Nadim Zarour, Arab-Jewish dialogue pioneer, dies at 49

When the 8-year-old Jewish Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group has its 100th meeting soon, one of its most dedicated members will be absent.

Nadim Zarour of San Francisco died on Sept. 10 of a heart attack, while representing the Palestinian American Congress in a panel discussion about the future of Jerusalem. He was 49.

Len Traubman, one of the founders of the dialogue, said Zarour "was just like a brother to me."

Traubman recalled how it all began. His wife, Libby, invited a Palestinian couple who owned a deli in their neighborhood to their home. The couple said they would come, but they never did.

Libby was persistent, however, and kept asking. Finally one day, Traubman recalled, "Three beautiful couples walked in the door, and one of them was Nadim and Henriette Zarour."

Since that night, the Zarours remained an integral part of the group, Traubman said.

Born in Amman, Jordan, Zarour came to the United States when he was 14. He received a bachelor's degree in chemistry from San Jose State University.

He served on the San Francisco Human Rights Commission from 1976 to 1981. He also ran an AIDS ambulance, a downtown market and most recently, his own real estate and insurance business.

In addition, Zarour served as president of the West Coast branch of the Palestinian American Congress.

"He really was ahead of his time," Traubman said, noting that he was one of the pioneers in establishing relationships with Jews.

"He knew deep inside what Abraham knew, that people are interdependent and that we need each other," said Traubman. "He lived his life that way and he knew that this process of building relationships was required for a real peace process to go to completion and be authentic."

Zarour is survived by his wife, Henriette; four children, John, Samer and Sawson Zarour, all of San Francisco, and Alice Katwan of Mountain View; a grandson, Sammy Katwan, Jr.; brothers Jack Zarour of San Jose and Fred Zarour of San Francisco; and sister Jaklien Karkar of Los Angeles.

Headshot of Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."