Journeying

by Rachel, American Christian Advisor, North Carolina

IMG_5885Our group also asked a question about the hijabs or headscarves that many Muslim women wear. The Imam pointed out that people cover their heads in many traditions including Mary, mother of Jesus, who is almost always pictured with her head covered. He said that for Muslim women as well it is a personal choice and a sign of humility in front of God.

We ended our trip with a big selfie with our new friends who were so gracious and welcoming to us today at the Masjid.

Our next stop was Temple Kol Emeth where we met another board member, Erin. We sat in the first couple of rows and he explained some of the things we saw in the new space. Around the synagogue were windows depicting “a life dedicated to Torah.” The windows included the Passover story and the story of Noah among others. At the back of the sanctuary were plates with names of those who had passed away so that their memory could live on within the synagogue.

It was a great first day in Atlanta! We’re excited for tomorrow.

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Woodshop, Archery, and a Blueberry Bush

by Matt Loper, Kids4Peace Boston Director

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Friday was an amazing day! In the morning we selected activities that we wanted to do. Some of us went to the woodworking shop, others went to archery, and some chose to make challah bread for our celebration of Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath).

Others of us were adventurous, choosing activities with intriguing names like “Ninja Training” and “Diving for Treasure.”

After lunch we had our first religious observance, the Muslim Ju’umah prayer. While Jews and Christians respectfully observed, the Muslim children and adults shared their prayers and their preparation for prayers with us. Afterwards, Christians and Jews asked many questions such as “Why do you pray on carpets?” and “Why do you turn your head to the right and left at the end of the prayers?”

After an hour of rest, called “Easy Time,” it was finally time for swimming in the beautiful lake surrounded by mountains. Almost everyone swam out to the raft and jumped off many times. The lake was much colder than swimming pools in the Jerusalem area but it felt great after a couple of days of hot weather! A few people picked blueberries off of bushes near the waterfront and shared them with their new friends.

We then prepared for the beginning of Shabbat at sundown. This time, the Muslims and Christians respectfully observed as the Jewish campers and staff shared the lighting of candles, prayers, and songs. We then all ate a delicious kosher Shabbat dinner prepared by our cooks Ben and Shilla, who cooked us Ugandan-style chicken.

11817068_10153377864226066_4710087770573899791_nIn the evening, we played games and then, before bed, went out on our back porch to observe the full moon. We thought about our Kids4Peace family at camps all across the United States and far away in Jerusalem and the West Bank, all enjoying the same full moon.

Check out the Day 2 Full Album here!

Learning. Service. Sharing. Prayer.

by Yosef, Jewish, USA participant

Today all the boys woke up at 7:30 AM, because we forgot to set an alarm for 6:30 AM for the morning run. After breakfast, we painted our masks. Each of these unique masks took shape along the contours of our faces. Likewise, the painting of the masks was unique. We were tasked with illustrating the characteristics that make each of us special and a peacebuilder and leader. The masks didn’t conceal our identity like most do, but revealed a picture of our true selves.

Next, we moved on to helping the community. We went to a local farm where we picked kale and cucumbers for a food shelter. With the baskets of veggies in hand, we loaded the cars to deliver them to the food bank. At the food shelter, we prepared the kale and ate a meal with members of the local community.

Returning to the farm we hurried to Muslim Friday prayers, which was in a shaded spot up on the side of the hill. After that, we worked on our social justice skits with Court. We used improvisation to create, sculpt and script our scenes. After the acting, we came together to talk about the meaning of our masks. We had a great dinner and then listened to our guests the Yares’ Brothers, who sang beautiful songs for Kabalat Shabbat. Lastly, we worked on our peace plans for Jerusalem. Through heated negotiations, we discussed possible ways to improve the current situation.

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“Seeing Beyond Myself”

by Rachel, American Christian Faith Adviser, North Carolina

IMG_5779After rock climbing this morning and a break for lunch, the 6th graders went to their daily Discovery session. The first activity involved everyone writing their names on mirrors. Then the campers got to choose someone else’s mirror and look at their reflections together through the shared mirrors. Finally, they got the place their mirrors someplace on a world map that is meaningful to them.

Maria placed hers on Canada because she would like to visit family there. Ariel placed his on Japan because he wants to practice the Japanese he’s been studying. Maya put hers on Thailand because she would like to visit there someday. We learned a little more about each other based on where each person placed their mirror.

The next activity was to trace over the old city of Jerusalem and the existing four quarters: the Muslim Quarter, the Jewish Quarter, the Christian Quarter and the Armenian Quarter. Each camper got to reimagine what the city layout would be if they could design it.

Haya drew her picture with five sections of the city. Haya said, “I made 5 parts and in the middle we can all share a place together.”

Many of the campers intentionally included a place in their city design where everyone could be together. For some it engulfed the whole city and for others they added a “peace quarter” for that purpose.

After discovery the group got to learn outdoor survival skills from the Camp Bob staff before a Faith Advising session led by Adli, Jerusalem Muslim Faith Adviser and Yair, Jerusalem Jewish Faith Adviser. The kids had so much fun playing games to get to know each other better. Working off of the mirror theme, one activity involved sitting across from partners and mirroring their actions. We talked about how difficult it can be to do exactly what someone else is doing, but also how fun it is to see things in a different way.IMG_5799

After dinner, we joined the LEAP group for a talent show. We had a few performances from both the 6th grade and LEAP as well as all of the counselors and the LEAP Faith Advisers. From music to cultural dances and skits, it was the perfect way to end the day together.

Day 8 at Leadership Camp (JPB & K4P)

by David, Jewish participant, Jerusalem

Jiries woke me up this morning at 7 AM, so I decided I might as well go and take a morning shower to wake me up instead of lying bleary-eyed in bed. When I got back to the yurt (Tent) I was already wide-awake most of the boys were up and about, preparing for breakfast.

11703415_917495861640372_8423428611353324971_o After breakfast, we all went to the backyard where we played a human-sized version of “Mastermind” and that was pretty fun, even though sadly we only had enough time for a single good round. Then Edward Turner, the founder of an international law organization called Lawyers Without Borders came and taught us about the Rule of Law.

Mr. Turner explained to us how do our justice systems function and what is the Rule of Law and that was very interesting. He spoke well and he brought up questions that were very controversial, which made us think about and learn new things from each other. Later on we had some free time, then we all prayed together and had an awesome lunch (Whoohoo!), which for me was mainly comprised of hot dogs and salad. Afterwards, we had a Drama for Social Change session with Court. In that session we defined all the words that conflicts mean to us and talked about conflict for a while, and then we did some skits, sort of like the ones we did yesterday just more dramatic and less of the straight-up funny type.11754539_917495134973778_719835407030994304_o

Later, we had our fifth leadership session in which we talked more about violence and were divided randomly into three groups: Israel, Palestine and the U.S., and we had to use an iceberg model to display examples of direct, cultural, and structural violence we could identify and then present them to the other two teams. That was really interesting because I was in a group with two Israelis (including myself) and three Palestinians, and it showed me things that I didn’t think about before (which usually happens when we speak about Israel and Palestine).

