Hoping for Peace Together

Published: July 13th 2010
in News » Local

The "sisters" of Together in Hope
Pic: Karen Mock

It is evident from a conversation with the three principle members of Jewish-Arab women’s dialogue group Together in Hope that they have not only developed a profound understanding of each other but have also formed close friendships.


Genuine warmth is apparent as the three women – Jews Barbara Landau and Karen Mock, and Hind Kabawat, a Syrian – banter back and forth about their hopes and desires for mutual understanding and peace between Jews and Arabs, in Canada and all over the world.


The impetus for group began a few years back during a conversation about how important it would be to get a “group of dynamic women together to stand up for issues that we really believe in that on the surface don’t seem to be popular within our own communities.”


Kabawat, Mock and Landau had previously worked together on a planning committee in 2008. Together in Hope began slightly over a year ago.


“How do we now work together to do what we can to impact the situation ‘over there’ and to strengthen the relationship between Canadian Arabs/Palestinians and Jews, and that is when the group called Together in Hope was formed,” said Karen Mock, a well known human rights expert, former national director of the B’nai Brith League for Human Rights and currently the federal Liberal candidate for the riding of Thornhill.


Kabawat, an attorney who works in Toronto and teaches conflict resolution in Damascus, Syria (Jews, Christians and Muslims are all invited), grew up in Damascus in the old city. She has fond childhood memories of Jews as her neighbours and schoolmates.


“When I came to Toronto, I was asking the question, ‘How come Jews and Arabs don’t really get together?’ Yes, I know there is a conflict, (but) Toronto is a multicultural city,” she said.  “We started asking, ‘Instead of bringing the conflict here, why don’t we set an example to the world that we can solve our problems or conflicts in a non-violent way.’ We don’t have a hidden agenda. We just really want to make the world better.”


They meet regularly – about once a month – at each other’s houses for dinner and a topical discussion. They also attend events together and are in constant contact through email. Interestingly, the five Jewish and five Arab women who currently comprise the group refer to themselves as sisters – as in “my Arab sisters” or “my Jewish sisters” – in order not to denigrate each other by using heated terms like the “your side.”


While, according to Mock, the elephant in the room for any Jewish-Arab dialogue group will always be “Israel-Palestine” – she said Together in Hope exists specifically because of the conflict – their discussions focus on a myriad of topics. Past discussions have centred on what is Zionism, what is a Jew, what is an Arab, what is Israel, as well as historical perspectives.


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