WASHINGTON – Moustafa M. Soliman lives on Massachusetts Avenue, Washington DC's Embassy Row. His home is spacious, with luxuriant furniture fit for any one of his foreign neighbors.
Following the successful career he held at the US Department of Energy in various senior positions, and after promoting a few joint Israeli-Egyptian-Palestinian energy-related US-led projects, Soliman knows a thing or two about disappointments surrounding the notion of peace in the Middle East.
Soliman is a man with a dream, but he is no eccentric and nobody's fool. He looks a great deal younger than his 76 years, with mass amounts of energy and plans to promote peace between Israel
and the Arabs. Over the next few weeks, he is planning on taking D.Cc's streets by storm via his Star of David and crescent-adorned "Peace Truck."
Kosher alongside halal (Photo: Courtesy of Moustafa Soliman)
The "Peace Truck" will have one window, where a religious Jew will stand selling kosher food, and another with a Muslim
selling halal food and traditional sweets.
"It needs to be theatrical. The salesmen will be two upstanding people who can serve and sell food but no less important, discuss politics and peace with the customers. "I am looking for dialogue," Soliman told Ynet.
Soliman left Egypt
for his doctoral studies in civil engineering at the University of California, Berkeley.
This was long long ago, in 1959 following the Suez Crisis and prior to the Six Day War,
when then-Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser still had plans of driving the Jews into the sea.
Following a period of time in the civil sector at the "Aerospace" company in Los Angeles, Soliman joined the US Department of Energy in 1974, when the department was still a small administration of the American government.
Soliman and the truck (Photo: Courtesy of Moustafa M. Soliman)
"After ten years, I became responsible for energy-related cooperation especially with Middle Eastern countries. I was responsible for planning, managing negotiations and implementing energy-related cooperation with Israel,
Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan
and the Palestinian Authority."
The first initiative that Soliman promoted was a three-way Egyptian-Israeli-American one called the Solar Peace Project. "The idea was to create a US-funded project in the Suez Canal
with Israeli and American technologies on Egyptian soil and with Egyptian manpower.
"We began working on the initiative during the Clinton administration," Soliman recalls. "Towards the year 2000, Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson left the slowly withering project."
"I was involved in the initial talks for the gas project between Egypt and Israel which was supposed to make its way to Turkey, Jordan and The Palestinian Authority," said Soliman. "Ariel Sharon was appointed as Minister of National Infrastructure (1996) and I think that he was not so thrilled with Israel being dependent on Egyptian gas. In the end, a much less ambitious project was established than that which we planned."
"My conclusion was that so long as things are dependent on a specific person in one government or another, they are destined for failure. I thought that the cooperation should start from the bottom, amongst people, and not from the top," said Soliman and then explains the idea he thought up on the joint Jewish-Muslim food truck.
According to him, he began writing a book entitled "An Arab, a Jew and a Truck" following Anwar Sadat's 1977 visit to Jerusalem, but just completed writing it last year. "The setting was not the land of Canaan, but rather a Bronx, New York neighborhood," he wrote on the inside flap of the book he is promoting on his US tour.
"This is a story about an odd couple whose reality forced them to live together, yet they become friends and business partners."
The protagonists in Soliman's story are Ali, a pious, Palestinian Muslim and David, an Orthodox Jew. The two are forced to use the same kitchen, in which each of the characters has their own set of kitchenware and gradually, they discover their common ground.
Fiction becomes reality when Soliman and his wife Lyn Skinner purchased the truck of hope. Soliman is in constant contact with an imam and a rabbi who will sponsor this program and hopes to bring Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren
and the Palestinian representative in the US capital to the launching of the project.
Soliman is convinced that the Muslim-Jewish food truck will be profitable enough to operate additional such trucks in various cities across the US, and hopes that the "Peace Truck" ultimately finds its way on Israeli and West Bank roads.
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