After the leadership sessions, most of the campers went horseback riding and surprisingly only the Jews went swimming, so we jumped on the opportunity and did a “Mikve” with our guest Gordon. A Mikve is a Jewish tradition of getting cleaned by dipping in the water several times quickly (We did it in our own version of just jumping up and down and screaming “MIKVE!”, not the real one).11782481_917496058307019_8715352717662375565_o

And then came the highlight of the day: we were separated to three groups and each of the groups was sent to a different non-JPB-K4P family, who lives in the area, and we dined with them and learned about their lives. I went with Tom and Connie and their two sons Sam and Peter (who are both 20 years old) and they served us a delicious spicy chicken dinner and taught us about Brattleboro. They then took us with them for a 30-minute walk in Brattleboro which I really enjoyed. I was very happy that local families support JPB and K4P, and that they are so generous with people they never met before to support the cause of Peace.”

Speak Your Truth

by Rachel, American Christian Faith Adviser, NC 6th grade camp

IMG_5855This morning we said goodbye to the LEAP campers and staff as they boarded a bus for a long 8-hour drive to Washington, DC. There were more than a few tears shed as we said goodbye to the many friends we’d made over the past week at camp together. We wish them luck and productive, thoughtful meetings over the next few days as they get the chance to explore our country’s capital and  meet with some new friends.

After the bus pulled away we started our day with a Discovery cooperation course in the woods before lunch and today’s afternoon activities: archery and a tour of the nature center.

In our faith advising session today we finished an activity we started yesterday. The faith advisers had previously written three quotes from each of the holy texts of Judaism, Islam and Christianity. For each religion, one quote was written in Arabic, one in Hebrew and one in English so that the language would not give away which religion they came from.

In small groups, the kids discussed the quotes based on theme before attempting to organize them by religion. Surprisingly to many campers the task was harder than they expected. We asked them why it was so challenging to figure out which quote belonged to which religion.IMG_5860

Sami offered that “we all have different knowledge of all of our different religions,” and suggested that that made the task difficult.

Ariel said he wasn’t surprised that the task at hand was so difficult. “It’s not surprising to me because we all come from the same history of Abraham. We all have similar messages.”

The common messages of belief in one God, generosity, kindness, and hospitality towards those who are different from yourself bonds us together.

Yair, Jerusalem Jewish Faith Adviser, added “In every one of our religions there are verses that say we should let people live in the way they want to live.”

Throughout the afternoon we continued learning about one another’s religions and how they can exist together and even compliment each other. In the evening Samar, Jerusalem Christian Faith Adviser showed us how to make Baba Ganoush in the dining hall. Over dinner every camper got a chance to taste with pita bread. It was delicious!

Tonight we pack for our trip to Atlanta tomorrow! We’re so excited to apply what we’ve learned so far to the city where we are headed to next.

A day of courage for Leadership: K4P & JPB

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by Nicole and Ayyoub, Muslim Participants, Jerusalem and USA

Today we started the morning with delicious waffles. After that we had a Courage workshop put on by the junior counselors, Jiries and Christina. During the workshop, we had to admit our own fears to ourselves, and then some people admitted them to the whole group.

At the same time, we sent four people to continue editing the videos we took on our cameras with Gordon. We also did mini interviews with each camper.

Later after the break, we had an Etiquette session with Jude in which we learned how to introduce others and ourselves, how to communicate with new people, and deal with awkward moments.

We worked on our improvisation skills, and about resolving conflicts. We talked about different prejudices in society like racism and sexism and made groups for skits that we will preform on Sunday.11754561_918370454886246_3280295842532938881_o

After lunch, we had our last unit of Leadership with Jack. Using our conflict resolution and mediation skills, we began coming up with our own peace plans for the Holy City of Jerusalem. It took some time and we plan to continue our work on them tomorrow.
For dinner we enjoyed some great grilled chicken and salad, and then we had an art session with Stuart. We made little cut outs of the word “peace” in Hebrew, Arabic and English.11728705_918370334886258_4239331381902999342_o

And to end the night, we climbed a mountain in the dark, WHILE BLINDFOLDED!!!!! It was very challenging, but we all made it and came together in the end. We sat around a bonfire, just to rest and sing. The counselors gave us talismans to take home and always remember this leadership camp and the struggles we overcame together.”

Mapping Home

by Rachel, American Christian Faith Adviser for NC Camp

This morning the 6th grade campers went on a hike on Eagle Rock trail with Jill, some Camp Bob staff and faith advisers. They climbed a mountain to a scenic overlook where they could reflect on the theme of the day: home. They were asked to draw about and share what home means to them. Here were some of the many answers that were shared.

“Wherever my books are is home.”

“Chocolate chip cookies mean home for me.”

“The globe holds my home.”

“Outside space, the landscape and view from my window. My garden is home.”

“Sitting on our porch with family talking.”

“Doing nothing with my family is home.”

“My state is what makes me feel pride of home. I also love my flag which symbolizes home and I hope to be the governor one day of my state.”

“The four chambers of my heart is home.”

After the hike back down the mountain the campers had lunch and spent the evening playing sports from Jerusalem and the US before their favorite activity of the day: swimming!

In the evening both the 6th graders and the LEAP kids got to be a part of a carnival with fun activities. They had fun playing all together in the big field as their counselors led in the fun.

In the evening reflection all together Lauren, American Jewish Faith Adviser for 6th grade, shared that she felt at home today in the cabin when we were making friendship bracelets with all the girls.

David Rowan, Camp Director, ended the evening by sharing a quote from his favorite bumper sticker: “If you lived in your heart you’d already be home.”

We’re looking forward to spending more time tomorrow growing as a Kids4Peace family.

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Just another day at Kids4Peace

by Rebecca Sullum, Kids4Peace Jerusalem Co-Director

Took a ride from Jaffa to Jerusalem

Spent most of it telling the arts student about the Kids4Peace community

At the office cleaned up 8 years’ worth of papers, all related to peacebuilding

Even found made original papers from the first time I meet a Palestinian when I was 18 years old

K4P youth walked in and out of the office, all waiting to speak with a group of 90 American Jewish youth

Just another day at Kids4Peace, trying to inspire others’ that together peace is possible.

