Slim Peace: Bringing Muslim and Jewish Women Together

After gaining a few pounds during the holidays, I became convinced that I had to either join a gym or look for an exercise group within my area. It was then that I came across an interesting article that did not only draw my attention, but also troubled me a little.

A few days ago the Boston Herald published Jill Radsken’s piece titled “Jewish, Muslim women work together to achieve Slim Peace.” The article discusses Yael Luttwak’s project:  Slim Peace. Luttwak, who has been interviewed for her film of the same title, came up with the idea to draw parallels between losing weight and reaching out to the “other” side in a setting of conflict. The Slim Peace project initially brought together a group of Jewish-Israeli and Muslim-Palestinian women to lose weight and promote understanding among women who apparently are irreconcilable and at opposites end of the conflict.

Yael Luttwak via Jewish Ledger

A similar article by Vered Guttman in Hareetz.com explains “Luttwak… noticed how both leaders [Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat] were, well, heavy. What if they jogged together, she thought, wouldn’t that put them in a better mood?”  Thus, Luttwa’s vision was to gather women, who she sees as less likely to fight and better in overcoming, to jog, diet and understand each other.

Slim Peace gained success and today it has spread to the U.S. where the project has opened a new chapter in Boston .  Whereas one of the only pieces that mentions Muslim institutional support (from an unnamed Bostonian imam) is Guttman’s, Slim Peace has even been welcomed by celebrities such as Oprah, who dedicated a piece last year in her website commenting: “The fact that these 14 Israeli and Palestinian women have shown up at a school in Jerusalem to support one another—in the everyday fight for slimmer bodies—is in some ways unthinkable.”

 

Slim Peace via Slimpeace.org

The articles mentioned above are quite puzzling in that they really do not comment on the project itself, but rather the “improbability” of the circumstances. Muslim and Jewish women are  basically depicted at opposite ends of the spectrum. The articles take a somewhat ambivalent political stand by recognizing the difficulties faced by citizens of Israel and Palestine but neglecting to speak of the conflict itself.

Placing Muslim and Jewish women in diametric opposition to each other is not only presumptuous but also inappropriate in an article that purports to discuss how these women came together to diet. It tells us that there is a problem, but it does not tell us what the sources of the problem are.  Besides, I was also left to wonder why these women would join this group as opposed to another interfaith initiative. Or why wouldn’t other women join? Is dieting what attracts them? Or is it truly the interfaith component?

The articles covering the opening of a new Slim Peace chapter in Boston perpetuate the “opposites-never-meeting” attitude towards Muslim-Jewish relationships, ignoring examples of Jewish-Muslim dialogue and interaction both historically and in the present. Many of us living in the West know that Muslims and Jewish constantly interact, befriend each other and unite in a variety of causes (for example here, here and here).

While the group and the project itself do not bother me, I felt that there were large gaps in the writers’ analysis and the overall treatment of such a project. It seemed all along that the writers kept saying “Look! This woman managed to get Muslim and Jewish women together!!! Isn’t that incredible?”

 

  • http://hudasnomadicadventure.blogspot.ca/ Huda

    It seems in this articles, there was a surprise element of why these women got together. The reader was supposed to think the idea of Muslim and Jewish women socializing, letting along working alongside each other by choice is strange and up-normal at least in the Middle East. Yes, for Jewish and Palestinian women living in the heart of Palestine/Israel conflict to get together and work out seems trivial for some, but it takes courage and recognizing each other’s humanity to do so.

    I agree with you thou, there are some gaps in the story, but we probably can get better answer by directly contacting the ladies who organized the first group.

    • Chris

      “but it takes courage and recognizing each other’s humanity to do so.”

      True, I did not see it that way when I read the stories.

  • Chris

    Interesting to read your thoughts. My unrest with these articles was less related to the sensationalism (“look! Jewish and Muslim women – together! Not fighting!”), but to very troubling other aspects. So… a slim body, while something healthy, also something shallow, is presented as an ideal. This thought, women concerned with their beauty more than politics, is not innovative, but very, very old school. I’d rather have women involved in politics, even if this comes at the cost of some cohesion between women of different ethnicities and religions, than women concerned with their looks, and that “united”.

    Also, the “heavy” leaders, removing it from the women focus, gave me chills in a negative way. Even not considering to take sides (Arafat, even for many people the world over not sharing his cause, is the symbol of a man that submitted his life to the survival of his people, and if we consider recent speculation, he may in the end not only have sacrificed his well-being, but also his life altogether), the “you men in politics, if you were less occupied with political rights and wrongs, and just honed your bodies a little (which, frankly, you could use!), you’d get on way better” vibe is incredibly shallow and unbelievable to me.


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