Destroying the stigma

A group of Jewish and Muslim women are tearing down walls while cooking up a storm.

Jews and non-Jews are still not comfortable about living with each other in this country. There are Israelis of all hues who say that it's about time we change our ways. Women, while urged to maintain the traditions of their ancestors, nevertheless want to teach their children to live in peace and respect for all humankind. If women don't do it, who will? Lori Bacher from Ra'anana stumbled upon an opportunity that landed at her door. Three years ago, a Muslim father walked into her English learning center and asked if four girls from nearby Taiba can come to learn English. Her first reaction was welcoming and her second thought was 'how would it affect the atmosphere of the center?' She embraced the opportunity and now over 20 students from Taiba and Tira study English together with their Jewish peers. Bacher realized that if their mothers found it important to enhance their children's education, then why not bond them with Jewish women? In January this year, a women's group was formed with Muslim women from Taiba and Tira, and Jewish women from Kfar Saba, Ra'anana, Herzliya and Tel-Aviv. The goal is to find ways to bring them together as equals - they pondered -so why not through their cooking? In order to break the stigmas that Muslims and Jews hold for each other, they decided to write a cookbook together. That way, the women would feel a sense of self-worth - they all have some tasty dish to contribute to the cookbook. They are currently working on the cookbook, which will feature recipes in Hebrew, Arabic and English on the same page, not in separate sections. To begin the mission, the ladies want to reach out to as many women as possible. Saphia Massarweh from Taiba invites Muslim, Christian and Jewish women to unite at the Atid community center (matnas) in Taiba at 2 p.m. today, Friday May 18. Participants are asked to bring a towel and comfortable exercise clothes to work out in and meditate together, before refreshments and socializing. Massarweh is changing Muslim women's perception of themselves through Pilates and as an exercise instructor. She is determined to make a difference. "We are women and women should respect each other. If G-d created women as equals, then why do we sometimes treat each other differently?" she asks. "If we feel good about who we are, then we can teach our children self-worth, honesty, trust and pride in who they are." For further details, contact: 054-6866102