Saturday, December 18, 2010

Palestinians Reject BDS. (So, where's this "civil society" we keep hearing about?)

More and more, we are hearing stories about Palestinians rejecting Boycotts, divestment and sanctions in favor of closer economic, cultural and social ties:

"I doubt you would find a company who says, 'I am closed for business'" to Israelis, said Ala Alaeddin, chairman of the Palestinian Information Technology Association.

Israel's high-tech industry is among the country's crowning achievements. Israel has the most start-ups per capita in the world and has helped produce such game-changing innovations as instant messaging and Internet telephony. Many Israeli tech firms send work offshore to eastern Europe, India or China.

In the past three years, however, some have turned to Palestinian engineers and programmers. They are cheaper, ambitious, work in the same time zone, and -- surprisingly to many Israelis -- are remarkably similar to them.

"The cultural gap is much smaller than we would think," said Gai Anbar, chief executive of Comply, an Israeli startup in this central Israeli
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Coexistence extends beyond the high tech environment, and into the kitchen, as well.

Four chefs on a multiethnic Israeli team called Taste of Peace garnered three gold medals and a diploma of honor at the international Villeroy & Boch 2010 Culinary World Cup competition in Luxembourg, that took place November 20 to 24.

"I think these guys are the best ambassadors for peace," says Sarkis Yacoubian of his teammates, who are all close friends. "We are trying to go forward with it and hope we can do more activities together to show that in the kitchen there is no nationality or religion; we're just human beings who can talk with each other through the dishes we make."

"Working in the kitchen with sharp instruments doesn't mean we have to kill each other," says one of a team of multiethnic chefs who brought culinary glory to Israel.

"The idea is to show peace through the dishes we do," says Yacoubian, an Armenian chef instructor from Jaffa who founded Taste of Peace with Arab Christian Johnny Goric, executive chef at the Intercontinental Resort in Jericho.

The team is rounded out by Charlie Fadida, the Jewish executive chef at the Sheraton in Tel Aviv, and his sous chef, Muslim Arab Imad Shourbaji. Four culinary students and an instructor from the restaurant at the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center came along for the event, considered the Olympics of cooking.

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