The answer is: y-e-s.
The question is: Can a person simultaneously be "for" Israel and "for" the Palestinian people?
The other question is: Can one person make a difference today?
Look at Judy Lederman (
JudySL@aol.com ), leader-by-example of Jewish Girl Scouts in Scarsdale, New
Today, Friday, May 14, 2004, her inspiring story is told in the Jerusalem post by exceptional reporter Lauren Gelfond.
Judy battled for the right of her troop to march in uniform in the annual Israel Day Parade in New York.
She also learned Arabic before her recent February, 2004 trip to Jerusalem.
Judy said on the phone today: "There were lots of Arabs in Jerusalem. When I spoke my limited Arabic, they were so appreciative!"
"When Ibrahim picked me up in an Arab cab, I had butterflies. I was so scared."
"He took me to his home in East Jerusalem. They were so generous and hospitable."
In that Palestinian home also was Dhyan, who is now helping with the letter-exchange between Judy's Jewish Girl Scouts and Palestinian girls who study in an after-school Permaculture class that teaches (1) care for the Earth, 2) Care for the People, and 3) Share the Surplus.
Judy said after returning
home: "The adults there are numb. They need encouragement
from the outside."
"They need kids. I think kid's are the ones who are going to make the difference."
Judy mailed from the Jewish girls' a package of letters and gifts for their new
Palestinian friends in East Jerusalem.
One woman made a difference.
We all can.
Published in the Jerusalem Post -- Friday, May 14, 2004
New York Jewish girl scouts
sister up with Palestinian counterparts
By LAUREN GELFOND
Jewish Girl Scouts in New York warned by Scout leaders not to march in uniform at the annual Israel Day Parade because it would be "insensitive to Arab Scouts" have at the last minute received an okay from above, a Jewish troop leader told the Jerusalem Post.
The troop of 11-13-year-old girls in Scarsdale, who recently launched a pen-pal project with Palestinians, was dumbfounded by the initial admonition.
Uniformed Girl Scouts in the US, with the strong endorsement of Scout officials, join such festivals as Mexican pride, Hispanic heritage, and Asian New Year. They have also been encouraged to become "honorary Irish" for the St. Patrick's Day parade, which is overseen by clerics who prohibit the participation of Irish groups that do not observe Catholic ideology, including homosexuals and lesbians.
Though the national Girl Scouts urge its scouts to join parades of other cultures as a gesture of solidarity, it has told Jewish troops in the past that a parade for Israel is different because it is political and other parades are ethnic.
Critics argued that most parades have a political element, like the socialist affiliation of the Mexican celebration, and that the Girl Scouts don't consider the political issues of any other country before determining if Scouts should march in its parade.
Two years ago the Girl Scouts back-pedaled on their edict, following strong public pressure.
But the issue returned to the table because of safety fears and differences in how local and national councils interpret by-laws, said Mary Stroock, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Westchester Putnam: "Some people see it as a political parade."
After intensive meetings late this week, the local council, directed from national, gave approval for Scouts to march in the Israel Day Parade.
Long before the parade became contentious this year, the Shabbat-observant troop had already launched a pen-pal project to get to know their Palestinian peers.
"The girls are coming at it from a more innocent point of view [than adults]," says troop leader Judy Lederman. "They are learning that the Palestinian girls are people first they are just little girls, not terrorists, they have similar interests, want to know about [things like] Brittany Spears."
Since the writing started, dozens of Palestinian girls have signed-on to correspond with their Jewish American counterparts, who are scurrying to answer the slew of letters. This week they are shipping-off packages of candy, Cracker Jacks, stickers, hand-made signs in Arabic spelling 'hello -- and of course, Girl Scout Cookies.
The Palestinian letters, in haphazard English, are peppered with "I love you", stickers, and brief details about their hobbies and lives.
"On every letter I got -- about eight -- everyone says, 'I love you.' I have talked to my parents about this and we came up with the following reasons," concluded Jewish Scout Rikki Feuerstein, 12.
"One, they do not know English and this is their way of expressing 'Will you be my friend?' or 'I would like to be your friend.' Two, they are innocent and want me to know they don't hate me."
Volunteer Dhyan Or, who heads the project with the Palestinian girls of A-Tur in east Jerusalem, says that he wrote the name of the Jewish American girls on a blackboard and told each Palestinian girl to pick one as a pen pal.
"They really fell in love with the different names and chose decisively which one they wanted. Most of them will never see another neighborhood until they get married. This opens the whole world of possibility for them," he said.
"In a small way, it could even contribute to stopping terror. Kids who have other options and see the world through other eyes won't need this option. It has opened their minds to what's happening in other places. America and Judaism can be perceived very negatively to Palestinians. But for these kids now there is no problem [the Jewish Americans] are just new friends." Jewish Parents and officials who were apprehensive or negative about the pen-pal project have since become supportive, after seeing the response of
the enthusiastic Palestinian girls, Lederman says.
While fighting officials to march in the Israel Day Parade, the Jewish troop began lobbying the International and Israeli Girl Scouts to let the Palestinian students become the first official Palestinian Girl Scout Troop.
Lederman founded her troop because the schedule and activities of Scouts in the US are not always appropriate to observant Jews, and to honor her mother-in-law Freida Lederman, a Scout leader in France during WWII who helped Jewish Scouts use their scouting skills to hide from the Nazis and eventually escape across the snow-capped Pyrenees Mountains on skis to Spain.
All of her troop's activities today, including support for Israel and building connections with Palestinians, she says, are following in her mother-in-law's footsteps.