A program, “Two Truths in One Heart; Two Peoples in One Land” has been organized for Wednesday, Feb 28 and it will be repeated on Thursday, Feb 29. Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger and Noor A’wad are touring the United States representing Roots/Shorashim/Judur (www.friendsofroots.net), an Israeli-Palestinian grassroots initiative for understanding, nonviolence and transformation, based in the Gush Etzion-Hebron area of the West Bank.

The two, a West Bank Orthodox rabbi settler and a Palestinian activist, will share their personal journeys towards understanding and working with “the other” in a presentation, which will be offered locally twice. The public is invited to these free events: the first will be on Wednesday, Feb. 28, at 7:30 p.m. at the Church of St. Vincent de Paul, 900 Madison Ave., Albany, and the second will be offered on Thursday, Feb. 29, at 10 a.m. at the Westminster Presbyterian Church, 85 Chestnut St., Albany.

Born in New York, Schlesinger immigrated to the West Bank as a young man, but due to the way that life in that territory is structured, he reports, “until 10 years ago I’d never met a Palestinian.” The rabbi describes himself as “a Jew, a Zionist, and a settler.”

An invitation to meet some of his Palestinian ‘neighbors’ changed him, he reports.

According to the rabbi, he, along with other local Israelis and Palestinians would soon form Roots in hopes of building bridges.

Noor A’wad, born in Jordan to Palestinian parents, spent his younger years in the suburbs of Bethlehem engaging with his identity as a Palestinian refugee, both in violent and nonviolent ways. While studying to become a tour guide, A’wad traveled to Israel and for the first time saw Israelis beyond the lens of “occupying soldiers.” “I never talked to just a regular Israeli citizen,” A’wad said, “until I was 25 years old. Only a soldier in a uniform with a gun that I have to meet at the checkpoint, and I have to deal with carefully.”

In 2016, A’wad was asked to bring an overseas group that he was guiding to hear Schlesinger speak at Roots. A’wad was challenged by what he heard there. After a series of meetings with Schlesinger and with a Palestinian activist, Ali Abu Awwad, he too became a Roots activist.

Roots/Shorashim/Judur has created and operates the only joint Israeli-Palestinian community center in the West Bank/Judea & Samaria. The Center hosts social, religious, and educational activities, bringing together hundreds of Palestinians and Israelis who begin to realize that there are two truths, two stories — not one.

Sponsors of these presentations include the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany’s Nigel Wright Fund, Westminster Presbyterian Church, the Church of St. Vincent de Paul’s Louise de Marillac Fund, and Capital District members of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom. Additional supporters include Unity of Albany, the Story Circle of the Capital District, and Rabbi Debora S. Gordon. Parking will be free.