If people say "this isn't the right time for Dialogue," you decide for yourself.
     But. . .first read this true-today story of a Palestinian Muslim and an Israeli Jew who met in heated conflict at a checkpoint and are now successful restaurant partners and best friends.
     It shows how Sustained Dialogue is just what transforms unequal relationships to equal, productive partnerships.

     "There are some who subscribe to the theory that if harmonious co-existence can be achieved within the powder keg that is a restaurant kitchen, then world peace is, well, a piece of cake. Jamil Amleh and Sasi Habeh are among those believers."
     So began "Partners in peace - and food" in Canada's Montreal Gazette, April 20, 2005:
     It's about Jamil and Sasi's Jerusalem Steak House, 5295 Park Avenue, in Montreal, Quebec, open daily from11 a.m. to midnight, and reached by phone at  (514) 271-8400.

     "If the negotiating table doesn't work for now, for sure the meal table can," said Fanny Botto, our Palestinian neighbor and Dialogue partner.
     "I've been saying for years if Israelis and Palestinians would meet in the kitchen, it would save a lot of bloodshed," added gourmet Judy Bart Kancigor of CookingJewish.com, about the first-of-its-kind cookbook, "Palestinian and Jewish Recipes for Peace," described at:

     Sasi and Jamil's offer the closest story in real life to Ari Sandel's WEST BANK STORY, the wonderful, new 20-minute musical comedy set in the fast-paced world of competing falafel stands in the West Bank.  The story brings tears and laughter.  The affordable DVD is described at:

     The Jerusalem Steak House in Canada is in the tradition of other Palestinian-Jewish owned restaurants:

        *  Maxim Restaurant, Haifa, Israel  (founded 40 years ago)
        *  Aurora Cafe, 49 Lexington Street,  Soho, London, England  (10 years old)
        Yaffa - Books and Coffee (and meals), 33 Yehuda Margoza Street, Jaffa-Tel Aviv, Israel
        *  All Nations Cafe, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem
        Palomares Cafe, Castro Valley, California 

     Again in today's Ha'aretz in Israel is the unfolding, inspiring story of Sasi Habeh and Jamil Amleh -- Jew and Palestinian -- cooking up the future, making peas, having the thyme of their lives what our lives will look like soon down the road.
     Cook up what you can, too.
                -- L&L

