Jewish-Palestinian Mealsharing Groups
A Relationship Building Activity

The Idea
  Background
  How it works
  What to expect
  Possible outcomes
Getting Started
  Contacting potential participants
  The first large meeting
  Your mealsharing group's meetings


The Idea
Background
      During the 1980s and early '90s, the Koinonia Southern Africa movement brought together courageous Black and White citizens in "meal groups" to counter institutionalized apartheid in a positive way. Often at social and physical risk, the women and men found a way to break down stereotypes and build bridges of understanding. This model began to reverse their fear, mistrust, and general ignorance of one another. It helped change the fabric of national relations in South Africa. The model has proven successful in the Bay Area for those with ethnic, social, and political differences.

How it works
      Typically, four households -- two Jewish and two Palestinian --will join in a mealsharing group. They will meet perhaps once a month for four months in each other's houses to share their favorite foods and their life stories. In the unthreatening environment of their homes, everyone can gain new and valuable social insights.
      At the meal table, two participants -- a Palestinian man and a Jewish woman, for example -- tell about highlights of their life journeys -- childhoods, significant events, setbacks and successes, disappointments and joys. It can be a time to listen, learn, and ask questions. After that, those around the table might have lively, even challenging discussions on a whole range of relevant topics that interest them. However, it has been found most creative and helpful to enter into these new relationships at the "human" level, rather than at the point of political differences.

What to expect
      At the first dinner, people are often on their best behavior and a little self-conscious. The first hours together soon provide insights about how our lives have been similar and yet quite different. By even the second or third dinner, those at the table may experience a change in the way they view each other, and other Jews and Palestinians in their daily lives. Participants usually look forward to the next meal, knowing there will be more to learn about the others and oneself.

Possible outcomes
      After small groups in a geographic area meet four times, and each one's story has been heard, the participants can decide what to do next. Possibilities could include:

1. Discontinue the group, appreciating the new insights and relationships, and its small but important steps.
2. Continue the group in some form, even strategizing how its activity could be practiced on a wider scale.
3. Have motivated individuals from small groups join with each other to form new, long-term dialogue groups.
4. Have an open, "mass" meeting of all mealsharing groups in the geographic area, to meet all the others, assimilate their experiences, and consider future activities together.

Getting Started
Contacting potential participants
      The first step is to convene an initial meeting of all those in a geographic area who wish to participate in a mealsharing group. At that time they will decide on their groupings, and times and places of their first dinners. A second big meeting may be needed to get everyone on board.

1. Call each household to confirm (a) participation and (b) names.
2. Ask useful questions:
      "What evening of the week can you come?"
      "Could you host the first large meeting in your home?"
      "The number coming would be about _____. We would confirm this with you."
      "Do you have other Palestinian or Jewish friends you can invite?"

The first large meeting
1. Introductions
2. Names on easel to identify Palestinians and Jews, and their cities.
3. Solidify meal groups as much as possible. Discuss participant needs, such as "more Palestinians" or "more women".
4. Each small group decides:
      First meeting place, date, and time.
      Potluck or Host Provide?
      To serve alcohol or not.
      How to share stories.

Your mealsharing group's meetings
      Based on the Koinonia Southern Africa model, there could be 4 Jews and 4 Palestinians at each table. One Palestinian and one Jew each takes up to 30 minutes to tell highlights of one's life story, perhaps about birthplace, family, childhood and adult experiences, highs and lows, successes and failures, influences, education, work, interests, beliefs and values, learned principles, obstacles and disappointments, special relationships, meaningful events, goals and dreams -- whatever feels comfortable to share. It helps to speak with "I" or "we" statements; this is not about blame or anger, but to let others walk in your shoes and to know you as a person.
      The others LISTEN and learn without judgment, perhaps asking questions at the end, to clarify but not confront. This is about building trust, understanding, and relationships.

Materials
      Each household may wish to have the "Reconciliation Resource" booklet, to be able to review ideas about listening and dialogue. It is available from the Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group.

Timing
      Each group will gather according to its agreed schedule. It is imporant that all participants attend each dinner; it may require rescheduling. Commitment to the 4 sessions is key.


Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group
1448 Cedarwood Drive, San Mateo, CA 94403
Voice: (650) 574-8303 Fax:(650) 573-1217
Web: http://www.igc.org/traubman
E-mail:LTRAUBMAN@igc.org

Return to Family Homepage
Return to Main Homepage