balanced discussion of Israel and the Middle East,” he said. “As the great American democracy and the frontier Israeli democracy face dramatic challenges, we should be engaged in a profound, free and civilized discussion of the past, present and future of the Promised Land.”

For more information and to RSVP for the Ethan Felson lecture, please visit

. For more information and to register for the Ari Shavit lecture, please visit