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U. rally urges Mideast peace

Summit offers an opportunity, students at U. say

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More than a dozen Israeli and Palestinian students at the University of Utah rallied in support of the Middle East peace summit that began Tuesday at Camp David.

President Clinton is meeting there for open-ended talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

The students, mostly Israeli citizens doing graduate or post-doctoral work at the U., said they believe the summit is the best chance the region has ever had for peace.

"We feel it has never been so close as it is now," said student Orly Ardon, who plans to return to her homeland when she has completed her education.

"Barak rose to power with the promise that he would bring peace to Israel," added Drora Oren, a native of Tel Aviv. "What people want is to live normal, independent lives."

The students played Israeli and Palestinian pop music and read aloud to each other from the last speech given by former Israeli president Yitzhak Rabin before his assassination.

"We are practicing the theory of the butterfly effect today," rally organizer Shy Shohan told the crowd. "Butterflies flapping their wings in Salt Lake City may cause a storm over Camp David or perhaps clear the skies over the Middle East. If not, well, we've at least flapped our wings."

Student Yalli Livnat, an Israeli Jew who was a teacher in an Arab school before coming to the United States, said the rally was more for the students themselves than a consciousness-raising exercise for the rest of the campus.

"We are far away from our country at a time when we'd all like to contribute," she said. "Most of us plan on returning soon. The United States is offering us a good education, but we will come back more open-minded and aware of the world."

Livnat has organized an informal group with University of Utah graduate Maher Ramaileh, a Palestinian from Jerusalem, to foster feelings of cooperation.

"It's just on a social level now," Ramaileh said. "It's interesting because I have friends, both Palestinian and Israeli, who have never sat down with one another. But we don't hate each other. I hope others realize that."

Livnat said the main goal of Tuesday's demonstration was to show that both groups have a united purpose — peace.

E-mail: mtitze@desnews.com