Headlines reflect a poverty of creativity in Middle East and global conflicts.
Equally human combatants find it easier to take "sides" in various forms of "resistance" -- war, more or less -- than to surrender preoccupation with the "enemy" and discover each other and their inevitable, shared future.
Choices between Resistance and creative Response are described on a new Web page:
This week in April, 2004, creative Jews of strong faith invited Palestinians
-- Muslims and Christians -- and other Arabs and neighbors to share the great
family tradition of the Passover dinner-ceremony.
Coast to coast, this joyous home ritual maintained it's ancient, spiritual plea for human freedom, while expanding the readings and rituals to be even more inclusive.
Three events -- Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Toronto -- are described below.
===== #1 Los
The year-old Jewish-Palestinian Dialogue of Los Angeles created an Interfaith Dialogue Seder, wrote conveners Paul and Joan Waller ( PJWaller2@earthlink.net ), who would gladly e-mail to you the document describing the flow of their ceremony, compiled from many sources of past experiences nationwide.
In the beginning it read: "During this event let us remember from the Psalm of old that: 'Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.' And, because we have chosen to be her, this table is already blessed."
Palestinian Reem and Jewish Rachel read the inspiring poem, "Hagar and Sarah," on the Web at:
New friends were welcomed -- Amanda, Amir Hussain, Joan Beckrt, and Shahnila Ahmad -- and invited to continue in this Los Angeles "cousinhood."
Everyone expressed personal hopes and stories from back home -- Palestinian Rola's letter from Nazareth, Jewish Yehuda's report on the Women's Interfaith Dialogue in Jerusalem, and Lauren Gelfond's Jerusalem Post story, "Polar Meltdown," about Israelis and Palestinians who conquered and name The Mountain of Israeli-Palestinian Friendship in Antarctica this January.
===== #2 Philadelphia =====
"An Olive on the Seder Plate" will use theater, video, puppetry, and music to communicate anew a contemporary call for freedom for all in the Middle East.
If you're near Philadelphia, it's this Friday and Saturday, April 9 and 10th, 2004, 8pm. $5-$15. Painted Bride Art Center, 230 Vine Street, telephone 215.925.9914. Then it's Sunday, April 11, 7pm. $15. Mishkan Shalom Synagogue, 4101 Freeland Ave. 215.508.0226.
===== #3 Montreal, Canada =====
An olive on the Seder plate and an orange to represent women were additions to the inspiring, alternative ceremony in Montreal last night, Wednesday, April 7, 2004. Ronit Yarosky ( RYarosky@sympatico.ca ) tells us.
The photo caption in today's Montreal Gazette said:
Nada Sefian (left), who is Palestinian, and Ronit Yarosky, who is Jewish, hold ceremonial seder plate enhanced by olives - a symbol of peace. The alternative seder last night began with a dedication to a vision of a transformed Middle East.
Published in the Montreal (Quebec, Canada) Gazette --
Thursday, 8 April 2004
N.D.G. potluck for peace: Jews, Arabs share seder
They came together last night in a Notre Dame de Grce flat, about 30 of them - Jews and Arabs, Christians and Muslims, to break bread together. Matzoh, actually, and pot luck - at an event they called a seder for peace.
The seder, held the third night of the eight-day Passover festival, was convened by Nada Sefian ( Nadacharif@yahoo.com )
and Ronit Yarosky ( RYarosky@sympatico.ca ), two Montreal women working together to bridge gaps, mainly though dialogue, between Palestinians and Jews.
"We are having people breaking matzoh together - and hoping for mutual liberation and freedom," said Yarosky, a Canadian and Israeli citizen who served in the Israeli army in the late 1980s, during the first intifada, or uprising, among Palestinians against Israel. "One nation can't truly be free when it is keeping another not free."
Sefian, a Palestinian born in Lebanon, condemned, "in my name personally, and in the name of other Arab people, any attack on any community."
She was referring, she said, to Monday's firebombing of the library in the United Talmud Torahs school in St. Laurent, as well as the recent toppling of Jewish headstones and spray-painting of swastikas on Toronto synagogues.
"These are hate crimes. They are counterproductive. I think an attack on any community is an attack on us all. Today it is them; tomorrow it could be us."
Sefian said she had considered herself an activist for the Palestinian cause - until the second intifada began in 2000. "As a pacifist, I don't like any violence, any kind of demonizing of the other. That's what brought me to work with my Jewish counterparts.
"For me, any human being who is being killed is a human being, whether Israeli or Palestinian, terrorist or soldier. It is a loss."
She and Yarosky belong to groups that promote dialogue between Arabs and Jews in a bid to end the violence.
"We feel this is the future," Sefian said.
"These are tiny steps we take, but they are gathering together. I think it helps a lot: I think it builds an understanding."
Each acknowledges she has not chosen an easy route -- and that there are those in her community who see what she is doing as "sitting with the enemy."
Yet both count themselves among "concerned citizens who feel people need to sit down and listen," Yarosky said. "Occupying a people and torching schools are both bad things.
"While so much of the world is at each other's throats, there are people who want to make a true connection with the 'other.' That is the point of involving everyone, so that we can all look inward and examine what it means to be free, what it means to be oppressed - and what it means to be the oppressor."
Last night's seder began with a dedication to "the vision of a transformed Middle East: a free and prosperous Palestine alongside a secure and prosperous Israel."
Guests took turns reading from a text Yarosky had assembled from various sources, including elements from the Haggadah used during the traditional seder, held the first and second nights of Passover. The Haggadah, for instance, features a recitation of 10 plagues brought upon the Egyptians for refusing to allow the Israelites to leave, including frogs and darkness. Ten contemporary plagues were added last night, including tyranny and indifference to human suffering.
Ceremonial foods were passed, including horseradish for the bitterness of persecution, and matzoh. But in a reading that is not part of the traditional seder, a piece of matzoh was broken in two and then passed "because the bread of affliction becomes the bread of freedom - when we share it."
Entirely appropriate for an alternative seder, last night's included some new symbols: an orange to represent women - and olives for peace.
Reporter Susan Schwartz receives e-mail at email@example.com .