As the Israeli army pushes forward into Lebanon, as rockets continue to fall in northern Israel, as the situation remains volatile in Gaza, some 50 young Jewish Israeli, Arab Israeli, Palestinian, and American women will travel to Denver this Thursday to spend two weeks together. To maybe become friends.
The sixteen to nineteen-year-olds will be participating in a program called “Building Bridges for Peace,”, which has been in operation since 1994. But this year, with war raging in Lebanon, it was an open question whether all the young women would arrive as planned.
“Everyone is coming,” says Melodye Feldman, founding executive director for the program, who had just gotten off the phone confirming the fact.
But it will be a challenging journey. The kids from the northern part of Israel may not be able to drive the highways to the airport if the rocket fire is heavy. Eight of the women coming from the West Bank can’t get permission to travel to Israel. They’ll go to Amman, Jordan, instead, and from there fly here.
Once in Colorado, the young women will spend time at Denver homes and then travel to Steamboat Springs. They’ll develop techniques to communicate with each other and develop leadership skills. The program doesn’t end when they go home-they continue for a year, working within their communities.
Israel, Lebanon, Gaza, and the West Bank may seem far away to most readers. But my brother, Haim Watzman is a writer who lives in Jerusalem with his wife and four children. His eldest son, my nephew, will be joining the army soon. To say that there is no simple answer to the woes afflicting the region is an understatement. But when these young women meet face to face, and get to know each other as human beings, it is cause for hope, even in these dark times.