"The Arab-Israeli Cookbook," a stage show that has been part of London theatre this year, stitches together narratives between 42 characters performed by eight actors.  While thankfully humanizing both peoples, food and cooking are integral parts of the action and dialogue between the Jews and Palestinians.

     Peacemakers Forsan Hussain and Jewish Michael Bavly -- an Arab and a Jew, one Palestinian, both Israeli citizens -- created perhaps the first Web site that illustrated how food and recipes link our peoples and create an environment for coming together. It's at:
     "Cooking is very important for us, and we do most of our peace work in the kitchen.  We recommend you do the same," they say together.  And they have sustained their relationship begun in college, where they co-hosted their own radio program, "Just Like You," until now when they recently helped create and facilitate the successful "Peace Camp Canada" for Palestinian and Israeli youth, seen at:
     Today, on Thanksgiving eve 2005, we again realize that totality and dedicated, authentic relationship-building is usually rewarded. 
     This morning, it is acknowledged in newspaper print, so others can read and consider being part of this great public peace process that works in real life.
                -- L&L

Published in The San Francisco Chronicle -- Friday, 26 November 2005
On the Web at http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Cookbook-brings-Israelis-Palestinians-to-the-2633616.php

Cookbook brings Israelis, Palestinians to the table
By Cynthia Liu

     Earlier this month, the Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group of San Mateo County published a 100-page "Palestinian and Jewish Recipes for Peace."
     "The book has recipes for the table and recipes for building relationships at home, in the Middle East and the world," said group member Len Traubman.
     The 71 featured dishes range from roast leg of lamb, chicken sumac and stuffed grape leaves to potato knishes, borscht and brisket braised in chili sauce.
     There is a recipe for maza, a lamb dish simmered with garlic, olive oil and chili peppers that is served for lunch on the second day of every Palestinian wedding, as well as a Hanukkah recipe for Brazilian doughnuts, submitted by a Brazilian who is married to an Israeli.
     Then there is the squash recipe: "squash stereotypes, squash indifference, squash blame, squash violence."
     The book's introduction says, "One of many things that connect Palestinians and Jews is their love of delicious food." Since the group's inception in July 1992, "you can see that many of us have grown, in size as well as spiritually and emotionally."
     "A natural avenue to do relationship building has been to share food," said member Libby Traubman, Len's wife. Apparently the oldest dialogue of its kind in North America, the group of 15 Jews and 15 Palestinians held its 151st meeting this month.
     In the book, recipes are interspersed with stories behind some of the dishes, childhood food and holiday memories, and other anecdotes.
     "By listening to one another's stories, we are able to make a heart connection," Len Traubman said, "and once a heart connection is made, fear diminishes and reason starts to work better."
     The stories in the book include that of Fanny Botto, a Palestinian raised in Chile who shares her mother's recipe for meat-filled empanadas, and Sandra Kahn, a Mexican American Jew who submitted her grandmother's recipe for Veracruz-style gefilte fish with a tomato-caper-jalape?o sauce.
     Dialogue member Hilde Gattmann includes her grandmother's chocolate almond cake recipe. Gattmann was born in Germany and loved both Hanukkah and Christmas as a child. With the rise of Hitler, she escaped to America when she was 11.
     "Having gone through that, I've often said that I don't want to see anyone else suffer from prejudice," she said.
     Henriette Zarour, raised in the Palestinian West Bank town of Beit Jala, has fond memories of Easter and gave her recipe for Easter cookies made from semolina -- one shaped like the crown of thorns, the other shaped like the sponge used to moisten the lips of Jesus as he carried his cross.
     Common ingredients in Palestinian cuisine include bulgur, tahini (sesame paste), dried mint, orange flower water and the popular za'atar spice blend of sesame seeds, thyme, marjoram and sumac.
     Sephardic Jewish cuisine draws upon Mediterranean flavors, using dates, rice, pita, fenugreek leaves and cardamom, while the Eastern European Ashkenazi Jews eat paprika, bay, dill, potatoes and cabbage.
     Dialogue member Nahida Salem, born in the Palestinian West Bank city of Ramallah, is the chef/owner of Campus Cafe in San Mateo. "We share hummus, falafel and tabouli," she said, although she believes the Palestinian versions are spicier than the Jewish ones.
     Proceeds from the cookbook will go back to the cookbook project for reprints. Dialogue members used their own money to publish the first edition. The group has sold 91 (330 by 11/26) copies, including orders from New Mexico, Australia and Israel.
     In addition to presenting workshops around the country, the group has sent $20,000 worth of medical equipment to hospitals in Gaza and western Jerusalem, raised $10,000 for Israeli and Palestinian schools, and hosted what they believe to be the largest dinner dialogue in North America for 420 people in 1997.
     The group's first public event was in 1994. The day before the event, Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 Muslims in Hebron, so organizers considered canceling the event. However, Len Traubman said they decided, "We're not going to go up and down with the headlines," and went ahead as planned. Gattmann said, "It was good to be together."
     The group has experienced marriages, births and deaths together.
     In fact, dialogue member Nadim Zarour died of a heart attack in 2000 while facilitating a live broadcast dialogue between a rabbi and a priest at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. Yasser Arafat sent a personal letter of condolence.
     The group has met with Congress, gone to the State Department and teleconferenced with the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Daniel Kurtzer. However, "there are things government can do that we can't and there are things we can do that government can't -- and that is changing relationships," said Len Traubman.
     Salem's husband, Adham, met with Arafat this spring and "Arafat encouraged him and other Palestinians to engage Jews in citizen relationship building, which he felt was a vital part of the peace process," said Len Traubman.
     Arafat, considered by many Palestinians to be the father of their country, "championed his people unlike anyone else," said Libby Traubman.
     Yet, her husband said, "What he did not understand is you cannot use violence against the Jewish people and win their minds and hearts. He did not understand Jewish fear and the Jewish stories."
     The group hopes to continue to share stories from both sides to build relationships and promote peace. So far, the greatest unresolved conflict within the group is a culinary one between the Traubmans and Salems -- the Salems feed the Traubmans regularly and refuse to accept payment.

Get cooking
The "Palestinian and Jewish Recipes for Peace" cookbooks are available at http://traubman.igc.org/recipes.htm .

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