About a dozen women students, including a handful of Muslims and Jews, are living together at Rutgers University as they work toward ideals that have seemed out of reach for years in the Middle East: peace and understanding.
Rutgers was to hold a dedication ceremony this week for its new Middle East Coexistence House, a section of a residence hall where students of different backgrounds have been living since early last month.
The 11 women - five Jews, three Muslims, one Hindu, one Christian and an agnostic - are pursuing studies such as political science, Middle Eastern studies and English literature.
Besides living together, they gather once a week in the residence hall for a conflict resolution class that covers the history, culture and current events of the Middle East.
The house was the idea of Danielle Josephs, a senior political science and Middle Eastern studies major, who now lives in the dorm. Josephs is a former president of Rutgers Hillel, who has an Israeli father and a Jewish-American mother. She proposed a conflict-resolution living area to a school dean two years ago.
Josephs said in a Rutgers article about the residence area that she wanted to help curb "the virulent hostility that I witnessed on campus between Jews and Muslims."
Students living in the dorm say they are not holding back on controversial topics such as religion, the war in Iraq and the recent Israel-Lebanon conflict, and communication is reportedly respectful.
"Everyone is really battling to understand each other. Here, we have a chance to step out of the anger mode," said Nadia Sheikh, a sophomore political science and Middle Eastern studies major, who is Muslim.