(Photo credit: Meir Berachia, Shomron Regional Council)
An unexpected guest at a Lag B'Omer bonfire in Shomron (Samaria) Saturday night was MEP Dr. Fiorello Provera, Deputy Chairman of the EU Foreign Relations Committee, who landed in Israel as the guest of the Strategy Unit of the Samaria Regional Council, which to date functions as an active 'foreign ministry' of Judea and Samaria, in Europe and the rest of the world.
After bringing 60 EU Parliament members, 5 US Congressmen and 2 Senators to Samaria, as well as two members of governments from eastern Europe, and after managing to bloc the Palestinian Authority from gaining recognition as a state in the Security Council, Shomron officials decided to host a senior member of the European Parliament, Dr. Provera, on Lag Ba'Omer, thereby casting away ignorance about everything pertaining to Judea and Samaria and portraying their vibrancy on the Israeli map.
So straight from Ben-Gurion airport, a senior official of the EU showed up at the Lag B'Omer bonfire in the community of Kfar Tapuach, in the heart of Shomron.
Approximately a year and a half ago the Samaria Regional Council expanded the public relations operations of the Strategy Unit formed in the Council. If at first the Strategy Unit concentrated on tours by VIPs such as journalists and politicians and on public relations on topics pertaining to the State of Israel, about a year and a half ago the Council opened a so-called "foreign ministry" of Samaria, directed by the acting deputy head of the Samaria Regional Council who heads the project entitled: "The International Public Relations War".
The Shomron Regional Council has also moved on to regular appearances in Houses of Parliament in Europe and the United States.
Last night, Deputy Chairman of the European Parliament's Foreign Relations Committee, MEP Dr. Fiorello Provera, landed in Israel as a guest of Samarian residents. This is the second visit by the senior European Parliament official to Samaria, after his arrival about a year ago for a visit to the Samaria Regional Council gained a supporter and friend. The guest was invited to participate, for the first time in his life, in a Lag Ba'Omer bonfire in the town of Kfar Tapuach. Samaria Regional Council head Gershon Mesika and Deputy Yossi Dagan warmly received their guest, who won applause from the hundreds of participants.
Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, Rabbi of Samaria, explained the festival's customs to Provera, and the guest addressed the area's residents:
"I feel at home with you here, because I feel the warmth and the friendship. We find ourselves in a complicated era, when most European Parliament members do not know what's happening in Israel. Since I've been exposed to the settlement movement in Samaria, I feel a responsibility to open up my fellow European Parliament members to the reality here...
"I'm sure that you will succeed, because you are strong and have faith. I wish the State of Israel and Samaria all success."
At the conclusion of his speech, Provera was honored to light a huge bonfire about 10 meters high. He lit it together with Gershon Mesika, and the settlement's Rabbi Shmuel Rosenzweig.
After the bonfire was lit, the crowd started dancing to Lag Ba'Omer tunes together with the guest, who received upon his request a translation of the lyrics to the song: "You will say he lives, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai"... (translation from Hebrew)
During the week Provera will have a comprehensive tour of Samaria communities and hold meetings with Jewish and Arab workers in the Barkan industrial zone. Provera became a supporter of the settlement enterprise about a year ago, when the Strategy Unit and its then-head, Yossi Dagan, invited him for a short tour of Samaria. The tour, to which he agreed to allocate no more than 2 hours, completely changed his views.
And only a month after an official visit by a delegation of members of the Samaria public relations dept. to the European Union, Dr. Provera is not alone. In the month that elapsed since the meetings, Samaria Council members have succeeded in creating a coalition, the first of its kind, with the EU Parliament, sending 10 MPs, 8 of them members of the Foreign Relations Committee, to the other side of the conflict.
"Almost 10% of the members of the Foreign Relations Committee of the EU are currently committed to Judea and Samaria" - explains Yossi Dagan - "this is just the beginning, but a very encouraging one. The European Parliament Foreign Relations Committee has the capacity to act against transferring money to extremist Leftist organizations and to raise publicity about Judea and Samaria and the State of Israel to the top of the agenda.
"This meeting between a top official of the European Union and residents of Judea and Samaria, like many other meetings, are an important step in the War of Public Relations and Consciousness-Raising" - concludes Gershon Mesika - "which is these days perhaps one of the most important things for the State of Israel and for the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria."