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Cooking Up A Dialogue: Israeli and Arab Cooking Tour Comes to Western Mass.

By Stacey Dresner

SPRINGFIELD/NORTHAMPTON — This month, four Israeli women will arrive in Western Mass. to share the flavors of their heritage and homes back in in Israel.

The women – Israeli Jews Emma Gal and Galia Margolin and Israeli Arabs Miriam Zoabi and Yomna Zoabi – are a part of a group called “Cooking Up a Dialogue.”

Israeli Jews and Arabs “Cooking Up a Dialogue” in Afula-Gilboa.

When they arrive in Western Mass., they will share their personal stories, heritage and background while talking about how both groups live together in the Afula-Gilboa region – Southern New England’s sister city in Israel.

“Cooking Up A Dialogue” will take place on Tuesday, March 21 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Congregation B’nai Israel in Northampton. On Wednesday, March 22, the program will take place at 11 a.m. at Glenmeadow Retirement Community in Longmeadow and at 7 p.m. at the Springfield JCC.

The general public is invited to attend, join in the conversation and taste Middle Eastern cuisine prepared during the program, presented by the Anna P. Housen Israel Desk of the Jewish Federation of Western Mass., along with Partnership2Gether and the Southern New England Consortium. The program is supported by the Springfield JCC, Glenmeadow, Northampton/Amherst Hadassah Chapter, Congregation B’nai Israel, and Lander-Grinspoon Academy.

“Cooking Up a Dialogue” came out of “Marching Together to a Shared Future,” an Israeli social movement of Jews, Arabs, and all ethnic groups who wish to live together in Israel in mutual respect and equality, founded in 2014.

“We are a civil, social, volunteer, non-party-affiliated movement, whose goal is to build and promote Arabs and Jews living together in the State of Israel. Our main activities are… to meet and connect with one another, in various long-term activities with mutual respect of conversations, being attentive, and joint projects,” says the group’s mission statement.

Members of “Cooking up a Dialogue” have become good friends.

After Marching Together was formed, women in Afula-Gilboa – both Jews, Arabs, Muslims and Christians – began to meet informally to get to know each other and Cooking Up a Dialogue was born.

Ronda Jackowitz, director of the Anna P. Housen Israel Desk, called the program “a living bridge between the two communities.”

“These Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs learned about each other through Marching Together and they organized a program where they cooked together in their homes once a month,” she explained. “By doing that, they started a dialogue and became best friends.”

Today, the group has grown to 30 women who come together once every three weeks to talk, laugh, share their daily life and of course, to eat. Each woman brings a dish and the hostess teaches how to make one of her traditional dishes.

Members who will be visiting Western Mass. are:

Yomna Zoabi, 45, who was born and raised in Nazareth, but now lives in Gilboa with her family – husband Mohammad and four sons. She works at an accounting firm and volunteers for the Israeli Police’s highway patrol.

Emma Gal, 64, who was born and raised in Afula. She is the mother of four and grandmother of 7. She worked for Tnuva, Israel’s largest dairy company for 35 years. She was a part of the “Olive Tree” initiative, bringing together Arab and Jewish painters.

Miriam Zoabi, 32, who lives in Na’ura Village in Gilboa with husband Hassan and five children – including two sets of twins. She is an expert baker, and this will be her first trip abroad.

Galia Margolin, 60, who lives in Afula, is married and the mother of two sons. She works at the insurance firm of her father, 91, who was the first baby born in Afula.

Jackowitz said that what these women are striving for is shared existence and mutual respect.

“It is encouraging to see Israeli and Arab women thriving together in Israel when what we are normally bombarded with is images of strife and terror.”

“Cooking Up A Dialogue” is free but registration is required by March 18. To register contact Ronda Jackowitz at (413) 739-4313, ext. 261 or rjackowitz@jewishwesternmass.org.


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