The Kosher Peace Plan

Doubles partners Aisam Ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan and Israel's Amir Hadad of Israel at U.S. Open August 31, 2002
Are you getting tired of all the Sept. 11 commemorative pieces? Let's take a time-out from thinking about the past, and look to the future.

Obviously, our hope is that there be no future days like Sept. 11, which we'll have to commemorate. But we won't feel safe as long as there is so much hate in the world. We have to work on getting rid of fanaticism, racism, and us versus them-ism. That's not an easy job. But to start to bring this about, I think we all should look to the two areas of our lives that so often provide solutions to our most complex problems: sports and food.

We've all seen the corny movies about bigoted teammates who end up loving each other. Then they stop hating the teammate's brothers and sisters, and a little more tolerance sneaks into the world. This happens in real life, too.

Pakistan's Aisam Ul-Haq Qureshi and Israel's Amir Hadad are tennis doubles partners. They played together at Wimbledon and at the recent U.S. Open. They are a Muslim and a Jew, working and playing together as they could not in their own homelands.

Qureshi and Hadad say they just want to play tennis. They aren't trying to change the world. But they are changing it. A little more tolerance has snuck into the world once again. If just a fraction of the millions of people who watch tennis start thinking that maybe they should be open to accepting people who are different from themselves, these young men will have accomplished far more than they ever could on the tennis court.

I'm not suggesting that Sharon and Arafat hook up as doubles partners, although I'd definitely pay to see them play. What I am saying is that the Qureshi-Hadad team is a good role model for all of us. Instead of looking for ways to separate people, this should be a time for bringing people together.

For years, Cal Tech has been known for solving difficult problems. So, when observant Jews were reluctant to attend the school because there was no kosher food nearby, Cal Tech built a special kosher kitchen and cafeteria. It not only became a big success with Jewish students, but it attracted another group as well: Muslim students.

Since the kosher meals adhered to the Muslims' dietary requirements, they began to eat at the new cafeteria as well. Soon, the kitchen provided specific kosher meals for the Jewish students and halal dishes for Muslim students. Like the tennis players, people who would not normally associate with each other were now eating lunch together.

Soon, Jewish and Muslim workers from nearby office buildings began to stop by the cafeteria. Now Cal Tech also provides kosher and halal meals for the nearby Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Because of the success of the Cal Tech cafeteria, USC and UCLA will soon establish kosher and halal programs on their campuses. Maybe campuses all over the country will follow suit.

I don't really think terrorists would stop throwing bombs if we just built more cafeterias. But applauding people for spending time playing and eating with each other is not as naïve as it sounds.

Maybe a few kids who watch and play tennis will be moved by Qureshi and Hadad's experience. Maybe the families and friends of the tennis players will start to have a different attitude towards people who have been their enemies for generations. Maybe some college students will be open to making friends with that Muslim or Jew who happens to be sitting next to them in the cafeteria.

Actually, it seems unavoidable to me. Even if they are not thrilled by the idea at first, some of these people will surprise themselves by changing their minds about the people they eat with. Think I'm being naive or giving too much power to the idea of eating together? I don't think so. After all, about 40 years ago because of some lunch counters in the South, a little bit of tolerance snuck into the world. And that's a start.

Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.

By Lloyd Garver