Dictionary Writers Hope Words Can Heal

By Claudia Z. Carlin

Published September 01, 2006, issue of September 01, 2006.
  • Print
  • Share Share

In the south of France, two religious leaders are taking steps to heal the rifts between Jews and Muslims in their country. Rabbi Haïm Harboun and Habib S. Kaaniche, an imam, are planning to launch an unusual dictionary in three languages: Hebrew, Arabic and French, followed by biographical sketches of great figures of Judaism and Islam.

This is not their first project in common. Moroccan-born Harboun, 74, and Tunisian-born Kaaniche, 56, met in 1993 after a Jewish cemetery in Carpentras was desecrated (allegedly by skinheads), the rabbi founded, with the imam as president, an organization called Association des Amities Judeo-Musulmanes in Aix-en-Provence. The group’s goal is to bring together the two religious communities in a city in which 15,000 Muslims outnumber Jews eight to one. The alliance later turned into close friendship between the families of the two men, thanks to their common North African origin.

To be sure, the two have their disagreements. Though committed to the dictionary concept, Harboun, the author of some 30 books, remains worried about its scope. “How do you choose which words to include and which to reject?” the rabbi asked in a recent interview with his friend and co-lexicographer. Kaaniche responded with the smile of someone who has had this discussion before. “Haim, we both know that most people currently use about 1,200 words in everyday life, the words they read in the press and hear on television,” he replied. “Those are the popular expressions I’d select.”

And whatever their differences, both men seem excited about the biographical supplement on the lives of influential Jewish and Muslim personalities, which they feel will serve to highlight the interplay of ideas that took place between the two religions in the past.

With a firm commitment from the Observatoire de Religion, part of the political science unit of University of Provence, where Kaaniche is a resident scholar, publication is set to take place sometime in the next three years.

Claudia Z. Carlin is a reporter based in Europe.






Find us on Facebook!
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.