Friday, June 09, 2006

"Meet Your Cousins" -- an idea whose time has come

Karim Elsahy at One Arab World proposes a dialogue between Jews and Muslims starting with an exchange of bloggers.

I believe that one of, not Egypt’s, but Egyptians worst setbacks is a phenomenal increase in intolerance. I am fairly young but I am certainly old enough to see that phenomena grow. Christians, the white man in general, Shia/Sunni, gulf Arabs,…..ect. and of course… The Jew.

He makes the excellent point that the vast majority of Egyptians have never actually met a Jew.
Step One, “Meet your Cousin”: Fly some Jews in from around the world (maybe five or six), hold a two day conference at a university, pack the hall with a bunch of curious Egyptian students, have the guests tell everyone about their lives, what they do, their political inclinations, their families, their beliefs, and so on, Q&A then refreshments.

I just got off the phone with a good friend of mine that was on my Thesis Committee (A 75 Year Urban City Plan for Jerusalem). He is the
Rabbi of the third oldest congregation in America. He liked the idea a lot and is not only willing to help but thinking of coming himself. If anyone else would like to come or help shoot me an email.

Step Two, “The Pioneer Program”: Following in the footsteps of
a very courageous idea, we are going to begin funding the temporary swap of Arab and Israeli bloggers… Let me explain. Rabbi Belzer is the founder and vp of an organization in Ireland that brings Palestinians and Israelis together to develop understanding… a beautiful objective.

This is like that on steroids. We are going to send Arab bloggers to Israel and Israeli bloggers to Arab countries to blog. When you do that you don’t just send the blogger ; you send his or her entire readership. Same amount of money, much bigger impact. I think we can fund a trip a month once we get started.

This is fairly dull stuff for most Americans, but for most of the world the idea of actually meeting and interacting with someone of another culture is not only threatening but downright offensive. Well, come to think of it, I have met a good many Americans with the same mindset, but at least the notion of friendship exchanges between cultures is not without precedent.

I don’t know what is the best way to support him in this project, but perhaps my small handful of readers can help by passing the word. This is one of those simple, easy to grasp, totally positive ideas that makes one wonder why it hasn’t been done before.

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