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Reeham, my Muslim/Palestinian colleague walked into the office

Between phone calls from nervous parents pre-travel, emails and our scheduled meeting Reeham and I work on next year programs

The summer intern calls, she can’t find a long sleeve shirt to print on to make an suitable K4P shirt for the 6th grade Muslim girl that wants to wear long sleeves

This was my mistake, as I thought all Muslim women could just put a long sleeve shirt under the t-shirt like Reeham

So I had to get the appropriate shirt ready on time

Success, shirt found and printed

Just another day at Kids4Peace, trying to make everyone feel welcome and respected

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Tri-lingual core staff meeting Last day of the Ramadan fast, right before the Eid (holiday)

The teams in a good mood

One last push to finish up work before the 8 summer camps commence

Advice shared via Hangout, with a new group in the center of the county that wants to build an interfaith program

Sharing our struggles of nearly 14 years of youth programs and finding a model that will be sensitive to all J

ust another day at Kids4Peace supporting others in creating a safe space for peace

18 t-shirts in hand, well actually 17 t-shirts and 1 long sleeve shirt

Meet along with the faith advisors, counselors and the 18 youth heading to NC camp next week

Oh the excitement of the first camp and travel

I wish we all could experience the sensation of the first time meeting the other again

As there is something so humbling and courageous that these youth and families are doing together

Just another day of creating cross border community at Kids4Peace

Jump on the light rail, traveling further into East Jerusalem

Not my regular route

Move from speaking Hebrew with a concerned K4P mother on the phone to English as I get off in Shoafat

Mohammad, my co-director is waiting

We travel to Beit Hanina, to pay our condolences, to our office manager, Ghadeer, on the passing of her Uncle, may his memory be a blessing

Second time Mohammad and I have gone together to a Christian reception, this time I am already familiar with the costumes

Just another day of interfaith experience in Kids4Peace

Ride back into West Jerusalem with Mohammad and his family

His bi-lingual 2 year old son is talking to me in Hebrew

I am speaking to his parents in English and trying to throw in bits of Arabic

“Your Arabic is really getting better” Mohammad tells me in the car

I am glad to receive this support and compliment

I commit myself to another semester of study Through language trying to understand my other

Just another day in Kids4Peace

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Dinner with friends and a mentor that I haven’t seen in 12 years

End up spending most of the night talking about Kids4Peace Jerusalem

Want my mentor to expose his Jewish day school in Chile to diverse Jerusalem through the eyes of Kids4Peace

“There is no solution to this conflict” one of my friends says at the meal

“There is a solution, many political solutions are on the table, just no one sees that path to them”

I respond and think to myself,

“K4P is already walking the path of peace, but it is a lonely on the path of non-violence”

Just another day in Kids4Peace

Midnight, make it home to Jaffa

Can’t fall asleep because I want to write this blog Just another day in Kids4Peace

Filed under: Blog

US Consul General: Kids4Peace Gives Me Hope

June 4, 2015
Independence Day Celebration
US. Consulate General, JERUSALEM

unnamed-3As I was contemplating what I might say today, I ran across the words of the late Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali, and thought he captured beautifully a sentiment that I think about here often. In a poem called “Revenge,” he imagined meeting the man who killed his father and destroyed his home, and he fantasized about challenging that man to a duel and finally settling the score. “But if it came to light,” he wrote, “when my rival appeared, that he had a mother waiting for him, then I wouldn’t kill him even if I could. If it were made clear that he had a brother or sisters…or if he had a wife to greet him and children who couldn’t bear his absence…”

Reading those lines brought to mind what we’ve all seen happen when we fail to regard each other as humans, when we forget about the mothers and the children, the brothers and sisters. We’ve all seen what happens when the other is dehumanized, and when hatred is indulged.

I’ve seen it for myself – what that hatred, that rejection of humanity – of human-ness – can spawn. In just a few days span last year, I visited a mosque in the West Bank village of Jabaa and a Christian seminary on Mt. Zion – two places of holy worship that were torched by price tag vandals, by morally bankrupt cowards in the dead of night. I visited the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives where graves have been desecrated, as though in some sick sport – nihilism masquerading as political protest. I sat shiva with the families of four rabbis murdered as they prayed in their synagogue in Har Nof. I visited the wake tent in Shuafat for Mohammad Abu Khdeir, who was kidnapped and burned alive by soulless criminals in the Jerusalem Forest.

For the monsters, the terrorists, who perpetrated these attacks, politics and religion intersect in a very dark place, in the lowest depths of hate and ignorance and inhumanity. These perpetrators were so filled with hate, so drained of wisdom, so morally vacant, so unable or unwilling to see the humanity of the other, that they become in every sense empty of humanity themselves.

And yet, I take comfort in knowing that they are the minority. And I derive great optimism from having met so many other Israelis and Palestinians who may just hold enough humanity for all of us. Who not only recognize the humanity in others, but embrace it, celebrate it, protect it.unnamed-2

Ask what gives me hope – and lately I’ve been asked that question a great deal – and I’ll tell you about the young Palestinians and Israelis I met with Kids4Peace, who even in the darkest, most heart-breakingly violent days of the Gaza conflict last summer, insisted on talking, and rejected the absurd notion that shunning each other will somehow lead to justice or equality.

They stood together and said words I’ll always remember – words that I wrote down even as they spoke them: “We are the kids of Jerusalem, and the violence stops with us.”

Click here to read the full speech.

It’s Time to Stand Up for Each Other

Tahera AhmadA Message From the Executive Director

Maybe you saw Kids4Peace in the news last week?

Tahera Ahmad, a Muslim scholar, interfaith leader, and chaplain at Northwestern University was on her way to DC, when she experienced an act of discrimination on her flight, compounded by hateful words from a passenger.

She was coming to speak with the Kids4Peace Board about interfaith relations in America and the challenges facing American Muslims.

In an interview, Tahera said this:

It’s indicative of something much deeper happening in our country right now… Minority groups are saying they’re in a lot of pain. If you fail to recognize the bigotry, prejudice and stereotypes that create a culture, that continues to promote cyclical injustice. We can’t continue to do that. All this pain and all this hurt, it’s just not OK.

Kids4Peace is working to change this culture of prejudice and injustice, so Tahera’s experience of discrimination does not happen again.

To me, the most painful part of Tahera’s story is the fact that other passengers did not support her.

“I thought people would defend me and say something,” she said.

No one did.  Where were the people of faith and courage?  Where were my fellow Christians, who are taught over and over to stand with those on the margins?

In the face of bigotry and hatred, real change begins when we have the courage to stand up for each other.

That’s what we do in Kids4Peace.

