What Helen Thomas Got Wrong, Sesame Street Gets Right

I've admired Helen Thomas since I was a kid, watching her put tough questions to President Reagan during press conferences, so I was disappointed at her incredibly insensitive remarks about Israeli Jews. At the same time, few of her American detractors acknowledge that some Natives would like to see the rest of us leave.

At the end of the day, in any country where "who belongs" is debated, no one ever leaves. That's why I love people and organizations who work across the lines of conflict to change the question to "how can we live together?"

Sesame Street got it right in the form of a joint Israeli-Palestinian SesameWorkshop production. In the show, Jewish and Palestinian kids play together on a playground, and a bilingual actor (like "Luis" in the US show) helps Palestinian and Jewish girl Muppets bond over their love of falafel. When a show representative showed clips at the UN several years ago, he said that it was sometimes hard for the crews to work together, but they overcame their feelings to keep moving forward. I haven't been able to find those videos online, but here's a clip from Rechov Sumsum, the Israeli show, with characters singing in Hebrew and Arabic.

I had the chance to meet women from The Jerusalem Link several years ago. Among other initiatives, they pair up women from both "sides" who get to know each other and who stay in touch. They said that when the violence intensifies, it can be hard to talk, but they call each other to touch base, agreeing to talk again when emotions aren't so high.

A handful of many other worthwhile organizations in Israel and Palestine:
The Palestinian-Israeli Peace NGO Forum
Peace Now
Rabbis for Human Rights

Please add your suggestions for other resources about fostering peace in the region. The hardliners on both sides get so much attention, but so little goes to those who are trying to find a way out of the hate and bloodshed.

Time to change that.