As tensions in the Middle East soar, many Jewish Angelenos search for answers to the generations-old question: Can there ever be peace between Israel and her Arab neighbors?
"No," says journalist and Middle East expert Avi Davis. "There cannot be peace until there are fundamental social, political, cultural and religious changes in the Arab world."
Davis, a commentator for Fox News and CNN, will expand upon this distinct charge during his eight-week lecture series, "Israel in the Arab Mind." A joint presentation of the University of Judaism and the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies, the class will explore the deep-seated Arab beliefs that have led to the Middle East conflict and the mechanisms that must be in place to someday establish peace.
"This class is different because it will not explain the Arab world, it will investigate it. We will find the distinguishing characteristics that create a culture of animosity and discuss what changes are necessary to create peace," Davis said.
Davis will examine the patriarchal society and the struggles and violence that stem from its structure. He will detail the religion of Islam as juxtaposed against the challenge of modernity. He will also look into the culture of honor.
A regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times, New York Jewish Week, The Melbourne Age and The Jewish Journal, Davis will alternate his lectures with talks presented by noted Arab leaders. World-respected scholar and philanthropist Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, TransIslam Magazine Editor Dr. Khalid Duran, former Director General of the Iraqi Nuclear Weapon Program Dr. Khidhir Hamza and Jerusalem Post columnist Joseph Farah will all speak on the highly charged subject.
As pro-Israel Arabs, the guest speakers will approach the topic from a unique perspective. They will expand upon Davis' theme and identify fundamental roadblocks that must be changed before the peace process can move forward. Building upon Davis' talks, the guests will discuss "The Search for Democracy and Secularization in the Islamic World," "Saddam Hussein's Nuclear Threat to Israel and the Western World" and "The Future of the Arab World's Relationship with the West."
Davis created the series in reaction to the events of Sept. 11. "The problems in the Arab world have given rise not just to anti-Semitic feelings, but anti-Western feelings. We need to have a means with which to cope with these feelings," Davis said. As this animosity affects all Americans, not just American Jews, Davis aims the series at the general community. "This is not a class for Jews, it's a class for everyone in Los Angeles," said Davis, who attends Westwood Kehillah and is active in the UCLA Bayit Project.
Davis, who writes opinion pieces for The Wall Street Journal, The Jerusalem Post, Chicago Tribune, Washington Times and others national publications, is the senior fellow of the Freeman Center. With an emphasis on Jewish survival and continuance in a hostile world, The Center boasts an extensive database and library, sponsors research papers and hosts symposiums and conferences. The center, a Houston-based research facility, recently opened a Los Angeles branch.
In addition to the "Arab Mind" series, the Los Angeles center will organize a regular salon that will bring together Jewish intellectuals to debate the future of Judaism in today's society.
The eight "Israel in the Arab World" lectures will be held Tuesdays, April 23-June 11, 7:45-9:15 p.m., at the University of Judaism's Gindi Auditorium, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. For more information, contact UJ's continuing education department (310) 476-9777.