"Peace in the Middle East must begin with each side hearing each other's stories," a Palestinian Muslim told a group of Jewish sixth-graders in the story below.
     Mohammed Alatar (MA1962@yahoo.com) of the Palestinian-Jewish Dialogue of San Antonio also listened to the students.
     Jordan Birnbaum, 12, said she enjoyed the dialogue and it confirmed her belief that both sides must work together to end the conflict.
     "It might take awhile, but if we really work together, there will be an end to it," she said.
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     We are reminded of the new movie, "Bowling For Columbine." 
     A rock star was interviewed about youth and violence today.
     "If you could speak with today's youth, what would you tell them?" the interviewer asked.
     The musician replied: "I wouldn't tell them anything.  I would LISTEN."
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     More and more, the Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group in California has been offering young people panel presentations  -- called "Palestinians and Jews in Dialogue" -- on campuses, modeling how we tell our stories. 
     And how we listen to one another and the students.  And become more visible and equally human to each another. 
     Then we help the students to launch their own campus Dialogues.
     You can see photos of the students, presenters, and others:

Mercy High School Dialogue Panel -- Thursday, September 26, 2002  (400 students)
     http://www.shutterfly.com/osi.jsp?i=67b0de21b30eee0be435
Palestine Day Dialogue Educational Display -- Sunday, September 29, 2002
    http://www.shutterfly.com/osi.jsp?i=67b0de21b30eee67e459
Jewish University Students' Shabbaton Panel -- Saturday, November 2, 2002
     http://www.shutterfly.com/osi.jsp?i=67b0de21b30eee7fe441
St. Ignatius High Dialogue Panel -- Wednesday, November 6, 2002  (350 students)
     http://www.shutterfly.com/osi.jsp?i=67b0de21b30eee7be445
A Georgetown University Dialogue, with links to other college presentations,  is at:
     http://traubman.igc.org/gtown.htm

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Published in the San Antonio (Texas) Express-News
Tuesday, November 5, 2002

Jewish Students hear Palestinian side
Guest speaker visits school; dialogue urged

By J. Michael Parker
Express-News Religion Writer

     Peace in the Middle East must begin with each side hearing each other's stories, a Palestinian Muslim told a group of Jewish sixth-graders here Monday.
     Mohammed Alatar  visited with about 25 students at Congregation Agudas Achim's Hebrew school, "not to give a speech but to have a conversation," as he put it.
     Alatar, 40, who works for a 1ocal environmental firm, said he'd grown up in a refugee camp and was always angry at Jews.
     "When I came to the United States at age 24, I couldn't think of Jews as good people. I didn't like them, but if someone had asked me why I wouldn't have known what to tell them," Alatar said.
     "But here, things changed. I started learning about the Jewish people. And the more I learn, the more I like you," he said, adding that he also began learning about the Middle East conflict's roots.
     Alatar said that it wasn't until he lived in the United States and was invited to a synagogue service that he learned that the wearing of a yarmulke, a small, round head covering, by Jewish men was a sign of respect for God.
     "I'd always thought it was thought it was something against me. I was ignorant," he said. "I didn't know what it meant, but I respect God, too, so I'll wear it, too. It looks good, right?" he quipped, drawing chuckles from the students.
      Tracing the borders of Israel on a map, Alatar asked the students what it was. When they all said, "Israel," he replied, "You're absolutely right. But if I asked my sons the same question, their answer would be, 'Palestine.'"
     "You have two peoples, each saying, "This land is ours.'  The Jews say, 'God gave it to us; it's in the Bible,' and the Palestinians say, 'We've been on this land for thousands of years.'"
     Alatar asked if the children thought it would end if either side could prove beyond doubt that it had a right to the land.
     Most students said no.  To one student who advocated mutual dialogue, Alatar said: "You're smarter than a lot of politicians."
     Jordan Birnbaum, 12, said she enjoyed the dialogue and it confirmed her belief that both sides must work together to end the conflict.
     "It might take awhile, but if we really work together, there will be an end to it," she said.

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Mohammed Alatar receives e-mail in San Antonio at MA1962@yahoo.com .
Reporter J. Michael Parker gets e-mail at JParker@express-news.net .