Roots Camp started its first day with a visit to the Qaser el Yehud Baptism site on the Jordan River. We met Malik from EcoPeace, who spoke to us about the national and religious importance of the Jordan River to all of the communities in the region. A lot of the water from the Jordan River is diverged for domestic use in Israel and Jordan and the countries even discharge their wastewater into the River, so there is not much clean water left in the Southern part of it. We learned about the quality of the water in the Jordan River and the religious importance of the baptism site in Christianity. Then, we divided into three groups, each representing a different village with different water sources, to discuss water usage.
Finally, we arrived at Kibbutz Ketura. We got settled in our rooms and had a pool party with a group of American high-schoolers were were visiting as well. Omar and Meytav shared their experiences at Kids4Peace and explained the program to the American kids. After the BBQ and swimming, the kids went to bed to get ready for your next day!
Our second day of Roots Camp began with a tour of Kibbutz Ketura. We talked about the shared lifestyle of the kibbutz and toured the algea factory and solar field. Ketura’s most valuable natural asset is its sunlight, so we learned about solar energy and sustainability. The group worked in pairs to answer as many questions as they could about the kibbutz and the its environment.
Then, we moved inside to start our opening session on the theme of environment, and started to talk about how we affect the environment and how it affects us. The kids started to think about how they use water and other resources, and did a lot of games related to learning about the science of the environment.
We shared about our own neighborhoods in Jerusalem, and what we shared and is different between the different neighborhoods. It was interesting to hear about all the different environments within Jerusalem and how we feel about them.
After the sessions inside, we headed to the sand dunes to do an activity and to make our own dinner. We then star-gazed and went to bed!
Jerusalem Roots Camp had a blast today in water sports in Eilat. All of the kids sat on the boats and had crazy rides in the sea! It was a beautiful day, and everyone had a fun time jumping and swimming in the ocean. Then, we had lunch in the (air conditioned) mall and drove back to Ketura. On our way back, Muhammed and Gayil led a fun activity, where the kids had to divide into pairs and teach each other a sentence from their favorite song in their language. We also had a singing competition – lots of songs on the bus! Each day, a pair of kids work together to prepare a 5-10 minute activity for the whole group. So far, we have been so impressed by everyone’s creativity and responsibility in creating activities together.
Once we got back to Ketura, we did a session about the environment and tradition. We started the session by talking about different inventions and how technology has affected our lives. Then, we got into smaller groups and learned about changes from the past until now in agriculture, cooking, and compost. We learned about our friends’ families by talking about how our grandparents use to cook and farm, compared to today. The kids continue to think about what problems could have environmental solutions, and how we can work together to be mindful of the environment and how we hurt or help it.
After dinner, we continued a conversation about the different neighborhoods we live in Jerusalem and how the differences can affect how we act in the group. We learned from each other’s experiences, thoughts, and feelings, and everyone is curious to continue learning from each other, about each other, and about the environment.
We finished the day, of course, with free time on the playing fields. It was another wonderful day down here in Kibbutz Ketura!
We got up super early this morning for a sunrise bike ride around the date fields and solar fields of Ketura. We biked to the Jordan border, and saw that in this area, the border is a low fence. Our guide told us that before the kibbutz switched the fruit fields with solar fields, they used to give fruits to the Jordanian soldiers on the other side. The kids had lots of fun and learned a lot even before breakfast!
After breakfast, we headed to Kibbutz Lotan, which is located very close. in Lotan there is an “Eco-village,” where students live sustainably in mud houses. We learned (and felt!) that mud houses are very insulated in hot weather, so they actually stay cool. We got dirty and helped build mud houses ourselves by making mud bricks. The kids started thinking about what it means to live devoted to on lifestyle, and what small things we can do each day to minimize our impact on the environment.
Then, of course there was swim time. After swimming, we did a session where we learned about the specific environmental problems in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We talked about water, sewage, land, and air pollution and together designed solutions for each issue. We discussed how the environment doesn’t know borders and realized that we are all dependent on each other, so environmental solutions can help solve political issues too. We all are looking for ways to make our environment better.
Later this evening, the group will do group sports outside after dinner. Tomorrow we will read and discuss environmental justice and we will have a session about the environmental problems in our different neighborhoods in Jerusalem and how to design and publicize solutions. We are looking forward!
On Saturday slept late, as the kibbutz was quiet around us due to the Jewish Sabbath. All of the kids, especially the boys (!) helped prepare our own breakfast outside. The entire group sat together at the table, we heard the Muslim blessing, and then we ate a breakfast of yogurt, tuna, cheeses, vegetables, and cornflakes. Before each meal this week, following the Kids4Peace tradition, we hear the blessing over the food from a different religion. It is always special to hear different blessings in different languages.
After the entire group helped clean up breakfast, we began our religious text study. We divided into smaller groups and read texts dealing with environmental justice from the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian faith traditions. We shared which texts we connected to most, and learned that all of the holy books include passages instructing us to take care of the world and the environment. We also discussed the concept of justice. Tarik Abu Hamed came to speak to the group about his experience. He is Palestinian and grew up in Zur Baher in Jerusalem, studied (3 degrees!) in Turkey, then returned and became Israel’s Deputy Chief Scientist. He works at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, located in Ketura. His story is incredibly inspiring, and we all learned from his story and the difficulties he overcame. He stressed the importance of cooperation over land and water, and between the different populations living here.
Then, we had lunch in the kibbutz dining hall, followed by a long rest time and time to pack for Jordan, where we traveled on Sunday. After resting and packing, we started an amazing session where we built our own Kids4Peace Neighborhood. The kids were divided into pairs and given different responsibilities in creating the neighborhood – we had mayors, religious leaders, a town song writer, and pairs who were responsible for designing the roads, shopping centers, education, community center, environmental sustainability, and more. The kids first shared their own experiences from the neighborhoods they lived in, and learned more about each other and each other’s realities. Then they got to work to design a neighborhood that would include all the religions and peoples and would be culturally sensitive to Muslims, Christians, and Jews – and Israelis and Palestinians – living together. You can see pictures of the neighborhood below and be sure to check out the Kids4Peace Jerusalem Facebook Page to watch videos of the kids explaining their vision for a shared neighborhood.
We were amazed and inspired by the kids’ vision for the future, and we hope that some day, we will lead the change to truly create a shared and tolerant neighborhood for everyone. In the meantime, we are off to Jordan to the EcoPark, to continue learning about “Our Land, Your Land, Whose Responsibility?”