De Anza College students discussed how to learn about dissolving barriers at the first meeting for Muslim-Jews dialogue on April 24.
At an event sponsored by
De Anza College’s Office of Equity, Social Justice and Multicultural Education, a dozen students and two mediators shared their personal experiences and views.
Initial concerns of being misunderstood or judged melted away during the course of the event, especially after one participant told how her children taught her a lesson of tolerance.
“My two boys, 5 and 7 years old, met their Jewish counterparts at a Los Gatos elementary school,” Mona Hadi, 29, nursing major, said to the audience.
“They discovered their similarities and love for each other and played nicely.”
She said seeing her kids playing convinced Hadi to rethink her former hostility towards Jews.
Other participants added to her statement, saying Jews and Muslims used to live in peace for centuries.
“I thought, why do we have to hate each other?” Hadi said, adding she would like more Muslims-Jewish events to establish personal connections through food and cultural celebrations.
Many participants said no hostility between Jews and Muslims exists until politics is discussed.
The conversation turned to Israeli-Palestinian conflicts, but participants said they would like to start a dialogue to learn more from each other.
For the event organizers, this meeting was a first attempt to begin a conversation on Muslim-Jewish relations at De Anza.
“We help students of different religions overcome barriers,” said Madina Jahed, 20, a biology major and an intern at De Anza’s equity office.
“It is very important to have a dialogue to break barriers between Muslims and Jews, as well as between Israelis and Palestinians, to come together as communities,” Jahed said.
“The idea came forward from students and some faculty who are interested in starting a dialogue between Muslims and Jews,” said Veronica Neal, director of the equity office.
“We at the office try to create through community conversation a safe space for open and honest dialogue, helping with outreach, publicity and setting up ground rules,” she said.
Through these means we provide the structure and facilitate the process. It is still a process that will continue.”
Neal said since taking her position February 2012, she has been organizing intercultural conversations at De Anza once or twice a month.
“While our dialogues are at an interpersonal level, our hope is that through people humanizing people and making connections, we will understand each other’s side better and will do something different in our actions,” she said.