Home › Forums › PCDN Interviews with Key Practitioners and Scholars › PCDN Interview: Dr. Moustafa Soliman and the food truck for peace
July 15, 2016 at 2:32 pm #112581
Kosher and Halal Food Truck Hopes to Foster Peace and Bridge Differences
By Angel Avila
As part of PCDN’s interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Moustafa Soliman. For more on our interview series, please visit http://www.internationalpeaceandconflict.org/forum/categories/pcdn-…
Dr. Moustafa Soliman grew up in Egypt when the culture was much different than it is today. Dr. Soliman remembers Jews, Christians, and Muslims eating, socializing and working together and no one discussed the differences between them, they focused on the commonalities. When he arrived in the US to study, he was overwhelmed by seeing the strong debates over land by Arabs and Jews in Israel and Palestine. What disturbed him more was that the news presented the issue as an endemic hatred between Arabs and Jews, when that is not the case. The animosity is only decades old and Dr. Soliman remembers the time when there was cooperation and peacefulness.
Seeing this disparity inspired him to start writing the historical fiction novel, An Arab a Jew and a Truck, in which an Arab and a Jew are forced by external circumstances to live with one another in a small apartment and eventually go into business with each other. This book in turn was the inspiration for the kosher/halal food truck. Dr. Soliman believes that peace movements created at the grassroots level are far more successful than those at the governmental levels.
And he would know – Dr. Soliman spent over 20 years at the US Department of Energy initiating and facilitating negotiations between the US and Arab countries. In his experience, peace initiatives built at the grassroots levels can survive any changes and setbacks because the people involved in these enterprises understand it is in their best interest to seek peace, whereas government initiatives often do not result in much and even the slightest change (like funding, for example) can cause the program to collapse. Dr. Soliman wants to assist the initial bridge building by showing patrons of his food truck that kosher and halal foods have a lot in common, as do the people who eat the food. Dr. Soliman plans to take his food truck to colleges, synagogues, churches, etc. to spread the message of collaboration and understanding, focus on similarities and minimize the differences. Dr. Soliman is preparing to unveil his food truck in DC by December 2013. If it is successful in DC, Dr. Soliman hopes to expand the peace truck to other major US cities and even to Israel and the West Bank.
The book also inspired Dr. Soliman and his wife, Lynn Skynear, to start the foundation Arab-Jewish Truck to Peace and since then they have been working together to make the food truck a reality. Ms. Skynear has been involved from the very beginning and is now handling the promotion of the foundation’s events and fundraising aspects.
Even though the truck is not yet functional, the idea has been well –and widely – accepted. He has already conducted several interviews regarding the truck and is expecting a large turnout for he unveiling. Dr. Soliman hopes that his truck inspires others who are passionate about building peace take initiative in their field of interest and make a difference in their communities. “Perhaps Jewish and Arab musicians could develop songs together,” Dr. Soliman said., “or screenwriters could produce plays with one another.”
Dr. Soliman has this piece of advice for those who are interested in starting their own peace movement or foundation: “Believe in your mission! If you believe in it, it will work.” He also says surrounding yourself and coordinating with like-minded people is a crucial component. Also, do not listen to the naysayers or those who try to discourage you. “Big things happen by taking small steps” and those steps usually get taken by an individual or a small group of people.
As far as expanding his own vision, Dr. Soliman is very open to connecting to those who have a similar passion as his and he invites everyone to visit his foundation’s website http://anarabajewandatruck.com/ and if there are ways you see your talents and drive matching his, please send him an email at arabjewtruck(at)gmail.com to coordinate. Personally, I am very excited for and inspired by the food truck undertaking and hope that much success grows out of this endeavor!
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