Last Saturday evening, 420 people attended the San Mateo County Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group dinner at the Clarion Hotel to honor Dennis Ross, the state department official responsible for peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. The organization was founded five years ago in the living room of Libby and Len Traubman of San Mateo and has been active ever since.
When the group first met in the San Mateo home, bringing together Jews, Palestinians and others, it was not an easy meeting. There were angry insults, difficult emotional arguments and feelings of alienation on both sides. Somehow the group kept meeting each month and discussing their difference until their numbers grew to 40.
With each month common qualities between the two groups grew and the difference subsided. Today, the 40 Palestinians and Jews in the group are friends though they still have strong differences on many issues. The fact is that they can discuss those differences now without insults and emotional arguments, because they have come to know and like each other.
Dennis Ross could not be at the Saturday evening dinner, but was well represented by Ron Young of the U.S. Interreligious Committee for Peace in the Middle East. Ross was in London and Bern, Switzerland, participating in negotiations with Arabs and Israelis. But he did fly home on Sunday and attended a breakfast meeting Monday morning at the Clarion organized by the San Mateo organization.
At the breakfast, Ross talked about the San Mateo organization and how important it was in the battle for understanding between the two peoples, and reflected on the need to revive the people-to-people part of the peace process which apparently has been in limbo. Ross said that the more organizations like this one all over the world that come together to share a common desire for peace and understanding, the easier it will be for the peace process to succeed.
We are proud of this organization of 40 people we came together in San Mateo County and has captured the interest of Dennis Ross and 420 people in the area who attended the dinner last week sharing their concerns for the peace process in the Middle East. They have been remarkable in their persistence, hopefully reflecting the need for persistence between Natenyahu and Arafat.
Among the Palestinians who have been active are Elias and Fanny Botto, Nadim and Henriette Zarour, Basem and Maha Totah, Adham and Nahida Salem. Among the Jews are Don and Elise Stone, Sandra Kahn and David Leventhal, Eric and Hilde Gattmann and Carl and Doris Landman. The others include Carol Kittermaster and Walter and Kay Hays.