Thursday, December 11, 2003 | return to: editorial


Local dialogues keep hope alive amid Mideast strife

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A friendly gathering took place on Sunday night that isn't reported in our pages. At first, we thought it was just one of many community organizations' holiday celebrations and would not make a compelling story. We may have been wrong.

And the event may have more significance than we realized.

Some 170 Jews, Palestinians, Israelis, Arabs, Catholics, Christians, Muslims and others came to St. Ignatius Preparatory School in San Francisco to celebrate the "season of light."

Most participate in one of the nine Jewish-Palestinian dialogue groups in the Bay Area.

Some 12 years ago, Len and Libby Traubman founded the first Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group in their San Mateo home. The premise was not to argue or debate but simply to listen. The point is not to bash Israel but to be for both sides, and both peoples, equally.

That group was founded before the Oslo peace process began, and it has continued, despite the current intifada. It also has spawned eight others here, as well as more around the country and the world. The South Bay group sponsored Sunday's gathering.

At a time when many Jews cannot fathom talking to a Palestinian, much less sharing dessert with one, it is remarkable that 170 Jews and Palestinians came together to share in their hopes for peace.

Such a gathering, of so many Arabs and Jews, is probably not taking place right now anywhere else in the world.

The date was not random. It was Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Day. Ken Kramarz, executive director of Camp Tawonga and a dialogue participant for the past three years, recalled that fact. In 1941, he said, it was inconceivable to imagine peace between America and Japan. But it happened.

All the violence and death the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has wrought has embittered most of us. So much so, that we think a warm peace between Israelis and Palestinians is an impossibility.

On the one hand, we tend to take the idea of Jews and Arabs socializing in the Bay Area for granted, as if it's no big deal. But on the other hand, the sight of so many Arabs and Jews talking and laughing together provides a glimpse of what the future might look like. It is a glimpse of how things can be when we stop seeing the conflict as "us" and "them," and begin to see it as two peoples with two conflicting versions of history.

Sunday night was truly a glimpse of how it could be in ha-olam haba, in the world to come. The leaders may not be able to sit at the same table right now, but civilians apparently can. Perhaps, in time, more people will meet and their leaders will have no choice but to follow.


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