(DBittar@ucsd.edu), a dedicated Arab participant in one of the four new
Palestinian- Jewish dialogues in
Toward the end, she confirms: "Despite the headlines, Jews and Palestinians are getting to know one another in the flesh rather than just as phantoms in a horrific landscape. Jewish-Palestinian dialogues are spontaneously erupting throughout the country from
Published in the
Where Jews and Palestinians seek understanding
By Doris Bittar
Taghrid was reluctant to host a Jewish-Palestinian dialogue at her home. "They are the enemy," she complained to her husband, Jamal. "Look at what they are doing to our people. Have you forgotten the air raids on our refugee camp?" Jamal explained that previous dialogues had been at Jewish homes, and it was time to host one at a Palestinian home. Eventually, Taghrid agreed.
Before our meeting, word got to the refugee camp in northern
At our meeting a few days later, Taghrid was a gracious hostess, sometimes smiling and sometimes furrowing her brows. Afterward, she declared that it was OK to meet because there was an unambiguous desire on both sides to talk and express ideas and feelings.
"We can speak here and not be thrown in jail or bombed. Perhaps it is good to get our feelings out."
Since those early meetings only months ago, Palestinians in
At the time, he did not know what he could do. A few weeks later he began participating in our dialogue group and re-established contact with her while collecting books and securing safe delivery to the university.
Subsequently, the San Diego American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee welcomed a dozen Jews, including two rabbis, to its annual picnic. There were about 200 Arabs, the majority being Palestinian. Those who sought quiet talk found it and those who sought confrontation found that, too.
Taghrid talked with an Israeli woman, Gila, who lost her 13-year-old niece in a bombing in
Gila and Miko surprised us by their openness to the Palestinian narrative despite their recent tragic loss. They feel, as does their family in
Gila is an acupuncturist and took Taghrid's pulse. They talked about their health while they watched their sons play ball. Then they strolled along the beach to help Taghrid's daughter to nap and shared stories. Upon returning, Taghrid eagerly told me, "We walked, and we dialogued, you know."
Rabbi Moshe Levin was exhilarated at the opportunity to listen to so many Palestinians. He and a member of his congregation, Colin, were clearly on a mission. Guided by George Khoury, a Palestinian, they intuitively and courageously took the path of most resistance by seeking difficult people.
One elderly Palestinian, who was a young man in 1948, expressed unadulterated rage. He described being shot at as he was forced out of
A few days after the picnic, we saw our dialogue here in
They made plans to see the regular cast of characters and places that American Jews normally see. However, this time the Jews who were involved in our dialogue tweaked the agenda so as to probe a little deeper and encourage greater debate. For example, they connected with the Israeli-Palestinian bereaved parents group and invited Miko's brother-in-law to speak to the delegation.
Each side in our group is continually learning about the other's perspective. We had a presentation on the history of the Palestinian national movement and soon will have one on the history of Zionism. Cultural admiration and curiosity about the other side are plainly expressed.
On the Palestinian side, there is admiration for how Jewish contributions in various scholarly fields have affected professional careers or philosophical views. On the Jewish side, there is curiosity about Arabic literature, history and customs.
Despite the headlines, Jews and Palestinians are getting to know one another in the flesh rather than just as phantoms in a horrific landscape. Jewish-Palestinian dialogues are spontaneously erupting throughout the country from
The desire to meet the other, to argue and even to laugh is growing here in
We hope it, too, can cross this continent, the
Bittar is an artist who exhibits in the