MISSION STATEMENT Through Dialogue, to embody, model and promote the peaceful, just andsustainable coexistence of the Arab and Jewish peoples through connection, trust, empathy and action.


WADAD ABED  Palestinian, immigrated to the US in 1968, active in efforts that focus on crossing divides and building bridges, community organizer, co-founder of Bustan-Al-Funun Fund to support Arab Arts in America,IMG_7445.jpg past president of ACCESS board of directors, provider of strategic business and marketing support.  “It is only through Zeitouna that I am now able to hear the voice of the ‘other’—her pain and her joy, realizing that it mirrors my own. Zeitouna has profoundly transformed me. I am now more than ever committed to becoming one.”


RANDA NASIR AJLOUNY  Born in Jerusalem and forced into exile in Amman, Jordan, by the Israeli occupation (my father  was deported because he was the President of Birzeit University), graduated from Earlham College in theater arts, lived and worked in theater in Palestine, living in Ann Arbor     since 1999 with husband and two daughters, Nadia and Zeina. " IMG_7081.jpgMy involvement with Zeitouna made me realize the need to use a different approach such as Dialogue to establish a rapport between Palestinian and Jewish communities, with the hope that this model will one day be used as a means for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.”



DIANE BLUMSON  Born in Brooklyn, NY, raised in a moderately observant, Zionist Jewish family. Lived in Israel  for a year studying at the Machon L'Madrichim  Chutz L'Eretz before becoming the programming director of Young Judea in Miami, FL. Happily married to Sarr, and proud mom of Andy and Michael. Love my work as a clinical social worker, educator and volunteer, all of which allowIMG_7037.jpg me to be involved in social justice pursuits. “My relationships with the women of Zeitouna affirm my belief that when we are willing to build and grow relationships, even under the most trying circumstances, we have opportunity to break down the barriers that allow us to demonize those we consider “the other.” The deep caring and respect resulting from that effort continues to be one of the most profound experiences in my life.”                                                                                                                                                  


IRENE BUTTER  Professor Emerita, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, social change and peace  worker, aspiring Buddhist, co-founder of University of Michigan Raoul Wallenberg Lecture     Series, child survivor of the Holocaust, wife of Charles Butter, mother of Ella and Noah Butter, IMG_7432.jpg blessed with three precious grandchildren, Amelie, Shireen and Jonah. “Zeitouna has opened my heart to those who scare me, has helped me appreciate their suffering and recognize their innate goodness. Through compassionate listening we have transcended cultural and other barriers to celebrate life, each other’s humanity and true friendship.”


MAHA FREIJ  Deputy Executive Director and CFO of ACCESS, the largest Arab American human services organization in the United States, the first Palestinian woman to earn her CPA license in Israel,  lives with husband Roy outside of Ann Arbor, and is a proud mother to Laith and Omar. “I am a great believer in standing for and not against something. Zeitouna gives me that opportunity: the group provides an IMG_7074.jpgatmosphere to listen and learn from each other, to make friends, and to concentrate on the human aspect of dealing with any conflict. It is a great honor  to be a part of this group that has created unbreakable friendships by using dialogue as a mechanism for change.”                                                                                                           


LEONORE GERSTEIN  Born in Massachusetts to parents committed to social justice. I lived with them and my sisters in Kibbutz Ein Hashofet, 1950-1955, continuing my education in Israel at Hebrew IMG_7072.jpgUniversity and later in the United States. I have Masters degrees in Speech and Language Pathology and in English Literature and love studying poetry with older adults. “As time passes, I continue to cherish my bond with all the women of Zeitouna. Our individual experiences and opinions remain divergent. But now I feel the freedom that comes from my growing empathy and tolerance, even toward views that ten years ago felt threatening.”     


BENITA KAIMOWITZ  Secular Jew raised in Mississippi and Tennessee. Retired after many years with IMG_7026.jpgBorders Books and as a high school and ESL teacher. Active in Civil Rights, youth rights, Central American human rights and local forward looking efforts. Now she is inspired by her children and grandchildren whose progressive values guide their lives. “For years I felt Israel was betraying my youthful Zionist enthusiasm but I shut it out and concerned myself with other social justice issues. Finally though, with Zeitouna I feel safe saying what I feel and listening for what I need to learn. We’re all profoundly sick of fear, anger, hurt and slinging our own version of history at each other. We’re convinced there must be a better way and we're trying to find it together.”


HUDA KARAMAN ROSEN Palestinian, living in America since 1962, advocate for social justice and IMG_7410.jpgpeace efforts, retired  from health care and education fields, co-founder of Bustan-al-Funun: Foundation of Arab Arts in America, enjoy travel, reading, gardening, and the cultural arts. “Zeitouna, to me, is an important step on an arduous journey to peacemaking and respecting the other.”                                                                                                                                         

  GRACE HELEWA STEVIC I am a Palestinian American whose family had to exit Haifa in 1948. We lived in Lebanon until the Civil War again forced a departure for me and my family. In 1978, I immigrated to theIMG_7304.jpg United States to continue my education. During that time I met my husband, Tom. We have been married thirty two years and have two sons. My love of languages has led me to a career in translation. “Without 'preconditions', and through compassionate listening, Zeitouna helps me achieve inner peace which I hope can propel me to work towards peace between our people.” 

AMIRA TAL  I was born in Givatayim, Israel. When I was 18 I joined the Israeli army for two years and     IMG_7291.jpgserved on a tank platoon in the Golan Heights. In 1983, I graduated from Tel Aviv University with a degree in Physical Therapy. That same year I moved to the U.S.A. And began work in my field.. In 2012, I graduated from EIM with a Doctorate in Physical Therapy. I am the owner of Healing Hands Therapy in Ann Arbor. I am married and have three wonderful children. “Zeitouna allowed me to see the Palestinian women as they are and not as I was taught growing up in Israel. Instead of coming from a place of fear, stereotypes and judgment, I am now able to listen from a place of love, understanding and compassion. Growing up in Israel, I always perceived the Palestinians to be very different. They are not! Being part of this amazing women's group made it clear to me that if we want a change to take place, we need more women's energy put into resolving this conflict.”


LAURIE WHITE  Filmmaker, social justice and peace activist, community organizer, psychotherapist, mediator yoga practitioner, granddaughter of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, singer-songIMG_7419.jpg writer, step-mother and grandmother. I am the producer/director of a documentary about the group, Refusing To Be Enemies – The Zeitouna Story. “Zeitouna restored my faith in the power of the group —especially a group of women—to make a difference in the world. It certainly has made a difference in my world.”                                        

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