Arab, Jewish "Potlucks for Peace" grow in
25 May 2005
Ghanem ( Ghanems@rogers.com ) is another example of
one person making a huge difference in the
In early 2003 he first extended his hands to both Arabs and Jews in
Today in Spring 2002, "Potlucks for Peace" -- 60 women and men -- continue to recruit new Arab and Jewish members by word of mouth,
There are now about three Jews to every two Arabs, up from three to one when the group began.
Many of the participants had had little or no contact with members of the other group before coming to their first meeting.
Holding a frank but still civil
discussion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was not an easy task.
Participants spent the first few months simply getting to know each other, talking about children and food, building trust.
Ghanem knows that the people who go to Potlucks meetings are an unusual group --- those willing to take on the difficult task of opening their ears and minds to contrary viewpoints and stories.
One participants feels a responsibility -- "a role to play in extending that dialogue more broadly within this community, and perhaps elsewhere in
"Potlucks for Peace" -- P4P --continues fostering sustained Dialogue
and building more bridges between their communities.
And they now have their own Web site at http://potlucksforpeace.org/
In dialogue group, Jews and Arabs in
By: Balint Molnar
OTTAWA, Canada, May 24 (JTA) It was a shouting match that motivated an Arab man in
Qais Ghanem, a Yemeni-born professor of medicine at the
The participants were members of the Canadian Jewish and Arab communities, and the discussion quickly descended into a shouting match, Ghanem said.
During a break, Ghanem noticed two young women talking to each other.
One of them had identified herself as being Jewish during the discussion, he, said, but he couldnt tell if the other one was Jewish as well. Once he introduced himself to them, though, he learned that the second woman was Palestinian.
Still, they talked as if they were old friends, Ghanem said.
The contrast between their civility and the verbal slugfest that had unfolded on stage a few minutes earlier sparked his idea. He organized an informal get-together between Jews and Arabs at his home, and Potlucks for Peace was born.
Now, 60 Jews and Arabs have been meeting in
Members of Potlucks for Peace university professors, professionals, musicians, students, senior citizens and others gather once a month to eat, talk politics and learn about each others views, feelings and experiences.
Much of the dialogue is about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Two and a half years after six people came to that first meeting, the group has recruited new members by word of mouth. It has attracted both Arabs and Jews.
There are now about three Jews to every two Arabs, up from three to one when the group began. Many of the members had had little or no contact with members of the other group before coming to their first meeting.
The Potluck for Peace members at the groups May meeting know that they live side-by-side in a multicultural society, and that they hold strongly differing views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
We both live in
I dont think theres enough dialogue between various communities. Dialogue is very important, since multiculturalism can also lead to ghettoization, she said. I dont think we should allow that.
Holding a frank but still civil discussion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was not an easy task. Participants spent the first few months simply getting to know each other, talking about children and food.
We were building up trust so that we could have a real discussion, Ghanem said.
I took quite a long time to get beyond simply having dinner and a pleasant social time. It also took a specific effort on our part to generate discussion that really was difficult, said Allan Moscovitch, a university professor and active member of the Jewish community.
According to Moscovitch, a few months ago he and Ghanem had to model a discussion on a controversial and difficult topic in front of the group to break the logjam. They talked about anti-Semitism, focusing on commonly held stereotypes.
They based the conversation on a notorious interview with Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis that appeared in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, in which Theodorakis rehashed well-known anti-Semitic canards.
It was a very difficult discussion, but we showed that it can be done, Moscovitch said.
The talk also was eye-opening to many Arab group members, revealing the depth of Jews concern about safety.
What I learned is that the sense of fear which for me didnt seem real is really real, Reghai said. I understood that its not something thats put on and not an excuse for something else, but something rooted deeply in historical experiences.
By now, conversation flows more freely and touches on many difficult subjects. At one point, one of the groups Jewish members asked whether any of the Arabs in the group had anything good to say about
Monzer Zimmo, a Palestinian born in
His criticism of
In fact, he added, he had two conflicting personal stories about Israelis. One was about the Jewish doctor and nurses who saved his fathers eyesight; the other was about the Israeli bulldozers and tank that destroyed the olive groves at his familys farm.
I like to think of the first story, even if on a collective basis there is more of the second, Zimmo said.
Ghanem know that the people who go to Potlucks meetings are an unusual group. Theyre the ones willing to take on the difficult task of opening their ears and minds to contrary viewpoints and stories.
Many also see their mission as spreading the word to others in their own communities.
I think we have a role to play in extending that dialogue more broadly within this community, and perhaps elsewhere in