I hear so many stories of Kids4Peace youth standing up for the other, at great personal risk – both in Jerusalem and here in the USA.  From the age of twelve, K4P youth are challenging the prejudices of their teachers, defending peers against bullying, and refusing to join the vitriolic chants of their ‘friends.

They have courage to do this because they have each other, and because they have you standing alongside them.

This week, Board member Sue Bloch published a  powerful profile of Eve, a young peacemaker in Seattle.

Eve said it well: “I joined the Kids4Peace movement because I feel that the mission is a crucial one. I would like to be a part of it. But I can’t do it on my own.”

We can only do it together.  Together with Eve and Tahera and interfaith leaders across the globe, Kids4Peace is building a new culture of peace and a powerful movement for change.

It’s time to stand up and tell the world that there is another way.

Stand up for each other.  Stand up, when you hear words of prejudice.  Stand up, when you see injustice.  Stand up, when you see someone’s pain.

We are #UnitedForTahera – and united in our commitment to challenge all acts of discrimination and injustice.   It’s time to stand up for peace.

Fr. Josh Thomas, Executive Director
Kids4Peace International (josh@k4p.org)

PS — K4P Board Vice-President Yakir Englander was a colleague of Tahera’s at Northwestern.  His reflections are on the Kids4Peace Blog.  Read more >> 

What Kids4Peace can Teach Us About Peace (Tikkun)

Eve

“I have joined the Kids4Peace movement because I feel that their mission is a crucial one,” Eve insisted. “I would like to be a part of it. But I can’t do it on my own. 

Kids4Peace Board Member Sue Bloch writes about Eve from Kids4Peace Seattle at Tikkun Daily

“The Puget Sound is really a mess,” one of my grandchildren told me recently.

It’s so polluted. Did you know even the orcas are contaminated with toxic chemicals.”

Determined to build a better future, our kids want to find new ways to make themselves heard — in the classroom, by their parents, communities, and politicians. It’s easy for parents to think their kids are only interested in the latest football results, lose sleep over what to wear to graduation, and spend far too much time playing games on their phones. In reality youth are also texting and blogging about police brutality, melting icecaps, and how to end U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. They worry how we’ll ever get out of the mess.

Read the full story on Tikkun Daily

The kids are right to be concerned. My own generation has certainly not done a great job. In my twenties, I too had wanted to change the world. Filled with purpose I moved to Israel after the Six Day War, when as young parents, we had been so hopeful of peaceful co-existence with our neighbors. Instead, since then we have wobbled from crisis to crisis. Smoldering tanks in the Sinai desert filled TV screens during the Yom Kippur War in ’73. UN camps settled on the Golan Heights to make sure all parties observed the peace treaty with Syria. Gaza became a tinderbox. Scud missiles were shot down during the Gulf War only seconds before they would have hit Tel Aviv.

Now I wonder can the youth of today do things differently in the future? Can they stop the intifadas, the suicide bombers and periodic destruction on the West Bank? Will the intrusive yet crucial security inspections at the border crossings ever become a thing of the past?

As a grandmother, I wanted to try to do something to help our grandchildren build a better future. When I learned about Kids4Peace, an interfaith community of Israeli, Palestinian, and North American youth and educators, I decided to invest some of my time and energy to support their vision: a passion to develop the next generation of peacemakers. I read about their summer programs where Israeli, Palestinian, and U.S. kids spend two weeks together at camps scattered around North America and Israel, learning about their different faiths, traditions, and cultures. They play soccer, skip rope, and sing together. They learn how to listen and try to understand other kids rather than judge them.

Read the full story on Tikkun Daily

 

Filed under: Seattle

We are #UnitedForTahera

by Yakir Englander, Kids4Peace International Vice-President

I was working with Tahera Ahmad during the years 2012 – 2014 when I taught at Northwestern University. Tahera represents for me and for many students the possibility to be a believer, a scholar, a feminist, and a person who doesn’t stop working towards social justice and healthy relationships among people.

DA8A3316In November 2012, in the midst of the Israeli-Gaza war, Tahera was the only person at Northwestern University who gathered a group of students – Jews, Muslims, Christians and others – in a safe place, where they could share their pain, fear and hope to end the conflict. I had the gift to be there and to see how, by her unique personality and sensitivity, she succeed to gather Pro-Israelis and Pro-Palestinians to help and support each other.

During my two years at Northwestern university, I found a spiritual family in the Islamic community. As an Israeli who grew up in an Ultra-Orthodox family, I was amazed by the  hospitality that I received by the Islamic community at Northwestern under the directorship of Tahera Ahmad.

For these reasons I invited Tahera to come, meet and teach at the Board meeting of Kids4Peace this past weekend in Washington, DC. I believe that all of us: Americans, Israelis and Palestinians, from the three Abrahamic traditions, can benefit from her unique personality, her teachings, the open hearts and mind to the differences among us. I was amazed how focus she was with the members of Kids4Peace, how vivid and open, as if she hadn’t just come from a traumatic event on the airplane.

During the years, Tahera became not only a colleague of mine, but also a family member and a spiritual partner.

As a Jew (and for sure as a friend) I must support my dear sister Tahera. I pray Allah and Hashem to send you the powers to keep working for a better America for all of American citizens and mostly for the minorities.

“May the One who creates harmony on high, bring peace to us, to which we say Amen.”Yakir Thumbnail

– Dr. Yakir Englander is Vice-President of the Kids4Peace International Board of Directors and has been a visiting lecturer at Harvard Divinity School.

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For additional information:
Fr. Josh Thomas, Executive Director
josh@k4p.org | (202) 796-7047

K4P Seattle: Please, Keep Talking Behind My Back!

by Pam Orbach, Kids4Peace Seattle Dialogue Facilitator

It’s been a wonderful first year of Kids4Peace in Seattle. The gift I have experienced as dialogue facilitator has been to watch our 13-year-old future peace leaders grow together. They have learned the art of acceptance and belonging; they have forged bonds and increased their commitment — to each other and to the program. I am filled with gratitude for the potential their unique wisdom as leaders may offer in the future.

Kids from K4P Seattle working on a community garden-building project, shortly before the dialogue session.

Kids from K4P Seattle working on a community garden-building project, shortly before the dialogue session.

With this awareness and deep gratitude in my heart, I met with the group on May 17 for the last time before the next generation of K4P kids join their meetings. I wanted a dialogue that would call out the hidden power in each individual through a process of acknowledging and championing their spirit. I longed for them to recognize their full potential of whom they might be when they believe in themselves. Talking Behind My Back (with a twist) was the perfect activity.

