Ronit Yarosky (  ) is a former IDF soldier who served during the first Palestinian intifada.
     Nada Sefian ( ), a Palestinian refugee who survived the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, is her partner-in-Dialogue.
     This Passover 2005, the Israeli-Canadian and Palestinian-Canadian in Montreal, Quebec have again demonstrated a new kind of courage.
      Partners -- of a new breed of Arab and Jew -- they continue in their city to turn "enemies" into friends and cooperating neighbors.

     Last Passover 2004, they did what was once unimaginable to each them -- they first created a shared ceremony for once-thought "enemies."
     Side-by-side, they invented an "alternative Seder."
     Read below about their second year's celebration.
     It is not an empty ceremony, but one that celebrates their Montreal Dialogue Group that has grown from 40 to 150 participants since 2003.

     This is the power of two soon becoming a compelling, inspiring community of 150 Arabs and Jews -- Muslims, Jews, and Christians.
     Take heart in this, and that "The Gandhi Project" is now launched in the Middle East, with Palestinian filmmaker Hanna Elias having dubbed into Arabic the film GANDHI, winner of nine Academy Awards.  Read about that at:

      Think of Nada and Ronit, Palestinian and Jew, and of the prescription of Mahatma Gandhi:

                "You must be the change you wish to see in the world."

     Change will not "happen."  We each must do it where we live.  Believe it.
                        -- L&L

Published in the Montreal (Canada) Gazette Saturday, 23 April 2005
on the Web at

Passover time to celebrate differences
Four women from the Montreal Dialogue Group have organized a seder where they will
read from the Koran, the Bible and the Torah in an exchange of history and cultures


     Ronit Yarosky served in the Israeli army during the first Palestinian intifada in the late 1980s.
     Nada Sefian is a Muslim Palestinian who lived through Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982.
     Carmela Aigen is an observant Jew, and Dina Saikali is a Christian of Egyptian origin.
     These four women might seem like an unlikely group to be organizing a seder, but they have decided Passover, which begins tonight, is the time of year to put differences aside.
     The women are members of the Montreal Dialogue Group, which was started in 2003. It brings together people from Jewish and Palestinian communities in Montreal with the aim of boosting co-existence and honest understanding through listening and accepting that there are other beliefs, histories and national narratives that are just as valid as one's own. The goal is not to change people's political beliefs. the group has grown from a membership of 40 in 2003 to more than 150 in 2005.
     During their Passover seder, passages from the Torah, the Bible and the Koran will be read.
     "We want to celebrate our humanity and exchange of cultural customs. We want to know each other as human beings rather than enemies," said Aigen, a Hebrew teacher and co-ordinator of Hebrew and Jewish studies at Akiva School.
     "The three monotheistic religions share a lot in common, and we want to show that to help build harmony between people."
     Aigen said she used the spirit of the eight-day Passover festival, which marks the freedom and exodus of Jews from Egypt, to set the guidelines for the theme of the text readings during the April dinner. The dinner is open to the public but all available spaces have been reserved.
     "The message is the desire for peace and dignity for everybody," she said. "It is about liberty and redemption, which all religions share."
     During the dinner, which will follow Jewish traditions, rituals and symbols, Aigen will read from the Torah, Sefian from the Koran and Saikali will recite poetry and excerpts from the Bible.
     Among those attending as guest speakers will be Sheila McDonough, who teaches religious studies at Concordia University. She will discuss the roles of Moses and the pharaohs in the Koran.
     Sefian, who prepared the texts from the Koran, said while most people know Christianity shares the Old Testament with Judaism, many are unaware of its link to the Koran.
     "The Koran mentions the story of Moses, and he is recognized as one of the prophets for us," said Sefian, who has a diploma in Arabic literature and Islamic studies. "The Koran details the story of the Jews in the desert and when Moses asked God to provide some food."
     As part of the ceremonies, Sefian plans to bring a combination of the food that God gave the Jews in the story in the Koran, like lentils and onions.
     "Ignorance makes people stay away from each other," she said. "We do not want ignorance and past sufferings to be a cause for us to hate each other."
     Saikali said the advent of spring will figure in her poetry reading.
     "Spring comes with light. It is born from the middle of darkness. It is about forgiveness, and we have to look for that spring inside of us," said Saikali, an English teacher.
     "It is a very sensitive and highly emotional thing to talk about the wall (the barrier being erected by the Israeli government) in Israel with the Palestinians or the Holocaust with the Jews, but when we know each other better we can understand each other," Yarosky said.

For more information about the Montreal Dialogue Group, send an e-mail to