Nini and Dagan in Samaria
Nini and Dagan in SamariaRoi Hadi

Israeli singer Ahinoam Nini arrived last Tuesday for a surprise visit in Samaria.

Nini, who has been noted for her left-wing opinions, was invited to visit Samaria after she wrote an article in Haaretz indicating her wish to tour Samaria.

Hours before the terror attack near Havat Gilad, Nini arrived in Samaria and toured the area, accompanied by Shomron Council head Yossi Dagan.

Nini visited the factories in the Barkan Industrial Park, where she was exposed to the coexistence there between Jews and Arabs, viewed Tel Aviv from the area, and met with Samaria residents, including Itai Zar, who founded Havat Gilad.

Hours later the terrible attack near Havat Gilad, in which Rabbi Raziel Shevach was murdered, took place.

This morning, Nini uploaded a post to her Facebook account on the subject.

“Last Tuesday Gil and I paid a visit to the settlements in Samaria. The initiative for this encounter came from Yossi Dagan, head of the regional council in Samaria, or as we call it here in Israel, the Shomron. The first meeting was in my home. The idea behind both encounters was to listen and learn, to hear and to be heard, with no mediation.

The visit at my house was pleasant, Yossi is a good natured, intelligent man who smiles a lot. He listened attentively as Gil and I spread our “mishnah”..our beliefs…and intervened only occasionally with an anecdote or story. We had started a process. It was clear that in the Shomron we would have greater possibilities for dialogue, and so it was.

Our visit started in Peduel, a settlement with an amazing view over the region. We went on to visit the Barkan Industrial Area where Arabs and Jews work together, the regional council offices, and the home of Valerie, Yossi’s lovely secretary whom I had been corresponding with, who opened her home to us and a group of 10 residents who had come for a discussion with us.

This was the most intriguing part for us, the reason we had come to begin with. Finally we could get into the thick of things, listen to the personal story of every participant, learn about their way of life and points of view, including things which are at the core of our differences… and most importantly, discuss our visions for the future of the country we all love so deeply.

I admit, it was challenging. Here were these sweet, generous, warm hearted people…with a huge, seemingly impassable abyss between us. We came out feeling it would take many more hours of conversation and exchange of ideas to scratch the tip of the formidable iceberg of misunderstanding, misinformation and disagreement, to try and melt it some how and find common ground…but we saw great importance in the meeting, as the conversation , even when at times painful and difficult, was honest, respectful and deep.

One of the participants was Itai. He was probably the most “hard core” of the group, his world view very far removed from our own. I made great efforts to find common ground with him, with very partial success. The only thing we could truly agree upon was our love for Israel and concern for its future. Despite our differences he was cordial, and I appreciated his willingness to communicate and the effort he had made to take part.

Itai told us he was one of the founders of a settlement called “Chavat Gilaad”, named in memory of his brother Gilaad, who had been murdered in that area some years ago.

When the meeting was over Gil and I left for Jerusalem where we were to be taking part in a film by Amos Gitai.

On the way, we heard there had been a terrorist attack….near Chavat Gillad! A drive-by shooting, with one Israeli wounded in critical condition! We felt a fist in our stomachs and fear grip our hearts…we immediately thought of Itai and tried to find out who had been wounded?

Yossi Dagan was rushed to the scene, accompanied the wounded man and his wife to the hospital…. He texted me “this is hell”.

Itai was not hurt. We later heard him speaking with great pain and rage on the evening news.

Raziel Shabach was buried the next morning.

I feel great pain and sorrow for this senseless loss of life, as it is written in our scriptures:

“For this reason each life is singular and unique, and he who loses (takes) one life, it is as if he has lost the entire world, as he who saves one life, it is has if he has saved the entire world” .

The big questions refuse to disappear, and the cry of the heart does not mask or fade them, on the contrary: they emerge with greater force than ever.

On the one hand, the indisputable affinity felt by the Jewish people to the land of Israel. On the other hand, Issac and Ismael burying Abraham TOGETHER in Hebron. Abraham and his cousin Lot came to a territorial compromise not by divine edict, but for the sake of a human peace. Eisav, who had every reason to hate his brother for what he had done, finally reunited with and embraced Yaakov.

“There must be another way”…those are words I wrote and sang together with my Palestinian colleague Mira Awad. And that other way lies before us, waiting to be chosen, and defended courageously.

If we, Arabs and Jews alike, embrace that most powerful of proverbs common to all religions, “love your brother as you love yourself”, if we truly and sincerely make the effort to put ourselves in the shoes of the other and try to understand his/her motivations, aspirations, needs and dreams, if we choose dialogue over violence, if we respect, communicate and compromise…only then can we hope to break the vicious cycle of bloodshed and begin to live alongside each other , finally fearless and free.

As for me, I am willing to go the distance and do what it takes, to fulfill the destiny embedded in the beautiful name my mother gave me : Achinoam, sister of peace.

My deepest condolences go the family of the deceased.”

Shomron Council head Yossi Dagan noted on his Facebook page: “Samaria is open to everyone. We have made it a mission to bring the entire Jewish people, every opinion-leader in Israel and the world, to see and to learn. We were happy that Ahinoam asked to come and we rose to the occasion and therefore, despite disagreements, instead of the stereotype we found a warm person with a big heart for whom the State of Israel is important, though we are undoubtedly divided about the path.”