Each kid took a turn to be “IT” and sat up front with their back turned to the group. Everyone else, including our supporting adults, had the opportunity to describe and recognize actions that the ‘”IT” had done at any point in the year that were worthy of appreciation and gratitude. Individuals in the group expressed gratitude for what they love about “IT”. It was the privilege of the “IT” to just listen and take it all in: to see their very best own self, positively through the eyes of their community; to not only glimpse their most positive self, but also to be inspired to become the full self they might be devoid of self doubt.

The face of each teen, as they turned back to the group in acknowledgement, was overflowing reward for those of us assembled. My wish for these kids is that they embody all that they heard.  When they step into their power, I am confident they will create peace wherever they are. It has been an honor to work with them.

Thank you, kids from Kids4Peace.

Day of Nakba: A day to be proactive

by Mohammad Joulany, K4P Jerusalem Co-Director

Yesterday marked sixty-seven years of what my people refer to as “Nakba day” which means the day of the catastrophe. On the day of Nakba I remember my grandfather who was force229d to move from his spacious apartment in Baka to live in a tiny room
in the Muslim quarter of The Old City of Jerusalem.

I remember those who suffer until this very moment from the consequences of their displacement in refugee camps in the West Bank, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon. The day that I commemorate is the same day that my Israeli colleagues celebrate and refer to as Independence Day. Here I ask myself the same question that our Jerusalem steering committee chair asked in a previous post: can we really bridge the gap when our worldviews are so different? A simple answer would be a “yes” or “no” answer but an honest one would be “I am not sure”.

The gap is huge for a reason. It is huge because of over sixty-seven years of the unwillingness of recognizing the other. It is due to the education that Israeli’s and Palestinian’s have that does not teach about the other and if it does, it is often to dehumanize the other. While I believe that my people’s cause is just I am sure that my people’s victory should not be over other’s misery. This might sound like a romantic discourse but the reality is that in a small country like ours it is impossible to live alone and pretend that the other side does not exist and here I remember the words of Martin Luther King when he said, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools”.

One may ask why I refer to coexistence when I commemorate the Nakba day instead of referring the right of return for example. It is almost impossible to convince Israeli’s of the “right of return” if they see you as a threat and when their prime minister encourage them to vote for his extreme government because as he called it “the Arabs are voting in droves”. The mutual responsibility we have is to encourage our people to interact and live together. Israeli’s and Palestinians should be convinced that coexisting is not a naïve choice rather a strategic one to face growing extremism in our societies and the region as well.

Last week a number of angry Palestinian youth stopped an Israeli-Palestinian meeting that was about to take place in East Jerusalem. While I understand the frustration of those youth living under occupation, I do see that what they did is mainly contributing to the policies of the extreme right in Israel, which calls for Isolation. What damage is to happen if this meeting actually took place? Well, I can only think of so many advantages and very little disadvantages. It is our role as Palestinians to present our suffering, hopes, and fears in front of Israelis before anyone else in the world. “The system” does not allow for much interaction, most encounters are on the surface and are not deep enough to the level when gaps are identified.

My message is also to those who pretend to do the “coexistence work”. Being polite and friendly will not help much. Be honest but sensitive when presenting your fears or sufferings to the other. The best present to your people on the Israeli Independence Day or on the Day of Nakba is to be proactive and take a step forward towards talking to a new person from the other side.

Tomorrow is what the Israelis refer to as “Jerusalem Day”. It is the day when the extreme right march towards to Eastern side of the city chanting “Death to Arabs” and “Mohammad is dead”. I dream of the day when we citizens of Jerusalem can walk for peace unified, regardless of our religion or national belonging.

We at Kids4Peace provide a trustworthy platform where Muslim, Christian, and Jewish Israeli and Palestinian families come together on an equal basic to work towards a better present and a promising future for us and our children.

Returning to Ramallah

by Meredith Rothbart, K4P Director of Development

“Have you ever been to Ramallah?”
This seems like a simple question. If you were to ask me if I’d been to New York, I would say, “Yes, I have been to New York.” If you were to ask me if I have been to China, I would say, “No, I have not been to China.” With Ramallah however, the answer is a bit trickier, as some Kids4Peace International Board members and US Chapter directors found out last week.

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For many of “us,” (Israelis), the answer last week on the bus on our way to Ramallah was “well, not as a civilian.” This confused the foreigners among us, and sent shivers up the spines of some of our Palestinian colleagues. Many of us had been to Ramallah or villages in the Ramallah area as IDF soldiers on missions, just like I had during my time serving as a Non-Commissioned Officer in COGAT. Few of us had walked the streets, chatted with locals, and ordered a local coffee.

“Marhaba.”

“Salam Alaikum”

“Ana bidi…ehh….kaweh. Kaweh ma chalib? Cappucino?”

I have had many opportunities to travel into Ramallah before, but I have always had an excuse. Most recently, when a friend celebrated the birth of his child in his home, I just said flat out, “I want to visit, but I’m too scared.” I sent a gift instead. It wasn’t the same.

unnamed-2When one of our American colleagues asked me if I felt calm after passing through Kalandia checkpoint, I didn’t know how to respond. Calm? Of course not! Calm would have been the Israeli soldiers sending me home and giving me an excuse not to face my fears. Calm would have been a friendly face in all green telling me that for my own safety, I cannot cross into enemy territory. Making it through Kalandia checkpoint was not calming–it was terrifying. There was that big red sign spelling out “DANGER!” and we just drove right past it. I wasn’t protected anymore. My identity alone now put me in danger. “No,” I said, “I am not calm now. It’s not the checkpoint I was afraid of, it is being here and G-d forbid, being killed.”

So then why did I go? Well, for a few reasons

Reason #1. Deep down I just felt that it would end up ok. I trust my instincts and I trust my Kids4Peace family. We’re a team in the deepest sense of the word. I knew that my Palestinian brothers and sisters were there with me, holding my hands, and making sure that everything was ok. I know that they actually legitimately care about me and wouldn’t put me in danger.  So, as much as they could promise and as much as they could control–they would keep me safe from the unknown that had me shivering with fear on that 20-minute drive to Ramallah.

“Ehh, sure, I’ve been to Ramallah…”, I’ve said to those who ask.

What I don’t always say is “with a bullet proof vest, a helmet, an M-16, and armored vehicles in front of me and behind me.”

Reason #2. I’m a leader in Kids4Peace. Believe it or not–this scaredy-cat has to admit the reality. I’m one of many leaders in this awe-inspiring community and the community deserves the intellectual honesty from its staff that we as leaders ask of them. I ask our youth, our parents, our graduates, our volunteers, our educators, and our facilitators to step outside of their comfort zones all the time. I ask them to step into enemy territory. And you know what? They do. Some of them do every single day. I don’t know that if the tables were turned if I would be as strong as my Palestinian colleagues. So I decided to at least take a first step.

