Olive Tree Initiative
Olive Tree Initiative

In 2007, UC Irvine student leaders from Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Druze and unaffiliated backgrounds set a goal to take a fact-finding trip to Israel and Palestine to better understand the nature of ongoing conflicts in the region. Due to national travel restrictions, UCI couldn’t sponsor the trip, so the students raised more than $60,000 from diverse Orange County organizations and individuals to fund the tour. Fundraising and planning activities took more than 18 months.

The group, which includes members of Anteaters for Israel, Muslim Student Union, Hillel, Society of Arab Students, Middle East Studies Initiative and Model U.N. met weekly for more than a year, educating themselves on the history of conflicts and recent developments in the region. They addressed cultural and religious differences and established protocols for interaction among themselves and with the often-controversial speakers whose talks they attended.

Finally, on Sept. 1, 2008, 14 students and three advisors left Orange County for the Middle East. Fourteen days later, they returned with part of their mission accomplished – an increased awareness and deeper understanding of the highly volatile geopolitical situation and the importance of peace.

And now it’s on to the second facet of their mission, says Ali Malik, history major and a founding member of the group.

“The goal of the initiative from here is to create a forum in which students can express their disparate political, social and religious ideologies in a rational and ethical manner,” Malik says.

Olive Tree Initiative students will create just such a forum at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 23, with their “Beyond Stereotypes: Faces and Voices of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” program in the UCI Student Center, Crystal Cove Auditorium. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m., and the program is free and open to the public.

Contact: Katharine Keith