Hicham Chami AdiEarlier this week, along with Kim Sopata and Rich Jankowsky, I was to perform for a fundraiser at the Unitarian Church in Evanston. I was far from imagining before going there that I was about to hear one of the most touching testimonies about how human beings could transcend their differences and live together…including in the Middle-East.

The testimony came from two ladies. Their names: Adi and Leila. Their ages: 21 and 20. Two cute girls, smart, educated, and funny. They came to Chicago to share the story of their lifelong friendship in a region that has witnessed more bloodshed, violence, and hatred than any other in modern times.

As they were standing side by side, talking to each other, chatting and laughing, no one would have suspected these two ladies to be a working model that proves Arabs and Jews, given the right attitude, can equally co-exist and live together.

Adi is a Jewish Israeli; Leila is Arab and Muslim. They were among the first babies born in Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, a small village, home for a community of 50 families, half Palestinian/Muslim and half Israeli/Jewish. The village’s mission is to demonstrate that Jews and Palestinians can live together as equals. During even the most difficult times in Israel and Palestine, the residents of the village are committed to this ideal.

As a result, Adi and Leila grew up as neighbors, attended the village’s integrated, bilingual primary school together, rode the same buses, and played in the same playgrounds. In a society divided by religion, they celebrated the major holidays of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.

Both young women are products of a gutsy and valiant experiment that began almost three decades ago as a dream. The dream of a Christian father who had in mind “a small village composed of inhabitants from different communities in the country. Jews, Christians, and Muslims would live there in peace, each one faithful to his own faith and traditions, while respecting those of the others. Each would find in this diversity a source of personal enrichment”.

As I was listening to them telling their story, and answering questions from an enthusiastic crowd at the Unitarian Church in Evanston, I was thinking “If the entire Middle East could get along the way Leila and Adi do, then peace would be more than imaginable. It would be feasible”.

I admired Adi and Leila for standing there, as an example of how things could possibly be in-between the two divided communities.

If 50 families, in the middle of a region where bloodshed makes headlines every day, could do it; if a village with a very limited budget and zillions of constraints could do it; if these two ladies could do it…than there’s no reason for us out there not to follow the example set by these courageous people.

Chapeau to Adi and Leila!
Chapeau to their families!

I was honored to be chosen to perform at the Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam fundraising event.