THE Jewish/Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group, located in San Mateo, is celebrating its 12th anniversary. Before the Oslo Accords, before Palestinians and Jews were talking in the Middle East, the two antagonists were engaged in discussions in each other's living rooms once a month.
The group was the brainchild of Libby and Len Traubman, but there were others who flocked to the idea, including Carol Kittermaster, who resides in Belmont. They were joined over time by Raeda Ashkar, Fanny and Elias Botto, Afaf Dudum, Carl Estersohn, Hilde and Eric Gattmann, Nijmeh "Star" Hadeed, Walt and Kay Hays, Sandra Kahn, David Leventhal, Maida Kasle, Sheila Kay, Doris and Arnon Moscona, Carl Laudman, Nazih Malak, Dina Helweh Malak, Fuad and Mahad Mansour, Adele Bueno, Nermeh and Jiries Nazzal, Shlomi and Linda Ravid, Nahida and Adham Salem, Basam and Maha Totah, Henriette Zarour and Miriam Zimmerman.
In the beginning, it wasn't easy as the two exchanged emotions and ideas. Some people walked out in frustration, some out of anger. But the group persisted and it not only survived, it thrived. It would be inaccurate to describe the dialogue group as just Palestinians and Jews because membership includes people of other religions.
Among the accomplishments of the group: writing joint letters to leaders in the United States and the Middle East, including more than 90 leaders and opinion-makers in Washington. The content of the letters was argued and discussed before everyone placed their signatures.
They went to a synagogue, placing a ground breaking display of Palestinian art in the temple. They participated in a local Palestinian Cultural Days, presenting an educational table to inform and invite new Palestinians to participate in the group.
They hold public introductory presentations for new people at a round table, eating homemade Palestinian and Jewish food, then talking about their experiences in the dialogue group.
They assist the local Israeli Consulate with Jewish-Palestinian cultural activities.
The group sent $1,300 in cash and $20,000 worth of medical equipment to help a hospital in Gaza and another in western Jerusalem.
From the organization's leadership, eight spin-off groups have been started in the Bay Area.
They raised $10,000 for needy schools in Netanya, Israel and Ramallah, Palestine, with faculties from both schools now conducting face-to-face dialogues.
They co-sponsored an educational fundraising event for Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, a model village where Jews and Palestinians live and learn together.
They held a relationship building dinner entitled "Building a Common Future" for 420 Bay Area Jews and Palestinians to begin changing their relationships by invigorating the peace process.
Now the dialogue group has published a book of recipes entitled "Palestinian and Jewish Recipes for Peace," combining the best of both worlds in popular dishes as gefilte fish a la Veracruzana, feta cheese and marinated nicoise olives with grilled pitas, chicken Jerusalem, Okra stew with rice, shitake kreplach, etc.
There are many recipes and short stories with pictures of the participants available for only $19. If you are interested in purchasing this cookbook, contact Libby Traubman at (650) 574-8303. Proceeds from the sale of the books will go towards fostering good will and friendship between Israelis and Palestinians, as hope once again springs forth that there can be two nations living in peace and harmony.
(The book can also be ordered at http://traubman.igc.org/recipes.htm )
Jerry Fuchs can be reached at (650) 348-4308 or JFuchs@sanmateocountytimes.com.