Published in The Ottawa Jewish Bulletin -- Monday, April 7, 2003 -- Ontario, Canada

University of Ottawa and Carlton University
Muslim and Jewish students

ottawa.jpg - 30647 Bytes
Dinner promotes understanding
between Jewish and Muslim students

by TIA GOLDENBERG   (Student Reporter)

      Mutual understanding in time of war is definitely not an easy goal. In an ever-increasing politically and ideologically divided world, a group of 14 students came together in hopes of uniting the world -- a handful of students at a time.
      On March 25, the Carleton and Ottawa University Jewish Students Association (JSA) invited members of the Muslim Students Association (MSA) to dinner, in hopes of breaking ethnic barriers.
      Upon arrival, as an icebreaker, the students sat in a circle and stated their name, their program of study and their favourite tree. One Muslim student said his favourite was the olive tree.
      A brief silence filled the room. We all suddenly remembered why we were there. As Canadians, and as the youth of the world, it would be our responsibility to create and promote peace among all nations.
      A falafel dinner followed. With all the laughing and joking around, it seemed as though the students had been friends for years.
      The conversations that ensued were light, but touched upon issues that affected us as students -- not as Jews or Muslims. We refrained from any political discussion whatsoever.
      This night was not about politics. It was about putting a human face on the other side.
      At the culmination of the event, after the pie was half done and the falafels had gone cold, the students sat down in a circle once again.
      One member of the MSA, Faraz Abbasi, proposed the two student groups unite for a common important cause: making halal and kosher food available to students on the University of Ottawa campus. The JSA jumped at the chance to bring its members the option of kashrut.
      Michelle Divon, the daughter of Israeli Ambassador Chaim Divon, described her relationship with the Jordanian ambassadorís daughter. She said the two had abandoned any hope of a friendship after they learned of each otherís nationality. After months of tension, they finally gave each other a chance.
      "We just realized that we were both at the Red Sea at the same time, but just on different sides," she said. The two have since become good friends and work together for peace in the Middle East.
      Riaz Ingar, president of the MSA, shared his thoughts on political discussion between the two groups: "Youíre not going to change my history and convince me, and Iím not going to change your history and convince you. Weíve got to find common ground and work our way up from there."
      Before the MSA members departed, they profusely thanked the JSA for the much-needed event. The groups exchanged contact information before they parted.
      The consensus that night was that such events are not only beneficial, but also therapeutic.
      Divon added diplomatically: "People speak of wanting peace, but are not willing to talk about getting it. Itís our job to create a dialogue for peace."


Other stories about Ottawa student activity are:
THREE FAITHS, ONE DREAM OF PEACE in the Ottawa Citizen, February 19, 2003, at http://traubman.igc.org/youth3.htm
and
MAKING PEACE, ONE PERSON AT A TIME in the Toronto Globe & Mail, March 8, 2003, at http://traubman.igc.org/youth3b.htm.