Refusing To Be Enemies
Personal connections promote understanding and support
across the Arab-Israeli divide.
and Jewish women in the Ann Arbor
area to inquire about membership.
Though their group is closed, Zeitouna
is hoping to help other groups form.
s 12 women arrive at a com-
fortable Ann Arbor home,
arms swing open to embrace
Hard Work And Chemistry
and hug one another. The
Their process is not always easy.
buzz of conversation and laughter fills
"We are starting to get to a place where
the air. Some gather in the kitchen to
people share deep emotions," says Laurie
whip cream and scoop gifts of food into
White, 48, an Ann Arbor
bowls for the beautiful table already
Reconstructionist Havurah member.
topped with platters of spinach pies,
"There is anger, impatience, tears and
baba ghanoush, salads, fruit and cakes.
laughter. And we really try to be respectful
It would seem a usual gathering, yet
of each other and make this a safe space.
this group is composed of six Arab and
We are careful in building our process."
six Jewish women from Ann Arbor and
Wadad Abed, 54, of Ann Arbor, a
Ypsilanti. All are American citizens.
Christian Palestinian, says, "Sometimes,
They are a dialogue group and, over the
we have to remind each other, with a
past year, have found ways to discuss
nudge or a look, to listen. But it's impor-
The women of Zeitouna from top left to right: Randa Nasir Ajlouny of
the Middle East, including their own
tant that we hear each other, even if we
Ann Arbor, Benita Kaimowitz of Ann Arbor, Laurie White of Ann Arbor,
personal stories and the politics of
don't agree with what someone's saying."
Manya Arond-Thomas of Ypsilanti, Lenore Gerstein of Ann Arbor and
They may have expressed sadness over
Wadad Abed of Ann Arbor. Second row: Rabia Shafie and Huda Karaman-
Unlike the American Arab and Jewish
another suicide bombing or a breach of
Rosen, bothof Ann Arbor. Sitting: Johanna Epstein and Irene Butterboth of
Friends in metropolitan Detroit, which
Ann Arbor. Not shown are Sakina Zerrel of Ann Arbor and Carol Hadad of peace during "check in" before their meet-
is a social and education group whose
ings begin, says member Irene Butter, 72,
members avoid political debate, these
of Ann Arbor, a Temple Beth Emeth mem-
women have set up ground rules to
ber. But once their meeting begins, they
allow them to tackle tough topics like Israel's
Early on, when once a month didn't yield the
have an agenda and refuse to be derailed, she says.
defensive actions in the West Bank, anti-Semitism
headway they wanted, they started meeting every
Their ages range from 29-72. Members include a
and Israel's right to exist.
Holocaust survivor whose daughter and her family
At last week's meeting, they practiced dialoguing
They named their group Zeitouna, Arabic for
live in Israel and four Palestinian immigrants from
and listening skills in preparation for upcoming
olive — both the fruit and the tree. And the group
the West Bank and Haifa. Another is an Arab
discussions on such charged topics as a "right of
is a collaborative effort — a peace offering they
Algerian raised in France; one is a Jew raised in a
return" for Palestinians to Israel, a Jewish and
hope will spread beyond its immediate member-
Zionist family. Two of the Jewish women have chil-
Palestinian state side by side and suicide bomb-
ship. Word of mouth and their group presence at
dren living in Israel.
local peace demonstrations prompted other Arab
REFUSING To BE ENEMIES on page 50