By Judith Sudilovsky
JERUSALEM — News of the death of Nadia Hilou, the first Christian Arab woman to serve in the Israeli Knesset, left me greatly saddened. She was a strong defender of women and children’s rights, a great proponent of tolerance, coexistence and peace in a place where those things are sorely needed.
A social worker who lived in the mixed Jewish-Arab town of Jaffa where she was born, the 61-year-old was an example for both Jewish and Arab Israelis on how life in this complex land should be lived.
I had the opportunity to interview Nadia, a Catholic, numerous times following our first meeting in 1999, just before she lost her second bid to the Knesset. She was then, as she was always, poised, professional, determined and principled. Always a fighter, she told me she had decided to join the Labor Party following the assassination of Former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
She did not allow her two losses to discourage from running again for the Knesset. I was pleased to be able to interview her following her third successful campaign in 2006, when she did win.
In interviews, Nadia was no-nonsense and always had a keen way of zeroing in on the topic at hand without mincing words. Speaking fluent Hebrew, she addressed Jewish Israelis and led them to see issues from a different vantage point in her own unique way without skimping on her own truth.
Last summer she spoke out against the war in Gaza, condemning the violence on both sides; her first concern always was the women and children whose lives were being threatened by the fighting.
Despite the growing extremism and racism, she never gave up hope on her mantra which rings in my ear: Jews and Arabs must learn to live together.
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Editor’s note: Hilou died Feb. 27.