Thanks to Doris Bittar
(DBittar@ucsd.edu) in the San Diego Dialogue community, here are todays *two*
articles about how Palestinian-Jewish relationships are coming alive
"A little bit of light emerges out of the current nightmare," Doris says.
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And across the continent in Brooklyn, New York hundreds are on a waiting list for Dialogue while leadership is developed. Hear an example of their "directed Dialogue" at:
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So, today, Friday, April 19, 2002, read:
1. TALKING IT OUT: Group Dialogues Aim to Pave a Hopeful Path to Israeli-Palestinian Peace
2. THEY SPEAK FROM A PERSONAL PAIN
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Published in the San Diego Union-Tribune -- Friday, April 19, 2002
TALKING IT OUT
Group Dialogues Aim to Pave a Hopeful Path to Israeli-Palestinian Peace
By Gil Griffin
Long past the evening's initial warmth and fuzziness, hours after the zaatar, lentils and Merlot had been eagerly shared, came the hard part.
The group of 12 Palestinian Christians, a Palestinian Muslim and Jews who recently gathered at Ibrahim and Muna Dayeh's El Cajon home were sharing their pain.
"Israel is in danger of existing," said Jewish group member Randy Sturman, "Israelis are surrounded by enemies, and they're scared to death."
Fadia Odeh, a Palestinian Christian passionately responded: "No one is against Israel's existence. Take what you have and leave the other part for someone else. The (Palestinian) people are living with no water and no electricity. The (Israeli) soldiers are robbing people's houses."
This dialogue group was started two years ago by Doris Bittar and James Rauch, an interfaith North Park couple. It is one of several organized, grass-roots Jewish-Palestinian dialogue circles in San Diego County, whose members aim to educate each other and promote peace.
Throughout the session at the Dayeh home, hope for harmony reigned despite the rising death toll on both sides incurred by the daily volley of military assaults and suicide bombings.
"I'm the eternal optimist," said Muna Dayeh, a Palestinian Christian who was born in Jerusalem and spent her infancy in Ramallah before immigrating with her parents to the United States. "Otherwise I wouldn't be here."
Bittar and Rauch lead two other dialogue groups and have 70 individuals on waiting lists.
"We couldn't stand reading the paper and feeling like we weren't doing anything about it," said Bittar, an Arab Christian who was born in Iraq and whose parents are Palestinian and Lebanese.
She met her husband, Rauch who is Jewish while the two attended the same high school in a New York City suburb. Still, there are heated debates.
"We wanted to reach the mainstreams of both communities," Bittar said.
"They are very ignorant of each other's narratives. We agree there should be two states, with mutual security. But we're being held hostage there by extremists on both sides."
The group was united in labeling Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon "a thug" and said the Palestinian suicide bombers were resorting to "extreme" measures to air their grievances. It remains divided, though, on past atrocities committed by Israelis and Palestinians.
"At first, there was a tendency to get hung up on history," Rauch said.
"We've agreed to disagree.
In public, the dialogue group takes a united front on its stand for peace. At a recent peace rally it organized at the Episcopal Church of the Good Samaritan, members of the group carried Israeli, Palestinian and American flags and agreed not to use the words "occupation" and "terrorism" in the banners they carried.
But at the dialogues, when the barriers come down, these words can spark intense reactions.
"When the French resisted Nazi occupation, they weren't called terrorists," Ibrahim Dayeh said, his voice rising.
"What is the right of people to resist occupation? Occupation is terrorism. Attacking with Apache helicopters and F-16s and demolition of houses is also terrorism. We have to condemn all violence."
But Nasser Palestinian Muslim, said he saw differences in the violence perpetrated by the groups Hamas and Hezbollah.
"What Hamas does is despicable, inhumane terrorism," said Barghouti, an electrical engineer who has relatives in both Ramallah and Jordan. I understand the anger, but it's stupid to blow up a hotel.
"Hezbollah has attacked military targets."
Barghouti continued, describing as "fascistic" the behavior of Israeli police subduing Jewish demonstrators opposed to Israel's military actions in Palestine.
When he heard that, Dick Friedman professor of Bible and Judaic studies at the University of California San Diego immediately objected.
