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Friday, May 06, 2005 

Orthadox American Jew in talks with Syrian Government

"My biggest problem since I left Syria was that no one in Israel believed that the event actually took place, or that a religious Jew would be treated this way in the capital of Israel's fiercest foe."

In between speaking at seminars in Israel Marc Gopin, an orthadox American Jew, the James Laue Chair at George Mason University's Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, was persuaded to go into the black hole - the country that, according to many Israelis, doesn't exist: Syria.

He came to take place in a debate at the Assad Library, attended by top government officials, professors, dissidents and the US*, Canadian and Swiss Ambassadors.

He says he faced a tough time, but that some members of the audience "expressed deep appreciation for my willingness to come and listen. We had a great, tough dialogue."

He calls for engagement with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. "What all parties need most now", he says, "is not the immediate resumption of Syrian-Israeli negotiations, but a palpable thaw in relations, [and] significant gestures of cultural and economic rapprochement."

Read his personal account here.

(*the debate was on January 6 - one month before the US Ambassador was recalled)

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