Nadia Hilou, a lone Arab-Israeli Christian voice for families and children, was vilified and attacked by extremists in the Arab community in the Middle East and in the United States because she dared to work for peace from inside the system. Hilou was the first Arab Christian woman to serve in the Knesset and as part of a mainstream Israeli political party, rather than with the Arab party lists. She died Thursday at age 61.
By Ray Hanania
Back in 2008, I had the honor of interviewing Nadia Hilou, the first Palestinian woman to serve in the Israeli Knesset, on my morning Chicago Radio Show.
Hilou came to Chicago and in October 2008, and we hosted a fundraiser for her candidacy under the banner “Infidels of Comedy” that featured Christian Arab comedians at the Oak Park Arts Center. The performance featured professional Christian Arab comedians Nasry Malak, Maria Shehata and myself serving mainly as the emcee.
Hilou had served in the Knesset from 2006 with the Labor Party but lost her re-election in 2009, mainly because of the rising opposition from Palestinian extremists angry with Hilou for “working with Israelis.” Hilou was guilty of the extremist crime of “normalization,” a pathetic excuse really used by the extremists to cover up their decades of failures and incompetence.
Hilou did so much to help Palestinian citizens of Israel and especially spent a lot of time working to help orphaned children, many of whom were Christian and Muslim who did not have the same support that Jewish children received in Israel, the “Jewish State.” Hilou believed in bringing about change by working from the inside of the system, a strategy that has rarely been tried by many Arabs who oppose Israel’s discriminatory practices.
Not all Israelis or Jews are “bad.” The majority are good people, although many are just weak and afraid of doing the right thing, scared by the extremist violence that has been embraced by some elements of the Arab community, and by the extremism and violence of Israel’s radical governments and terrorist settler movement.
Hilou believed that by working hard, and by being fair and just, that she and others could change Israel and make it a fairer country to non-Jews like herself and the more than 1.8 million Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship.
Hilou died this week, Thursday Feb. 26, 2015, in Israel at the age of 61. Here is the news item about the comedy performance, which drew more than 300 people, and the column I wrote back in 2008 urging the public to support her re-election candidacy.
The Press Release
Arab Christian comedians organize fundraiser for Arab Christian member of the Israeli Knesset Oct 8 Oak Park, Illinois
I know some of you might be interested in seeing the only Chicago performance of the INFIDELS OF COMEDY Arab Christian Comedy Tour in Oak Park at the Arts Center on Wednesday October 8, 2008 at 6 :30 PM.
Attached is the press release, but it might be the only time you’ll see Christian Arab comedians coming together to help a Christian Palestinian woman who is running for re-election in the Israeli Knesset with the Labor Party. This event will also help support Mar Elias Campus which is a branch of the University of Indianapolis in Ibillin in the Galilee. You can get information and tickets online at The Infidels of Comedy website.
Please pass it along if you can and I hope you come out to see my comedy and the comedy of two other Christian Arab comedians Nasry Malak and Maria Shehata.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Infidels of Comedy, comedy troupe
August 3, 2008
Christian Arab Comedians highlight fundraiser for Nadia Hilou Christian Arab member of Israel’s Knesset October 8
Chicago – A unique troupe of Christian Arab standup comedians will be the featured entertainment at a fundraiser to be held for the Honorable Nadia Hilou, a Christian Palestinian Arab member of the Israeli Knesset with the Labor Party on Wednesday October 8, 2008 at the historic Oak Park Arts Center.
The evening will feature an overview of the challenges facing Christian Arabs in the Middle East, support of the peace process and the upcoming elections in Israel this Fall.
The comedy group, called the Infidels of Comedy, was formed by Christian Arab comedians Nasry Malak, Maria Shehata and Ray Hanania. Malak, from New York, and Shehata, originally from Ohio, are Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Christians. Hanania is Antiochian Orthodox Christian raised Lutheran and from Chicago.
The fundraiser will also support the Mar Elias Branch Campus in Ibillin, Galilee in the Holy Land, a branch campus of the University of Indianapolis, Indiana which offers a Christian Arab Education.
“The peace process for me is also very important,” Hilou said, former head of Social Workers for Peace and Justice in Israel.
“We have very good relations with the Palestinians and we work closely with them on joint projects. We cannot close our eyes to the difficulties but we have no other solution. In the end, there must be two states for two people siude by side in peace.”
Hilou was first elected to the Knesset in 2006. She is one of only 17 women in the Knesset, and one of only two Christian members of the Knesset. Hilou is a social worker by profession focused on the development of children, challenges facing women and the protection of the family.
The event will be held on Wednesday, October 8, 2008 at the Arts Center in Oak Park, Illinois, 200 N. Oak Park Ave., with doors opening at 6:30 PM. Tickets for the fundraiser, which includes a presentation by Knesset Member Hilou and the Infidels of Comedy American premiere performance, are $40 per person. They can be purchased online at the comedy web site www.InfidelsofComedy.com or through the organizers listed below.
“The Schools are revolutionary, the faculty and student body is Christian, Muslim, and Jewish. It is a place where all religions meet and interact on equal footing, where the value of each human being comes before their form of religion,” said Susan Drinan, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Mar Elias Campus.
