Teaching women how to eat wisely and lose weight responsibly is only one goal of a new nutrition group started by the Hadassah Medical Center; the other aim is to bring together Israeli and Arab women, religious and secular, in a comfortable environment where they can get to know one another as they work toward the universally human goal of living a healthier life.

The Jerusalem-based group entitled “Slim Peace” is jointly led by Dr. Dorit Adler, head of the Nutrition Department at Hadassah, and Palestinian Dietician Suha Khoury. Meeting once weekly for 10 sessions with the women, Ms. Khoury comments: “This kind of initiative has not happened before not due to lack of willingness, but more because of lack of opportunity.” She adds: “Diversity broadens horizons and now we have the chance to meet each other in a safe environment and on equal terms. That means the end result is a group coming together just like any other.” Although the core issues raised by the diverse participants are similar, Khoury points out that they have no choice but to address some of the cultural differences. For example, they talk about eating habits for each of the various religious festivals.

Miri, a Haredi (fervently religious Jew) in the group, notes that “at first being in a group with women so different from me was worrying.” Having grown up in a Haredi community, she had never even met secular Jews before this, let alone Arab women. But, she says, “At the end of the day, we are all women and we all want to eat correctly, slim down, and be happy and healthy.”

Slim Peace is the brainchild of American-Israeli Filmmaker Yael Luttwak, a television producer who had been working on a Peres Center for Peace-funded talk show aimed at Palestinian and Israeli teens when the conflict in the region reignited on a large scale. “We had been able to do some far-reaching programs and I was traveling to Ramallah every week at that time,” recalls Luttwak, who studied at the London Film School and has assisted renowned British Director Mike Leigh. “Even the biggest cynics believed there was a possibility for real peace, but then it all exploded.” Luttwak explains that she was passionate about making a film concerning people who live so close to each other and yet do not talk to one another. The United Kingdom’s Charities Advisory Trust was so inspired by her concept that it not only funded the final stages of the filmmaking process, but also offered her seed money to set up further Slim Peace groups in Israel as a model for conflict resolution.

Since its debut at last spring’s Tribeca Film Festival in the United States, A Slim Peace (www.aslimpeace.com) has been shown in numerous other film festivals.

(Information above excerpted from January 23, 2008 The Jerusalem Post article by Ruth Eglash.)