Reason #3. On Yom Hazikaron (Israeli Memorial Day), I realized during the siren that I was the only Jew in my office. I stood silently between my Palestinian friends as we stared at each other—trying to internalize the complexity of this moment of silence together. One colleague sat quietly and respectfully so not to disturb me, but did not stand. Another stood, partly out of respect and partly (admittedly) out of confusion. We spent the rest of the day discussing, arguing, crying and trying to make some sense of the reality we live in. We did not solve the conflict that day, but one thing became clear to me–they know Israeli society a million times better than I know Palestinian society. So I figured…yalla, let’s go get some coffee in Ramallah.

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Leadership youth face racism together

by Guy, Facilitator for Kids4Peace Jerusalem’s Leadership Group
We arrived at Ein Gedi on time where the weather was excellent, and the youth were at their best, cheerful and engaged.  We had one workshop before the Sabbath designing and brainstorming ideas for a billboard that represents our work in Kids4Peace…. (On the last day of the leadership camp (Sunday, 2 August) we will have the opportunity to paint a large peace banner.  The banner will then hang over America’s busiest highway – I-95 in Connecticut.  This is all possible due to the generosity and friendship of Bruce Barrett, who works with the Combatants for Peace).
After dinner we had a dialogue about the tour of Jerusalem we had recently, the dialogue was deep and interesting. On Sabbath we started with a long hike, wow, so much fun and some insights and overcoming fears.
The following 2 dialogue sessions were then dedicated in concern to the interaction our youth had with 3 classes from Or Yehuda, a Jewish religious group that was also staying at the same hotel with us. The youth where mostly religious and haven’t meet an Arab their age or a Jewish that has Arab friends up until now.
The previous night had not been easy. Our youth had some free time with the Or Yehuda youth which seemed ok at first, but when our youth wanted to go to sleep some of the Or Yehuda youth insisted to continue talking. When our group insisted that they wanted to go to sleep, some of the youth from Or Yehuda became racist, calling under their porch and knocking at the door… Bahiah, my Palestinian colleague, and I and the hostel’s guard and one of the Or Yehuda teachers (who was not friendly  and later on some of the youth from Or Yehuda told us that he hates Arabs) were up till 2:00 in the morning trying to monitor the situation.
Between our two dialogues, we had a short meeting with the Or Yehuda group to discuss what had happened. It was important to have this time to debrief so that we could feel and see our differences and our similarity’s through some dialogue.
In Kids4Peace we realize that facing communities who challenge our work is always possible. We were very impressed with the way our Leadership youth asked for help and were open to a dialogue with the group that had been rude to them. A Kids4Peace parent then suggested we get together at her home and process the incident together. We as a staff agreed and look forward to meeting with youth and parents together.
At the meeting, parents requested to draw up an official protocol that would help guide advisors and facilitators during weekend seminars. The protocol includes many suggestions such as checking which other groups will be lodging at the hostel at the same time, involving parents in the programming for weekends, and maintaining more frequent communication with parents throughout seminars, especially in the event where there is tension.
We wish to thank the youth for their mature response, as well as the parents for their careful attention to detail and desire to make the process better for all of us in Kids4Peace.

Our narratives for the same event cannot be more different

by Udi, Kids4Peace Jerusalem Steering Committee Chair

As we are approaching Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haaztmaut Israel’s Memorial Day for the fallen soldiers of the IDF and Day of independence, we are also nearing the Nakba. These events play a major symbolic role in the dispute between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Whilst one people mourn the dead soldiers and celebrates independence the other mark the day of the disaster.  The narratives for the same event cannot be more different. And here we are, trying to communicate with each other and bring peace. Thinking about these two days and the heated debates around them made me reflect on the work of Kids4Peace.

The first question is: can we really bridge the gap when our worldviews are so different? Can we overlook the fact that our friends see our day of independence as a disaster? What does that say about their feeling for our fallen soldiers, our brothers, sons, and friends? Can I ignore their feelings and pretend that it is not happening, keep smiling and ignore this issue? On the other hand, how do they feel about me celebrating their disaster? How can I mourn the loss of soldiers who sometimes represent the worse image for them? How would I feel about them mourning what I call a terrorist? Can I even compare, do I/we even want to enter this discussion?

This leads me to the nature of our dialogue. Is it real or are we just being polite and friendly? Are our conversations honest like real friends? Can we cross over to the other camp and be friends with one or two of the others, real friend or are we there mostly for the kids, it is a good program after all.

I believe that the key is in the narrative. We all stepped out of the norm and made a statement for whatever reason, that we want our children to get to know the others. We all did something that is not what most people do. But we are often caught in the same old narrative. It is us and them, the Jews/Israelis and sometimes the occupiers Vs. the Palestinians/ Arabs / Christians/Muslims, them.  The problem is that we do not talk about the real issues and if someone brings up a sensitive issue, people get defensive or aggressive which terminates the conversation

Looking at the days ahead of us, I think that dealing with a conflict in a good way is an opportunity to grow. I work as a director of kindergartens. We teach the children to see the good in others, we teach them to resolve conflicts by saying sorry, playing together and becoming friends, we teach them to share and to care. We teach them that violence is wrong, that what might be good for some is not good for others, we teach them that people have different taste in things and we should learn from one another. We teach them to take responsibility and own up to what they did as part of growing up and being independent and trustworthy. Yet, when it comes to us, the adults, we forget most of it.

These are not easy times for both sides. We can pretend that it is not happening, smile to each other and make a comment to ‘our’ side about how ‘they’ are celebrating/commemorating ‘that day’. Or, we can be honest with each other and bring it up in a discussion. We can try finding a middle ground or a space where we can share what we think and feel. I suggest we bring some food along because it can be a long conversation but nonetheless a good one that will require fueling of good stuff from both sides. If we drop our guard a bit (use some humor) and give the other person credit for wanting to be there and make peace, we can go a long way and celebrate friendships that will grow of this conflict. Kid4Peace is giving us the best platform to move forward, let us use it.

I invite anyone who is interested to meet and talk over a good meal to contact me at steeringcommittee@k4p.org

Shalom and Salaam,
Udi

Popsicles, games, cheers, and letting kids be kids

by Mike, K4P Jerusalem volunteer

There’s nothing so simple and joyful as just watching kids at play. You give them the space to run and jump and laugh and express themselves, and everything else seems to just fall away. But sometimes it’s not as simple as it seems.BNC_5876

On Friday, April 17th, I spent the day with the 66 newest members of Kids4Peace – the latest crop of 6th-graders that just started this January. It was field day at the Beit Safafa School in East Jerusalem, and that meant a day of popsicles, games, cheers, and letting kids be kids.

