Steven Aiello

Perspectives on Peace: A Jewish View from the Diaspora

The following is a personal message from a young Jewish-American student. This is the fifth in a series highlighting what the next generation’s leaders are thinking and feeling. The previous post is available here.

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“It turns my stomach every time I see yet another article, another group of names added to the ever growing list of victims. Men, women, children. All consequences of a deep-seated religious and ethnic hatred. The pictures are even worse. Women and men crying, screaming, agony and pain scorched onto their faces. It’s horrible.

Exacerbating this, comments on social media range from “Hitler was right” to “kill the Arab pigs.” It’s scary. In the face of violence and war, humans react with yet more violence and war. The ignorance is even worse- “I support Hamas,” one Facebook user wrote. How could any intellectual human being support a known terrorist organization- an organization that terrorizes the residents in Gaza who just want to live free of constant terror, as do residents in the State of Israel? Why is it that even though we want exactly the same thing, both sides end up losing lives to an inter-religious war that has been raging for centuries?

It’s so clear to me that there should be no conflict. Turn to any page in the Quran, and any person can see just how similar both religions are. We even look the same. We love the same foods. We’re both stubborn to no end. Our languages are strikingly similar. Yet for some reason, we fight and hate as though our religions are white and black, day and night.

I don’t presume to be all knowing as to why this occurs. I can only hypothesize that the reason this hatred runs so deep is a lack of the right kind of education and the perpetuation of the wrong kind of education. The right education being the fostering and encouragement of open minds, and compassion, and the wrong education being the encouragement of hate and violence towards the opposite religion. It begins with the parents- parents teach their children to hate Jews or to hate Arabs. If we educate the children properly, we create an Israel with a new open minded and accepting generation. (Keep in mind I tend to be a little idealistic.)

I went to an all-girls religious school for my entire high school career. It was there that I realized that there are very few individuals within this small community of Orthodox Jews that were willing to acknowledge both sides of this struggle. I understand. It’s difficult to see the other side when their friends and relatives are in danger every day. But despite all that, I was still able to comprehend thought processes of both sides. It’s possible that due to the fact that I am not religious, and that I’ve had many Muslim friends and neighbors that I was able to pull myself out of a familiar mindset and allow myself to see the conflict with a wider lens. I am skeptical about whether peace will come anytime soon. But if it does, peace will look like a celebration of our similarities and an acceptance of our differences.”

About the Author
Steven Aiello is the Director of Debate for Peace (, and a board member of the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development NY. He has a BA in Economics, MA in Diplomacy and Conflict Studies, and MA in Islamic Studies. He teaches Model UN for schools throughout Israel. Among his other hats he serves as Regional Coordinator for Creating Friendships for Peace, and Dialogue Officer at Asfar. Steven has also served as Chief of the Middle East Desk Head for Wikistrat, interned for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the American Islamic Congress. His writing has been published in the NY Daily News, Jerusalem Post, Iran Human Rights Review; Berkley Center at Georgetown;, and the Center for Islamic Pluralism. He can be reached via email at