K4p for me is already a community that represents that future, the future of this land. A community of respect, a place where everyone is equally represented with the same opportunity, a place were Arabs and Jews sit beside each other as one community.
Presentation at the Kids4Peace 10th Anniversary Celebration
January, 2012, Jerusalem
Toot (Jewish), Louis (Christian) and May (Muslim) Kids4Peace youth who have participated in the full six-year program.
Toot: I want to tell you a story about a Jewish girl who lives in Jerusalem. Her parents met at the university and she is their eldest, she has a younger sister and a younger brother and they all live in a pleasant neighborhood. The girl went to kindergarten, elementary school and later on to high-school. She is a good student; loves art and plays basketball, she tried singing but she wasn’t very successful at that. The kids surrounding her at school, at the afternoon activities, and around neighborhood are more of the same – some play the piano, others dance. There are tall kids, short ones; good students, bad students; funny kids and some that were very serious. There are kids that she likes more and others that annoy her. All speak the same language, share the same program of study at school and are members of the same religion.
But then there were these other people. She was not sure who they were exactly. She saw them on the TV; she heard about them on therRadio, she read about them in the newspaper. Adults would talk about them. However, she could never figure out who exactly they were. All she knew is that they were very different from her. From the tone people had used when they were talking about them and from the pictures she saw, she felt that “the other people” were different in a negative way.
Louis: Growing up as a Christian Arab in Jerusalem, I always lived with Jews, in school, camps, kindergarten and other programs. I always knew there was a conflict but I never really felt it because I lived with Jews in peace and never saw a difference between us, this environment created somewhat an illusionary world of peace and love and I never really thought that there was a serious conflict. When I was 10 years old I changed my school and I attended a school that is mostly Arab. There I started feeling the conflict more because I hung out with Arabs who never met Jews before. Listening to their stories and opinions about the Jews and experiencing the fights that happen between the Jewish and Arab youth on the streets, I really started feeling the conflict. This along with other incidents showed the huge problem that we are facing.
Toot: When the girl was 12, her parents introduced her to “kids for Peace”. There she met the “other people”. It was then she realized that the other people, like Louis, are also more of the same- some played the piano, others danced or play sports. There were tall kids, short ones; good students, bad students; funny kids and serious ones. There were kids that she liked more and others she didn’t like at all. Even though they did not speak the same language, they did not share the same program of study at school or were not members of the same religion, they were all kids just like her. The girl in the story is me, but she could be anyone else that has got to know “the other people” as human beings instead of pictures and symbols in the media.
Louis: That same year that I changed schools, I learned about and joined the Kids4Peace first year program. As I started going to the meetings and participating in the dialogues, I noticed that k4p has a different approach to the conflict than other programs I grew up in. I think that programs like k4p are the most effective in achieving peace, because in k4p we face the problem and talk about it instead of pretending it doesn’t exist. Now I am training to be a k4p counselor for next year and a proud member of the k4p community and I keep attending the program because I believe in the change.
May: K4P is made up of different stages. When we first join the program, whether we have already met people from the other religions or not, we meet people from other religions and their own who might be new to us. Personally in my first year, the fact that some kids were surprised when they heard about other religions’ basics shocked me. Because even though I’m a Muslim, I was always exposed to Jews and Christians and felt close to them.
After going to summer camp and ending the year, we accomplish the first and minor step of K4P, the real learning begins. We enter a new world with a lot to explore. This world is called: K4P Continuation. There are two programs, year 1 and year 2. At each stage, the learning gets deeper. The youth are wiser and they start to open up more and more. After the first few years when we feel comfortable with our fellow Kids4Peacers, we have a chance to go to the leadership program. It’s a smaller group of kids, between the ages of 14-15 who discuss the problems we face living here in Jerusalem and really share our opinions. We go to a summer camp to continue our discussions and sharing. We also listen to stories and outside speakers. At that stage we really open up and aren’t afraid to defend our opinions.
Toot: Looking back at my years in Kids for peace (first as a participant, then in the leadership program and today as I am being trained to be a counselor) what I found even more important than learning to know the others is getting to know myself. I think I can say today that I know better who I am and how it’s being reflected by the place I live in (Jerusalem) and the variety of people who live here with me. I’m not saying I can solve the conflict, but I do think I can make a change. A change could be one person, one life, one action and that for me is a huge change.
Louis: About a month ago I mentioned to someone that I was going to k4p, and he replied by saying: “you still believe in this peace nonsense!”, giving up on the idea of peace in this land I think is reasonable because of how impossible it appears to achieve, but about 150 years ago before slavery in the united states was abolished and African Americans were enslaved by white people, I bet no one thought that black people will ever have equal rights, or that they will ever be treated the same, that just seemed impossible; yet today the United states has a black president who has been reelected for another 4 year term of presidency. So there is no reason to give up on peace, we will have peace, and we will have a country with Arabs and Jews living side by side.
K4p for me is already a community that represents that future, the future of this land. A community of respect, a place where everyone is equally represented with the same opportunity, a place were Arabs and Jews sit beside each other as one community. We would like to thank you for being a part of this community and supporting us.