And that’s what they did. At first glance (or at first listen – as you approach the school playground from a distance and hear only the giggles and shouts as they drift out into the famously resonant and echo-friendly city of Jerusalem), it was indistinguishable from any other group of 6th-graders discovering lacrosse for the first time or getting into a game of tug-of-war.

BNC_5547But this was so much more than that. For one thing, it was the start of a six-year journey with Kids4Peace.

These kids are evenly split between the three Abrahamic religions that call Jerusalem home: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, and even within those categories there’s remarkable diversity: Palestinian, Israeli, European, Arab, religious, secular, wealthy, poor, and all the seemingly endless ways each of those identifiers can mix and match and combine to form fascinatingly different but uniformly adorable and engaging children.

All of that plus the occasional language barrier means there’s still some awkwardness and clumping. The social circles that form organically when the kids sit down on the pavement for lunch aren’t exactly fully inclusive – and if you’re watching closely you’ll notice that “random selection” when picking teams for baseball often leaves the sides suspiciously unbalanced.

But you can’t expect 6th-graders not to *cheat* a little bit to be on the same team as their friends. And – in true 6th-grade fashion – these self-selected teams and lunch groups were divided by gender far more often than by anything else. (Especially considering that, without the occasional hijab or crucifix-necklace or kippah, the non-gender based differences can be a lot harder to spot.)

At this point, when the kids are still wearing nametags, when they’re still struggling to find the best, most comfortable ways to communicate somewhere in the chaotic mix of Hebrew, Arabic, and English – it’s hard to imagine that these kids really know what is in store for them.BNC_5286

Sixth grade means 11 or 12 years old. They’re teetering on the edge of the “kid world” that dominates in elementary school, beginning to drift dangerously into the emotional, socially-stratified world that follows, populated by preteens and adolescence.

As if middle school wasn’t enough, these kids have the troubled world around them to contend with as well. They haven’t necessarily fully come to terms yet with what the Israeli-Palestinian context will do to shape their lives, and they surely have no idea what the next six years in Kids4Peace might mean for them.

There will be powerful friendships, challenging emotions, painful dialogues, and difficult but ultimately worthwhile coexistence – and who knows what else. But for now there is play.

BNC_5776One of the four stations of the day is for assorted silly games, especially ones that require a lot of running. Tug-of-war is a big hit, although it leaves some guys a little shamed and disappointed. (The girls crush them every chance they get, while the boys sit idly by and wait for growth spurts.)

At another station the kids learn the traditional Kids4Peace cheers, shouting their way through them alternately in English, Arabic, and Hebrew. As the years continue, this cheer will become more and more significant and unavoidably loaded with emotion and energy of one kind or another – but for now it seems like little more than a mildly amusing chore. One boy laughs as he helps lead another round through the chant, but then wraps his arm around his buddy and remarks loudly, “I’m not having fun!”

BNC_5344Only an hour later, however, the boy is running bases in his first experience of Baseball. “This is the best game ever!” he exclaims to no one in particular as he lands on second.

The last two stations are thus reserved for Baseball and Lacrosse – two pure American imports that produce some funny looks on kids’ faces, sometimes amused, sometimes frustrated, sometimes just confused. But there is no “This is stupid,” or “I don’t get it.” They dive in, joyfully and eagerly getting into something new. They do some quick training as the volunteers from the Baseball and Lacrosse organizations show them the basic skills and rules, and the game is on.

The newness of the sports means no child is an expert. Even if they’ve seen it on TV before, most kids have probably never swung a bat. Everyone feels a bit silly, and maybe the slightest bit uncomfortable as they get used to swinging this weird Lacrosse stick around – but they’re learning together, and that’s what this is all about.

“Everywhere we go (echo)

People want to know (echo)

Who we are (echo)

So we tell them (echo)

We are Kids4Peace

Mighty Mighty Kids4Peace

Tired of the fighting

Time to do the right thing

We can do it better

We can live together

Shalom Salaam

Salaam Shalom

Kids! 4! Peace!”

The Power of Hope: Kids4Peace International 2014 Annual Report

“Together, we are walking a new path — where religions cooperate for the common good, where children grow up with trust and respect for those who are different, where nonviolence is the way to justice”

#TogetherPeaceIsPossible

Alex | “A rational and compassionate answer”

Alex Pic UseAlex Milkie has always had connections to the Middle East. His family originally came from the Middle East, modern day Syria and Lebenon. Though he was raised  in the United States by a Catholic mother and an Orthodox Christian father, Alex explained that “no one spoke Arabic but we had a strong Arabic tradition in my household.”

Further, he studied Arabic and Middle Eastern Languages and Culture in college and worked in graduate school at the University of Chicago on Modern Middle East History and Politics. Though heavily involved in Middle Eastern affairs, Alex stated to me that he “always had a lot of frustration and anger about things in the Middle East and it was generally put against the backdrop of us and them. Us being Arabs and them being Jews or Israelis. I didn’t even bother separating Jews from Israelis or Israelis from Zionists. My frustrations mounted and ended up coming out in unproductive ways.”

Alex was introduced to Kids4Peace through Pastor Hunt at Emmanuel Episcopal Church. “Kids4Peace was what I’d been looking for, for quite some time, a rational and compassionate answer.” I asked about how Kids4Peace was making a difference and Alex acknowledged the importance of this grassroots movement.

“Answers have to come from the ground up. It cannot come from politicians; it has to be the people. One of the great things about Kids4Peace is that it is heartwarming to realize that you are not alone in what you are doing and how you feel.”

I asked Alex what had impressed him or perhaps been surprising in his interactions with the kids. He said that he had expected that they would interact and have excellent thoughts on peace however; he was surprised by something else.

“I was mostly impressed by just how talented so many of them were. There was an Israeli girl who could sing very well and a young Palestinian boy who spoke Hebrew, English and Arabic fluently. It was really incredible watching these kids. My Middle Eastern background held preconceived notions about what a Jerusalemite is like but the kids proved otherwise.”

Alex is currently on the steering committee for Kids4Peace Seattle and helps substantially with fundraising efforts. Part of what Alex sees for the future for Seattle is for it to become more of a regional hub. He described to me some trouble with bringing newly arrived Muslim families into the Kids4Peace community and how wonderful it would be to “see Seattle have branch camps all around western Washington into Oregon to drum up support at a more regional level.”

