My Friend Samer

| January 3, 2024 | 0 Comments
Recent Photo of Samer (L) with My Co Chair for the Meeting, Jay Footlik

In the late 1990’s soon after the Oslo Accords that provided some hope for peace in the Middle East, I participated in a program designed to teach political communications skills to young political leaders from Israel and the Palestinian areas. We met in Paphos, Cyprus, followed by visits to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. There were eight “delegates” from each side drawn from the Fatah Party for the Palestinians and the governing Likud Party from Israel. It was an extraordinary group of young people who were willing to explore the possibilities that Oslo provided. The whole experience was life changing for me.

The leader of the Palestinian group was Samer Sinijlawi, a truly extraordinary young man in his twenties, wise beyond his years, who showed a zest for life and a world view that was both realistic and optimistic. His leadership skills were very apparent, even at that young age. Let’s just say that the group of Palestinians were very passionate and he had his hands full as their leader. He seemed destined for great things in the new circumstances that Oslo promised. I haven’t seen him in decades, but I’ve often thought of him while watching developments in the Middle East. Frankly, I worried about the safety of him and his family. And I wondered if he had maintained his positive attitude in the face of so many set backs since we’d last met.

Then, last week I read the attached op ed in the New York Times, bravely written by Samer. Like anyone who cares about the people in Israel and the Palestinian areas, I grieve deeply about recent developments. The suffering on both sides is unimaginable. It is a horrific situation that has, I assume, caused many people in the region to simply give up on peace. But apparently not Samer. His extremely well-written and courageous column actually gave me hope. And reminded me of my deep admiration for Samer. He remains a true leader. I hope and pray that his voice is heard by all people of goodwill who can still see the light in these very dark times.

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