“The students learn, play and work together, they learn respect and tolerance instead of hate. The school represents ideas and interests for a better future for all faiths, and offers a chance for Christians to remain in the Holy Land. The Mar Elias Schools are the model, the best example for how lasting peace can be achieved.”
Tickets are $40 each.
For More Information, contact:
Ray Hanania. Order tickets online at The Infidels of Comedy
Wednesday Oct. 8, 2008, 6:30 PM – 10 PM
Benefits: Fundraiser for the Honorable Nadia Hilou, member of the Israeli Knesset, Labor Party. Social worker and advocate for peace.
Also, support Mar Elias Branch Campus of the University of Indianapolis, Indiana located in Ibillin in the Galilee in the Holy Land.
Location: Arts Center of Oak Park, 200 N. Oak Park Ave.
The Arts Center is a magnificent neoclassical building, an architectural gem, inside and out. Large lobby reception area, 700 seat auditorium with spacious dressing rooms and the Ernest Hemingway Museum.
Entertainment: the Christian Arab Comedy Troupe “The Infidels of Comedy” featuring Nasry Malak, Maria Shehata, and Ray Hanania.
Tickets are $40 each.
# # #
The column title was “In Praise of a brave woman.”
Published: 09.25.08, 18:07 / YnetNews.com & Creators Syndicate
By Ray Hanania
In the backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that dominates everyone’s attention and the news, another fight for the protection of children, families and Christian education is taking place in the Middle East.
It is being waged by an Arab-Israeli woman named Nadia Hilou who has bucked the systems in Israel and in the Palestinian community to do what some thought impossible.
A long time advocate of children and family rights, Hilou is a citizen of Israel and ran for the Israeli Knesset so she could advocate for the rights of all people in Israel, Arab and Jewish.
Instead of running on one of the Arab Israeli party lists only to see her message drown in the “us against them” fight for Palestinian rights, Hilou ran on a mainstream list with the Israeli Labor Party. This way she would make sure her message reached everyone and change would follow.
The only Arab Christian Woman in the Knesset – one of 17 women and one of only two Christians – Hilou will not stop fighting for family services and the rights of children even when everyone else has.
Last week, for example, she called a special meeting of the Knesset committee she chairs, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, to examine the facts behind the recent murder of two young children. Only two members of the Knesset showed up but Hilou’s hearing gave the local media facts that might not have been heard.
Experts testified that five or six children are murdered by relatives every year in Israel. But others, like Dr. Hanita Zimrin, who heads Eli, the Israel Association for Child Protection, said she thought this was the tip of the iceberg. Many cases that are listed as suicides or accidents may have been murders, she said.
While many of the other members of the Knesset, especially in the Arab parties, are in the news addressing the bigger political issues of peace, conflict and Middle East geopolitical tensions, Nadia Hilou is persistent in seeking to elevate other important issues that have been overshadowed by the conflict.
She has been dealing with the over-shadowed and often ignored issues like honor killings, the murder of children, social services for families, and helping to improve education, including for the fast disappearing Christian Arab citizens of Israel. Yet this has caused her some grief.
New generation of Arabs
Some activists insist she should be fighting for Palestinian rights the old fashioned Arab way, with the usual anti-Israel diatribes that embrace loud emotional words and empty bombast with blind rejection of all compromise. It is a style that typifies how Arab leaders have dealt with almost all conflicts over the years.
But Hilou represents a new generation of Arabs who are working from within the system to do good things. She not only helps Christians, she also fights hard to defend the rights of Muslims and also Jews. That’s why she received overwhelming support in her election on the mainstream Israeli Labor Party list when she ran.
But that’s the courage of Nadia Hilou. She won’t allow political correctness or partisan politics to discourage her from standing up and being the champion of needy children, families, women or others in Israeli and Palestinian society.
Behind the scenes, Hilou has been working hard to help get Christian schooling accredited in Israel. She was instrumental in getting Israel to approve the Christian education program at the Mar Elias School in Ibillin in the Galilee. The school is operating as a branch campus of the University of Indianapolis in Indiana in the United States, and re-opens for classes again this fall, thanks to Nadia Hilou. This opened the doors to Muslims seeking educational programs, too.
It is because of her help working through the Ministry of Education and the Council on Higher Education that Mar Elias achieved full accreditation as a stand-alone University next year. It is now an official branch of the University of Indianapolis, one of the few schools offering Christian education not just in Israel but in the entire Middle East.
This is the first Arab Israeli Christian University in Israel. And that’s important; very important.
But there is some vocal opposition in Israel and among Palestinians. What angers them, I am sure, is that Nadia Hilou is so different and better than our failed political leaders who would rather do everything the old failed way than the new, right way.
She won’t be silenced when children are murdered. She won’t be silenced when a Christian minority needs educational support. She won’t be silenced when a family is in need – Christian, Muslim or Jewish. And, she won’t be silenced by extremists who criticize her because she is a Palestinian working from inside the Israeli system with a mainstream Israeli party doing more than pandering to political emotions.
Nadia Hilou threatens the status quo in the Arab community and especially its leadership That’s exactly why she needs our support and why I am happy to support her by organizing a fundraiser on her behalf and on behalf of the Mar Elias school in Israel in Oak Park Illinois on Oct. 8.
Doing the right is always more important and more correct than the usual political correctness, whether it is related to Palestine or Israel.
Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and radio talk show host based in Chicago.