Wiesel speaks to
at Sun Valley
Express Staff Writer
does the human dream stay alive in the face of the recent
fanaticism?" asked Elie Wiesel, rhetorically, of the large capacity
crowd in the Sun Valley Inn’s Limelight Room Sunday evening.
Nobel Laureate, author, professor, humanitarian and Holocaust survivor,
charmed, prodded and moved the audience as he spoke on "Confronting
Fanaticism: Building Moral Unity in a Diverse Society."
and Wood River Jewish Community President Adam Koffler were the event
chairs of this lecture. Koffler asked him to speak here as well when he
learned Wiesel was scheduled to speak Monday night in Boise.
At the free
event, 830 people filled the Limelight Room. Scott Glenn, the actor,
introduced Wiesel and called him, a "hero of mine."
Hungarian Jew by birth, has endured and even thrived in the world beyond
his experiences during the Holocaust. Both of his parents and a younger
sister perished in the camps. After Buchenwald was liberated in April
1945, Wiesel spent the remainder of his abbreviated youth in a French
orphanage. He studied in Paris and became a journalist. He said he was a
"very uncommon young man," who ultimately came to "study
philosophy because of the questions, and left because of the
book, "La Nuit," was published in 1958. An American citizen
since 1963, Wiesel is one of the world’s most renowned humanitarians.
my role as a witness," he said. "To see the suffering these days
it makes me wonder, are we worthy of our humanity, if we can allow
role, he has traveled the world listening to survivors and victims tell
their stories—including Bosnia, Cambodia, Sudan and Rwanda, where racial
cleansing and the massacre of ethnic people still occurs.
the role of the witness to finish the story." One way Wiesel seeks to
finish the stories is to wrestle theologically with the Holocaust and
other horrors perpetrated by one people against another.
Also in his
capacity as witness, Wiesel has studied the history of terrorism, he said.
In fact, his book "Dawn" is about freedom fighters in Palestine,
who made a point of never attacking civilians, he said. Instead, they
would tell the newspapers and the military headquarters to evacuate a
threatened site. At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th
centuries, he said, nihilists, and anarchists were a romantic part of the
fanaticism that burst into our consciousness last fall on Sept. 11 showed
for the first time in history innocent people being killed blindly.
"They didn’t leave a word," Wiesel said. "As if they
meant to tell us you don’t deserve our words—death is our
fanaticism the enemy of "culture, science and the enemy of whatever
makes us human."
be at once grim and witty. He is, after all, a storyteller who is used to
weaving his words into palatable phrases despite the content.
unto us we’ve lost any way of communicating with these people. It could
happen anywhere. They want to die and they want to kill. I’m among those
who go around with a very heavy heart."
due to the efforts of valley high schoolers Logan and Quade Koffler, who
contributed to the Wood River Jewish Community Educational Fund, and the
Idaho Human Rights Education Center for the Wood River Valley, Wiesel also
spoke on Monday to 650 high school students at the Wood River High School
is the major component to stopping fanaticism and intolerance, Wiesel
said. "We’re all educators. A good teacher remains a student. We
are each students, we are each teachers."
suggested that children from different cultures get together once a month.
He was speaking specifically of the issues in Israel but the idea is
pertinent for any trouble spot.
rabbis, priests, students—they should all start building human
relations," he said. "Try to prevent letting anger turn into
hate. Until then everything is possible."
questions from the audience, several of which referred to the tensions in
the Middle East. He said that the two sides would eventually get tired of
fighting. "I am an optimist."
added, the Israelis have a right to defend themselves against suicide
bombers. And spiritual leaders of Islam should be prevailed upon to say,
"this you shouldn’t do." "For the suicide bombers it’s
a spiritual endeavor." But he maintained, "The Palestinians
should have their own state." Many heads in the audience nodded in
concluded with a signature message of hope.
are waiting together, for better times. We are waiting for more humanity.
We are waiting for better compassion. No one has a monopoly on truth or
goodness. Each of us has a spark of divinity."