Wyn Caudle

Creative Editor

This story is an online exclusive and did not appear in the Voice‘s print edition.

On Saturday, April 20, the Wooster Peace Collective, Jewish Voices for Peace, student organization Leftists of Wooster and other groups hosted a teach-in intended to inform the community about the Israel-Hamas war. The goal of the teach-in was to help attendees foster a deeper understanding of the historical context of the war, the ongoing conflict and the tensions surrounding the conflict outside of the Gaza Strip.

Jeff Marzilli ’80, a retired food security policy and strategy specialist for the United Nations (U.N.), opened the meeting. He discussed the current food crisis in Gaza and explained that there were challenges with bringing in aid to the Gaza Strip before the war. Many Palestinians in Gaza had been reliant on humanitarian programs for food long before the war, and much of this food was moved through illegal smuggling networks, Marzilli explained. 

Marzilli continued with discussion of one of the main humanitarian groups that has been supporting Palestinians in Gaza: the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). Marzilli focused on the importance of UNRWA’s contributions over the years and the services they provide. Palestine has never been granted U.N. Member-State status and is a permanent observer state in the U.N., so it cannot benefit from the aid provided by the U.N. Instead, they get most of their support through UNRWA. About 5.7 million Palestinians in Gaza use UNRWA aid to survive and support themselves. 

Earlier this year, the United States  — along with 14 other countries — pulled funding from the organization, which took away about 30% of the money UNRWA was receiving. This was due to Israel’s accusations that 12 UNRWA employees participated in the Oct. 7 attacks led by Hamas. While 13 of the countries eventually recommitted to funding, the U.S. and United Kingdom have yet to return. 

Marzilli explained that because of the lack of commitment for funding, UNRWA is no longer able to provide Palestinians in Gaza with  adequate wages to meet demands. With the loss of agriculture and the destruction of over 75% of housing, there are no ways for the Palestinians in Gaza to cope, said Marzilli. The situation in Gaza is one of the most severe and extensive food crises that he has ever seen.

Nicole Born Crow and Danny Caine ’08 presented next on behalf of Jewish Voices for Peace. They began their discussion by defining Judaism as a spectrum. According to Born Crow and Caine, much of the discourse surrounding the conflict and some of the responses from Jewish people are related to the traumas they have had to face because of their Jewish identity, including instances of antisemitism and discrimination due to their identities. 

Teach-in leaders then split participants into small groups. Participants discussed their experiences with learning and activism. The event concluded with the three speakers answering anonymously-asked questions from the groups, most of which concerned where and how to learn information, how humanitarian aid is working to help, the importance of funding and the urgency of staying informed.