Wendy Kalman
There are many ways to see and understand

Seeking ways to work together

Amal Elsana-Alh’jooj leads an identity workshop with ICAN fellows at McGill University in Montreal, 2018. (Courtesy)

Hidden amid the headlines full of political belligerence I found a few that wanted to buck that trend. The first, Seeking ties, Arab-majority party launches Yiddish, Amharic, Russian campaigns, speaks to how the Joint List is trying to appeal to other marginalized communities within Israel ahead of the country’s next elections. I like the boldness and the desire to support one another instead of push aside or inflame (although I am not so naïve as to not see what is happening here. With a little over two weeks until elections and Blue-and-White insisting they won’t sit with Joint List, I assume that this campaign is Joint List leader Ayman Odeh’s attempt to siphon off votes and achieve more than 13 seats, so that Blue-and-White will have to choose between his party and Avigdor Liberman’s Israel Beitenu.)

Still, it is nice to see a group try to reach outside of its own demographic.

Similarly, when I read this in-depth and wonderful article about Amal Elsana-Alh’jooj, a Bedouin woman from Israel with a PhD now living in Canada and heading the International Community Action Network (ICAN) at McGill University in Montreal, I saw the same sense of outreach, and with an obvious sense of sincerity. Not only is Elsana-Alh’jooj‘s personal story interesting, but so is “her commitment to the country’s Bedouin cause and her advocacy for Arab minority rights and greater Arab-Jewish cooperation.” ICAN itself is special speaks to that cooperation, “It brings together Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians and Syrians to study at McGill’s School of Social Work, which is followed by a year back home in their respective communities working in the field with at-risk populations. Currently, one project involves Jewish and Arab Israelis in the mixed city of Lod collaborating to improve life for both communities.”

Finding ways to work together is so much better than seeking ways to drive people apart.

One last interesting act of cooperation took place in Alexandria this week when 180 Jews of Egyptian origin flew to Egypt to celebrate Shabbat at its newly restored 14th century synagogue. The Eliyahu Hanavi synagogue was once the largest in the Arab world; the country has also pledged to restore its oldest synagogue, from the 9th century, as has the US Embassy in Cairo and Drop of Milk, an organization which works to preserve Jewish heritage in Egypt headed in part by an Egyptian Jew, Sammy Ari, whose Palestinian wife Marwa is also a member. She views herself as a “cultural commando.”

How about peace commandos? Would a world full of them be nice? This week offered us three disparate stories offering us a glimpse of what intertwined cooperation could look like someday: Fair treatment, mutual respect, and hope. Who else wants a future like that?

Visitors gather outside the newly renovated Eliyahu Hanavi synagogue in Alexandra, Egypt, February 14, 2020. (Courtesy)
About the Author
Born in Brooklyn and raised on Lawn Guyland, Wendy lived in Jerusalem for over a decade submerged in Israeli culture; she has been soaked in Southern life in metro Atlanta since returning to the U.S. in 2003. Recently remarried, this Ashkenazi mom and MIL to three Mizrahi sons and a DIL in their 20s splits her time between managing knowledge in corporate America, pursuing a dual masters in public administration and integrated global communications, relentlessly Facebooking, enjoying the arts and trying to bring a wider perspective to the topics she covers while blogging.
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