Published in Ha'aretz newspaper -- Israel -- Friday, 08 July 2005
Where hallal meets kashrut
By Haim Rivlin
     Sassi Haba is what is known as a "hard-core" Beitar Jerusalem soccer fan. He will never miss a match and will always sit in the bleachers on the east side of Teddy Stadium, with its whole repertoire including the group chant "Death to the Arabs." He is such an enthusiast that even his emigration to Montreal in Canada has not cooled his ardor. On the walls of his restaurant on Park Avenue, next to a giant fresco of Jerusalem, Haba decided to draw a small-scale version of the team's symbol in yellow and black.
     That had been a hasty move. Several days later, in consultation with his Palestinian partner Musayed Amla, Haba painted over the symbol in black. The two decided to keep any political identification away from the business. "Politics isn't good for business," they say. This is something of a faux-naif statement in light of what has happened to the two since the local media discovered their story.
     Sassi Haba (38) and Musayed Amla (25) met six years ago at the Al-Ram roadblock north of Jerusalem. At that time Haba was on reserve duty. Amla, a Palestinian from Beit Ula, near Hebron, wanted to go from Ramallah to Jerusalem. Even though he had all the necessary permits, one of the soldiers at the crossing point prevented him from doing so. Instead of going back to Ramallah, Amla decided to insist on his right - which very quickly led to an exchange of shouting. Haba, who was standing nearby, decided to intervene. Amla relates: "I was certain that he was just another soldier who was going to `deal' with me. But instead of messing with me, he started to calm things down. He spoke to me in Arabic, calmly, and once I had calmed down, he said to me: `Everything is okay, you can go through.'"
     Haba recalls: "He thought I was from another planet. He was so moved that he asked me for my phone number. Without hesitating, I gave it to him. He looked like a real gentleman." Amla explains: "I thought that if I had the phone number of an Israeli soldier, and one who speaks Arabic, it could help me if I encountered a similar attitude in the future. Today he's a soldier, tomorrow he's a general. Who knows?"
     Haba, who was not planning a military career, went back to his post as the cook in the kitchen of a restaurant owned by his family in the Mahaneh Yehuda market in Jerusalem and forgot about the roadblock, Amla and the phone number he had given him. Three months later he had a surprising call. According to Amla, it was clear to him that Haba would not remember him, but contrary to all expectations, the phone call yielded a meeting, and after that more phone calls and meetings, culminating in the surprising suggestion from Amla that Haba join him in Montreal to open a restaurant in the Mile-End neighborhood.
     Amla has 18 brothers and sisters. Some of them emigrated to Canada five years ago. Amla's father, Jamil, a wealthy businessman who for years was a leader of the Village Associations (associations established with Israel's support aimed at minimizing the Palestine Liberation Organization's influence in the territories), divides his time between Beit Ula, where he was recently elected a member of the local council, and Montreal.
     A few months ago the father decided to expand into the restaurant business. He purchased a franchise to operate a pizzeria and delegated its management to his son Musayed. But Musayed, a student of management at Concordia University in Montreal, never had any culinary training and thus the idea was born of turning to Haba - "a cook with mileage" and a friend for whom the time had come to repay a favor. Amla: "The neighborhood of the restaurant is a Jewish neighborhood. I don't know anything about matters of kashrut [Jewish dietary laws]. Sassi can do much better at that than I can. So I suggested to him to open a kosher meat restaurant rather than a pizzeria."
     The decision to accept Amla's generous offer - full partnership without investing a cent - was not at all simple. "I come from a pure Likudnik home. Very right wing. There was just a meter between talking to you and being smeared over some wall in a terror attack in Mahaneh Yehuda (in August, 1998). The switch occurred after I met with Musayed's father, Jamil. I was astonished that there are Arabs like him. That you can talk to. Arabs who believe in a solution of give and take, who believe in coexistence. The meeting with him changed a lot of things in me."
     Before he boarded the plane to Montreal, Haba heard endless warnings from people in his family. "They said to me, `Watch out, take care that they don't trick you, that you don't get screwed.'" On February 15 of this year he landed in Montreal. Until he was joined by his wife and four children, he lived for several weeks in the home of the Amla family, which he defines as "my second family." In order to maintain a proper partnership, they make a point of maintaining reciprocity. The meat is slaughtered especially for them, so that it will be defined both as kosher for the Jewish patrons of the restaurant and as hallal for the Muslims. In return for the agreement of the traditionally observant Haba to open the restaurant on Saturday, the Muslim Amla agreed to sell alcohol on the premises. On Passover they served special matzas and the everyday practice is to play Arab music.

Congratulations and curses

     As might have been expected, the story of the two sparked the imagination of the local media, which saw the restaurant they opened as a model of coexistence. A series of media stories attracted a huge wave of customers, a sharp rise in profits and reactions of a potency that Haba and Amla had not expected.
     "We received hundreds of phone calls from people who called to congratulate us on the initiative," relates Amla. Dozens of reservations began to flow into the restaurant, which is still in the running-in phase. Excited patrons wanted to see the two men who had cooked up in their kitchen the recipe for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "There were people who really shed a tear," is how Haba describes the emotions their story aroused.
     The two learned just how emotional and fraught the business is, even in the multicultural atmosphere of Montreal, from less pleasant reactions. Amla's Palestinian friends stopped talking to him; at a Jewish-owned grocery store they refused to sell Haba matzas at Passover; someone shouted "Traitor!" at Amla in the presence of diners; and, as if to complete the map of religious fanaticism, someone phoned the restaurant and scolded them for choosing the name "Jerusalem" for the restaurant, on the grounds that it is the city of Jesus, and Jews and Muslims have no right to the city or to its name.
     Can you understand your friends' anger?
     Amla: "They didn't grow up under the occupation - they grew up here in wealthy families. They aren't familiar with the situation in the region. How long are we going to keep on killing each other? I've had it. I'm proud to say that I'm a Palestinian, but at the same time it's necessary to say that's it. Enough is enough."