By Dave Kopel
La Voz. Mar. 15, 1989. More by Kopel on Israel.
Former Colorado State Senator Polly Baca will receive an award March 16 honoring her contributions to better understanding between America and Israel. Baca, along with five other Colorado women, will be honored at a March 16 reception at the Women's Bank, on 17th Street.
Denver Congresswoman Pat Schroeder will present the tribute on behalf of the America-Israel Friendship League.
A member of the Colorado Legislature from 1975-1986, Polly Baca was the first minority women ever elected to the Colorado Senate. She is the only Hispanic women ever to serve in the leadership of any State Senate.
Recognized as an expert in foreign policy, Baca serves on the Board of Directors of the National Endowment for Democracy. She has led study tours and joined fact-finding missions in the Soviet Union, West Germany, Latin America, and many other nations.
The day after Baca receives the America-Israel Friendship League award, she will depart for Japan and Philippines on a lecture tour. Her talks, sponsored by the U.S. Information Agency, will discuss the role of ethnic minorities and women in the U.S. political system. She describes the changing role of women as "the biggest revolution in American history."
Baca traced her initial interest in Israel to two books: The Diary of Anne Frank, written by a Jewish girl hiding from the Nazis, and Exodus, describing the founding of Israel. Baca felt that the Israel was unique, since it was created by a United Nations resolution, and because its founding was necessary for the very survival of a people.
When Egypt and Israel signed the Camp David peace accords, Polly Baca attended the ceremony as a White House guest. Later, as a participant in the "Camp David Domestic Summit," she explained the Mid-East peace process to Americans.
In 1982, Baca traveled to Israel, Egypt, and Lebanon with the Jerusalem Women's Seminar. Baca recalls that in Israel she "really saw something happening in the desert that was miraculous. The thing that was so amazing to me about Israel was that it was a country made up of people from all corners of the earth, from every culture, from every national background -- from Spain speaking Spanish, from Russia, from Africa."
In that regard, observed Baca, Israel is much like the U.S. To her surprise, Polly Baca also "found some roots there too." After meeting with Spanish-speaking Jews, and after visiting Jerusalem -- the birthplace of the three major Western religions -- Baca came to "identify with Israel as a person, and feel very strongly about the importance of its survival as a nation."
She describes Israel's struggle for survival as the "testing of man's spirit on a daily basis." Baca points out that Israel's population is no larger than Colorado's, and its land area much smaller. Yet Israel's impact on the world is tremendous: By surviving hostility and by creating agricultural miracles in an harsh climate, Israel demonstrates that "when people of different backgrounds come together, they can be very strong."
Asked if the United States should pressure Israel to follow particular policies, Baca replied that "We can be helpful and supportive, but we ought not to dictate to other countries how to operate." She added that the same policy should apply to our relations with Latin America.
Along with Polly Baca, five other Colorado women will be honored for their contributions to America-Israel relations: Joy Burns, President of the Burnsley Hotel; Dr. Evie Dennis, a Denver Public Schools Superintendent; Judy Morton, of the Denver Board of Education; Roz Duman, of the American Jewish Committee; and LaRae Orullian, of the Women's Bank.
Ellen Peña and Bea Romer are honorary co-chairs of the reception.