For a week in March, 2001, Palo Alto High School students participated in their "Worldfest 2001 -- The Worlds We Come From, The Worlds We Make" at Palo Alto High School, in California.
On Wednesday, each student elected to participate in a rich assortment of workshops from "The Power of One" to "An Auschwitz Survivor" to "Child Labor and the Global Village" to "Bridging Borders in Silicon Valley: The Immigrant Experience" to "Change the World, Do It Now!"
Ninety attentive, informed students, and some teachers, chose to attend two different, 75-minute panels: "A Palestinian-Jewish Dialogue."
Each panel had 2 Jews and 2 Palestinians -- women and men, ages 30s to 70s. In 5-7 minutes each, they each told their "stories" of moving from limited identification toward inclusiveness. They then entered into dialogue with the students. A fifth dialogue partner facilitated the exchange with the students.
The youth opened their minds, participated fully, and seemed grateful for the presence and model of the mature dialogue presenters.
The room had a generous number of photographic displays of successful Palestinian-Jewish dialogue activity from past years. Each student was also given several informational pages on how dialogue works and expresses itself in social outcomes.
This remarkable week was co-chaired by Darsha Davidoff, and our room was warmly hosted by Dr. Lorraine Luft. Both women plan to participate in the newest, soon-to-begin Jewish-Palestinian dialogue in Silicon Valley.
You can see photographs of the students and panelists at:
This was an inspiring day. We hope it can happen in more communities, here and in the Middle East.
We are reminded that:
Eight years ago when we began, people said: "It isn't the right time to begin dialogue."
"It's impossible." "It will take too much time." "It wont' make a difference."
It is always the right time. Especially today.
Ever-widening circles of Palestinian-Jewish dialogue do, and will, make a difference.
Elias Botto was born in Jerusalem, Palestine. In late 1947, due to increasing violence in the region, his family moved to Bethlehem, in the West Bank. Elias was a clothing manufacturer serving Esprit, Levi Strauss, and other smaller manufacturers nationwide. A 32nd degree Mason, Mr. Botto supports the medical assistance work of the Shriners and is active in the United States Organization for Medical and Educational Needs (USOMEN), providing needed humanitarian services to people in the Middle East.
Jacob Mandelsberg grew up in a traditional Jewish family in Chicago and attended Hebrew school. In 1938 his father's family had fled Germany and the torching of synagogues and increasing anti-Jewish violence. Jacob lived in Israel for 12 years and served in the IDF. He is presently a freelance Web developer, serving the San Francisco Symphony and Bay Area School Reform Collaboration.
Arnon Moscona served with the Israel Defense Force in Ramallah, West Bank. Arnon graduated from Tel Aviv University in Mathematics and Computer Science before moving to the U.S. in 1991. He is a software architect for DigitalBees, a Silicon Valley Internet infrastructure company. In 1991 Arnon received the "Best Electronic Support" award of the software industry's Customer Support Association.
Said Hisham Nuseibeh studied at Reed College, Oregon, and at Bir Zeit University, Palestine. He is an Architectural and Fine Art photographer whose 1996 176-page book, "The Dome of the Rock," was called "the most detailed and complete visual documentation" of this profound spiritual sanctuary in Jerusalem. Said is a member of the Middle East Studies Association and of the United Muslims of America. He is a Board Member of the Arab Cultural Center of San Francisco, which honored him with their 2000 "Millenium Award" for his "significant contribution to a better understanding of the Arab World."
Melek Totah was born in Des Moines, Iowa. Her father grew up in Haifa, Palestine, in the 1930s and '40s before fleeing in 1948. Melek graduated from Drake University in 1988, majoring in International Relations. She later earned her M.B.A. in International Business. Melek was volunteer Chief Financial Officer for the non-profit Grady Community Council in Atlanta, Georgia, to establish pre-school programs for inner city children. Melek is now Manager of Financial Planning and Analysis for a large Silicon Valley software company.
Gladys Wagman was born in Philadelpia. Her father's family had fled to the United States from Czarist Russia when their village's first-born Jews were being killed during the pogroms. Gladys attended Hebrew school and grew up in a traditional, observant Jewish family. Gladys was Regional President of ORT -- the Organization for Rehabilitation Through Training, initiated by Jewish women to serve both Jewish and non-Jewish boys and girls worldwide. She is presently on the Board of Directors of the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco.
Miriam L. Zimmerman, Ed.D. is Chair of the Department of Communication, College of Notre Dame. She is a member of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and of the National Communication Association. Since 1987 Miriam has been a columnist for the National Jewish Post & Opinion. She studied at the International School for Holocaust Educators at Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, and since 1996 she has chaired or co-chaired the North Peninsula Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Rememberance Day. Miriam is a member of the Jewish Community Relations Council and of Peninsula Temple Beth El.