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Dateline/ ISRAEL

Arabs and Jews Share Same Side of Moment

June 01, 2002|Jim Barrero

For a few hours on a sweaty afternoon, Arabs and Jews in the town of Abu Gosh had something of a rare encounter, gathering in a restaurant Friday to watch the opening match of the World Cup soccer tournament on a big screen TV.

As Senegal upset France, 1-0, in Seoul, there was no talk of politics and battles beyond the soccer field.

"This is the time to bring together both sides, Arabs and Jews for one month to put politics on one side and watch the game," said Arab businessman Jawdat Ibrahim, who invited Jews to his restaurant to watch the games in the coming weeks.

During the last 20 months of fighting, Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel have kept their distance from one another, even in Abu Gosh, a mostly Arab town, where residents have had long-standing links to Jews and have ties to its government.

An Arab waiter, Majd Ibrahim, was happy to see Jews in the restaurant for the game--a moment of eased tensions.

"We missed it for a long time," he said. "Everybody was waiting for this day.... It's like the old days."

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