"Words like 'fascistic' and 'racist' have been hit-words," Friedman said. "We can't demonize the Jewish state. I have trouble distinguishing between Hamas and Hezbollah.
Sturman, a lecturer in the University of California San Diego's anthropology department, reiterated Israel's deep concern for security.
"Even if Israel pulled out, the suicide bombings wouldn't stop," said Sturman, who is married to Friedman. "They've been going on every day."
Rauch and Odeh, who attended with her husband, Ty, also had a spirited exchange. Rauch recalled his grief after learning that a Palestinian suicide bomber killed 28 people and wounded 140 more at a hotel in the Israeli city of Netanya, Seder, the traditional Passover meal.
"That pained me more than any other Palestinian action against Israel in my lifetime," Rauch said. I felt stabbed in the back. The Palestinians were sticking it to the Israelis in a deep way."
To which Odeh interjected: "They asked for it."
Moments later, she explained.
"I was watching al-Jazeera Qatar-based, Arabic television network) and saw a Palestinian father trying to find his son in a mass grave," Odeh said, her voice rising and cracking. "I was numb."
But Odeh also said the suicide bombings have outraged her.
"We weren't raised to strap ourselves with bombs and kill people," she said. "We were raised to be gracious to each other and love each other."
After almost six hours, when this dialogue reached its end, tension yielded to tranquillity. There were hugs, handshakes and smiles and agreements to stay in touch until the next meeting.
And there was gratitude for the ability to freely seek peace.
"There was a time when people getting together like this (in Israel and Palestine) would've been killed because they would've be seen by others as traitors," Muna Dayeh said.
"Maybe this can be the beginning of something."
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Published in the San Diego Union-Tribune -- Friday, April 19, 2002
THEY SPEAK FROM A PERSONAL PAIN
By Gil Griffin
For two Jewish-Palestinian dialogue members, the pain inflicted by the conflict in the Middle East is deeply personal.
Five years ago, Miko Peled's 13-year-old niece was killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber while visiting a Jerusalem coffee shop. His mother and two sisters in Jerusalem fear more random attacks.
"The bombing was insane," said Peled, a martial arts instructor who lives in Coronado. "Once that happens, you cross a point of no return. I'm still furious. But the bombers are just as much victims as the people they kill. I don't see Palestinians as the enemy."
Two weeks ago, the home of Muna Dayeh's aunt and two cousins was invaded and ransacked by Israeli soldiers who held them at gunpoint. Every day since the Israeli military began an offensive into Palestinian Authority lands in late March, the routine rumblings of tanks on their street frighten them.
These days when Peled and Dayeh get overseas phone calls from relatives, they fear the worst.
"I used to call home twice a week, but now it's twice a day," said Peled, who wears a lapel pin with Israeli and Palestinian flags. Peled's father, Matti, was a general in the 1967 Six-Day War, then founded a group called the Council For Israeli-Palestinian Peace.
"There is no normalcy. My family is very depressed. Every time they want to go out anywhere, it's a risk."
For Dayeh's family, even the inside of their home has been unsafe. Dayeh's cousin who, like her aunt and her two daughters didn't want to be identified by their last names in this story, fearing reprisals called and told her about the episode with the soldiers.
"A group of 15 banged on the metal gate outside and demanded in Arabic that they open the door," Dayeh said.
"Then one led my cousin, Suha, at gunpoint into the house and questioned her if there were any men there.
Dayeh said the soldiers locked the three women in a downstairs bedroom, only allowing them out to use the bathroom. She said the women were denied food and water during the day the soldiers stayed.
The next morning, after the soldiers released the three, they found their upholstered furniture ripped, kitchen trashed and money and jewelry missing, Dayeh said. This horror, Dayeh said, is simply the latest her family has suffered. Her father and uncles in Bethlehem lost their land and her mother and aunt were shot by Israeli snipers. Her grandmother, Dayeh said, died in a refugee camp.
"How can people say we have no right to fight for our freedom, when we're being terrorized?" Dayeh said. "I'm not against Jews and Judaism. I'm hoping that through dialogue we can educate Jews and non-Jews about the situation."
For information on joining a dialogue group, contact Caroline Nathan of the Palestinian-Jewish Dialogue Steering Committee at (858) 485-7204.