A Minute to Myself (185)
It Could Have Been Worse (One & Two)

Mideast Peace, Northern Virginia Style

A day after Obama made his Mideast speech in Cairo I went to dinner theatre at my daughter’s middle school. The lunch school tables were set up around the cafeteria with white table cloths on them for that special school dinner theatre feel. Since we got there early, my parents and I sat at an empty table. As the room started to fill up one woman and her two young children sat next to me. Then, when it was already quite full, another family joined the table; there was a husband, wife, two older sons and a grandmother with a kerchief tied around her head.

I’m not sure how they got onto this, but it turned out that the woman next to me is Iranian and the husband and his mother on the other side of the table are also Iranian. It seems that people have sensors about people from the old country or maybe they detect a slight vocal inflection, in any case, they immediately identified themselves as homies. The woman sitting next to me saw my daughter and asked if we were Iranian too. No, I said, she’s Israeli. Well, we’re all from the same part of the world, she commented. I didn’t tell her that on all sides of the little Israeli’s family we’re from Eastern or Central Europe because my family is originally (just go back a few centuries and then a few more centuries) from that part of the world.

After the first act the woman next to me and I were served our cheese tortellini because neither of us went for the meat lasagna; she commented on how Muslims and Jews both eschew pork and shellfish. Yes, we both commented again on the similarities and how we’re from the same part of the world.  Which made me think of Mideast peace and how it’s so easy to hate someone or deny someone or ignore someone or harm someone when she is never sitting down to share a child’s play and a meal on paper plates.

Obama and all the other politicians can say what they want about the Middle East, and even pieces of paper can be signed, but until there is sharing of lives around tables, there will never be peace. In conflict studies there is something called negative peace; that’s where the sides don’t fight, but they don’t exactly partake together. Surely the paper signing is a goal and one that seems so far into the future because, honestly, having yet another American president trying to bully everyone to do what he wants is not the path to peace. I remember one day in class (for my master’s in conflict studies) we were bandying around the idea for a project that would involve baking bread and sharing it, how that would bring Jewish and Arab women together for a real peace conference, not the men with their weapons and hot tempers.

Could a kind of shared meal be an indicator? Could all of the interreligious dialogue and work be an indicator? Could a student who is Palestinian and a teacher who is Israeli be an indicator? Could humanity be an indicator? Could the throwing of weight and desire for power and control be a negative indicator? Could an intense desire to protect one’s own above all others be a negative indicator? What will it take for the men who control the delivery of flour, at whatever level, to realize that breaking bread together might be the ultimate goal? What will it take for tears to overpower rage and fear? What will it take for people to realize that we all break, but we don’t have to?

Maybe we all need to go into the desert to wander for forty years to see what is really worthwhile in a life. Maybe the longer we are away from the desert the more we forget about what is essential, about how we need each other to survive, about how we each have different skills that are necessary for survival. Maybe we need to know that an oasis is communal, as are the sands and dust storms. 

And those on the same side who are not on the same side, need to make those same realizations too. A somewhat related metaphor applies: there are as many opinions as there are ways to cook, but there's only one way to eat. What's more important: getting sustenance or how it's flavored?



Poignant post, Laura; maybe we just need to look into each other's eyes and see the face of God.

Kellie Jo Holly

So sorry to post an off topic comment, but does your blog have an rss feed? I'd like to read it in google reader, and I see the google search, but I can't find a feed link (besides the one to let me follow this conversation).


Great post Laura. Love teh baking bread together ideea.


I've always thought that if only the mothers could sit and talk with one another, our children would never become soldiers. More connection is needed - of the humane, sane and loving kind.


Great Post!


I agree with Beth. If it depends on mother there would never be any war. I remember an old Sting's song at the time of the Cold War going something like "let's hope the Russians love teir children too"...Mothers and children sitting and eating together getting to know one another and abolishing all the hatred caused by ignorance and not knowing one another. All the best. Ciao. A.


Laura, if you teach the way you wrote that post, you must be an amazing teacher. Well written.

Laura of Rebellious Thoughts of a Woman

rockync, we need to get near each other enough to see each other's eyes. That's one of the key problems: absolute separation. People don't have the opportunity to change their preconceived notions.

Kelly Jo, I have readers who do subscribe. I'll check to see if I need to change anything on the site. Thanks so much for your interest.

Pseudo, we could back pita and challah together. One needs to be flattened, the other braided. I wonder what the sybolism of those breads would be? Pita is torn with the hands. And when the blessing is made on the challah, it, too, is torn with the hands.

Beth, I know that there's an organization of parents from both sides who speak out. If only it weren't just the victims whose voices were heard and who were speaking out, but the quiet voices of love and fear in bedrooms when mothers tuck in their sons and daughters.

Constance, thanks. If only this were science fiction and not the ral world.

Antonella, maybe the real cross-cultural dialogue is between men and women, not Iraelis and Palestinians.

Brigit, I think I'm a better writer than teacher, but I'm trying. My expectations for my students and frustrations in their lack of interest or caring in far too many of them causes my words to fall empty to the floor. But maybe, maybe, something is being absorbed in spite of them.


Breaking bread is the universal sign of welcome. How could people stay enemies after sitting down to a meal together and realizing they have common ground, common interests? Great post.


I thought this was going to get into the Iranians giving you some cheap shots and I'm so glad that it did not. It would have been all for nothing really and I'm so glad that you all had a good time. It really isn't that hard once all the rhetoric is put aside. I really do think peace at a grassroots level is more lasting than any treaty that a politician puts a signature on. Those are needed however but the way to get around negative peace is what just happened.

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