We met Princess Leia in “occupied” Jerusalem

“A long time ago, in a Galaxy Far Away…” Jocelyne, at that time my bride of two years, and I met Carrie Fisher – Princess Leia, in the Old City Shuk, … Now in December 2016, per the UN, our meeting place is considered “occupied” Jerusalem.

It was 1988 and Carrie Fisher was with co-star Lauren Bacall filming “Appointment with Death.”

As they were playing tourist on a shopping break in the bazaar, Jocelyne recognized the gravelly voice of Ms. Bacall. While Lauren Bacall declined a photo-opp, “Princess Leia” was warm and gracious, (as seen in a keepsake photo taken with her.)

The chance encounter with “Princess Leia” was just two years after my Jewish Egyptian Princess (born in Cairo) and I arranged our wedding in Jerusalem, and began Young Jewish Leadership Concepts (YJLC) and Israel Encounter – National Young Professionals Tour, a young adult tour and educational program initiated 14 years before Birthright.

We were touched meeting Carrie Fisher, as she was an icon to our generation, representing spunk and idealism. We met “Princess Leia” in Israel, a perfect representation of that spunk and idealism, … while our kids learn from our US president who has spent eight years turning perceptions on their head, focusing on Israel as the “occupier” and displacer of Palestinians, and settlements as the source of all problems in the Middle East.

Fast forward to 2009. As the Philadelphia Israeli Consulate Director of Academic Affairs and Speakers Bureau coordinator, I had the honor of taking Daniel Taub, the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s top legal advisor, now Ambassador to England, on a speaking tour.

Completing the multi-day tour and dropping him off at Philly’s 30th Street Train station, I had Ambassador Taub as a captive audience in my car. With a golden opportunity, I asked this key negotiator to the Palestinians the question that was most burning in my mind. The biggest problem in America, in exasperation I related is “How do we deal with the Settlement Issue?” “Lou,” he responded, “it WAS RESOLVED at Camp David!!!”  Ambassador Taub further explained that numerous times the agreements were all but signed, with the Palestinians pulling back at the last moment. “We repeatedly put the maps together, but they did not have the political will for a final agreement.”

So what has happened since Ambassador Taub was captive in my car? As Ambassador Michael Oren explained in his book “Ally,” President Obama uniquely created political “daylight” between Israel and America. Now ending his eight-year term, President Obama has orchestrated international legal “daylight” isolating Israel further in the world community.

The PA’s Abbas explained on the pages of the New York Times on Israel’s Independence Day, 2011, what he has done, and intends to continually do with Obama’s UN gift … to “pave the way for the internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter, not only a political one. It would also pave the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice.” Mr. Obama, this is how you promote Peace?

My fear is that President Obama has enabled UN hate legislation that last appeared in 1975 with the illegitimate “Zionism equals Racism” resolution. It took sixteen years for the world-wide hate educational tool to be reversed. The December 23, 2016 UN vote, “approved by abstention,” will give rise to hate acts against Israel, Jews and Christian Israel supporters.

My sense is that the Jewish and Israel support community is much more aligned now. Pre and post 9/11 is the watershed of understanding American support for Israel. My prediction is that it will take a much shorter time to reverse last Friday’s decision, if we can effectively come together.

As my Jewish Egyptian Princess and I met Princess Leia in the Old City of Jerusalem a generation ago, we fondly remember her warmth and the roles she played of passion, and for fighting for what is right.

As our kids are taking over the role of young adult engagement, we pray that they will be part of the guiding leadership for young adults in America knowing that Jerusalem is not “occupied,” but the center of the Jewish world.carriefisherisrael


About the Author
Lou Balcher served from 2004 - 2013 as Director of Academic Affairs to Consulate General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region. He also served as Education Director for Congregation Tifereth Israel in Bensalem, PA, and as administrator and teacher for Gratz College's Jewish Community High School. He is a former Membership Director for the Philadelphia and Cincinnati regions of B'nai B'rith International. For three and a half decades, he has coordinated post-college young leadership programs for Young Jewish Leadership Concepts. From 2014 - Spring 2021 he consulted as National Director of the American Friends of the Kaplan Medical Center, Rehovot, Israel which serves more than one million Israeli citizens. In the Spring of 2021 Balcher and a team of national leaders inaugurated the American Foundation Creating Leadership for Israel (AFCLI) - "the newest voice for Americans for Israel."
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