Roots: Strengthening Group Identity through Social Change

  11081244_648322711940461_4792306084737467592_n by Liana, Jewish Advisor, 

For the Roots  group, as the year is coming to an end and we are preparing for camp, we decided it was time for a project. For some kind of social/community project that would both bring the youth together to strengthen their group identity, as well as something that would help spread the message of what Kids4Peace stands for, and about what we do.

Of all of the peace-oriented, social justice groups and communities I have ever been involved in, Kids4Peace is by far the most engaging, organized, inspiring, and active group I have had the honor to be a part of. For the last six months, I have had the immense privilege to gather with the 25-some Roots youth and advisors and have struggled with them as they have tried to process things like the war last summer, like how Ferguson riots could be compared and contrasted with East Jerusalem protests, ideas about coexistence, violence, non-violent acitivism, identity, community, and mostly reflecting upon and dealing with the youths daily realities in and around Jerusalem, whether as Palestinians or Israelis, Jews or Arabs, and especially as fourteen year-olds growing up in such a tumultuous, volcanic place.

10409621_648322641940468_2400780720043782108_nSo last week when we were gathered together, the group tried to think of what would be a meaningful, and identity-building activity that they could bring into the community and that would help them build their group identity. They decided that going to a public place and doing interviews with people walking by, both locals and tourists could be a powerful and representative effort.

They came up with questions, things like: What does Islam mean to you? Do you believe in peace, why or why not? How do you define terrorism? Can you tell the difference between Jews and Arabs? The goals they came up with were as equally inspiring, things that they hoped both themselves and others could take away from their project: We are not so different from each other, break down stereotypes, raise awareness, show that peace is possible, address racism in Jerusalem, and to make Kids4Peace a more known and respected power-force for good in Jerusalem.

11081320_648322668607132_1044216152462543707_nWe started out our day meeting at Mamila, a posh and touristy outdoor shopping center close to the Old City. Once we had all gathered – four advisors, including a Jewish male and female, an Arab Christian female, and an Arab Muslim male, and 9 youth, including three Jews, four Christians, and two Muslims, we made our way to the Jaffa Gate, the main entrance to the Old City from the city center of Jerusalem.

Once there, we organized all of our equipment and began our interviews. It was a really great practice for them, even if just to gain confidence as they brushed off the rude or busy people that either ignored them or glared at them as the kids went up to passersby asking to interview them.

The people who agreed to be interviewed were varied and diverse. They interviewed Europeans, Asians, religious Israeli Jews, religious Arab men, etc. The youth did everything – they controlled the video camera, they held the microphones up to the interviewer and interviewee, and they asked the questions. As an advisor, it was a wonderful experience to stand by and be around in case they needed us, but to watch them take control of their own project, to be proud of it, and to have fun while doing it. They also showed clear pride in telling people about Kids4Peace, and it was clear that they felt what they were doing was meaningful and interesting.

unnamed-1Looking back at the goals, I can say with certainty that at least all were touched upon, and that most importantly, the kids walked away feeling accomplished and proud, of their group, of Kids4Peace, of the work they have committed themselves to doing, of the message they hope to spread, and most of all with a re-awakened hope that so easily and quickly can slip away in this place.

It is things like K4P and these kids that can remind each other and more importantly others, like bystanders walking around the Old City on a Friday morning, that it doesn’t have to be so black and white, and that there are efforts and people out there, like Charlie and Adan, Shaked and Aviv, Mohamed and Omri, that give us reason to keep doing the work we do, that remind us to look at the bigger picture but also to not forget about the small yet powerful efforts happening all around us.

Facing walls, facing barriers: Going beyond “everyday” Jerusalem 

by Dandan, K4P Intern

“If you open your google maps, you will see that we are crossing a dotted line. There’s no sign, but we have crossed the green line and are now in the West Bank,” said Yaniv, an Israeli tour guide who led the 9th grade K4P excursion into West & East Jerusalem on Friday, March 27. “Why do you think there is no sign?”

Ir Amim, which means “City of Nations,” is an Israeli organization which seeks to expose the public to the historical and present day realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with a specific emphasis on Jerusalem. This time, it provided a special tour for the K4P Leadership group, not afraid to address the political situations or divided landscapes of the city. Up front, Yaniv invited students to ask questions and voice their views, even if they disagreed.

DSC_1088Before boarding the bus, everyone received a map of the greater Jerusalem area, with lines and shaded areas of various colors. Included in this geographical depiction were boundaries reflecting shifting land designations throughout history, such as those that denoted West Jerusalem, the West Bank, and municipal jurisdiction. The shaded areas marked present-day Israeli and Arab neighborhoods, along with Israeli built-ups planned for the future.

On this map was a blue spot for Gilo, an Israeli neighborhood located south of West Jerusalem that many Israelis do not realize is a settlement over the green line. This was the first stop of the tour, where Yaniv presented a brief account of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict beginning from the 1948 war. He disclosed: “I learned about this when I was 25 years old, more or less, about what happened in the 1948 war to the Palestinians, after I had served in the Israeli military for three years.” 

This disclosure led him to touch upon why the students were there: “It’s important we try to understand Jerusalem beyond the tourist perspective. Most of us don’t get out of our comfort zones. We live in one neighborhood, go to the same school, shops, restaurants, and parks…We are here to discuss Jerusalem as a core issue of the conflict.” DSC_1106

From Gilo, the tour winded north through East Jerusalem’s Har Homa (Jewish), Sur Bahar (Arab), East Talpiyot (Jewish), Jabal Makabber (Arab), Mt Scopus (mixed), and the Pisgat Ze’ev area (mixed). Often the bus would wind along a road with a Jewish neighborhood on one side and an Arab neighborhood on the other. Yaniv encouraged the students to notice the physical differences and feel between the neighborhoods. He also led students to think critically about the positioning of the walls.

“Why do you think the Israeli government would want to build a wall in between Abu Dis and Ras Al Amud?” he asked, as he pointed to the concrete vertical shafts separating these two arab neighborhoods while the group stood on a promenade overlooking the Kidron Valley down below. Besides focusing on physical separations, he also addressed a wide range of socio-economic realities. Some of these included: differences in rights as an Israeli citizen versus resident, the effects of the wall on poverty distribution, and implications of current developments on the two-state solution.

Enriching Yaniv’s tour were the commentaries of the K4P advisors who lived during the times of conflict before the students were born. Bahia, a Palestinian Muslim faith advisor, offered her narrative on what it was like living during the second intifada:

DSC_1093“For me it was so hard. We were completely disconnected from the Palestinian West Bank and from Israeli West Jerusalem, so it was dangerous to go to the West Bank and to Hebron. The road was blocked with piles of stones. It was impossible to get from place to place. The military was blocking everywhere. The intifada was throwing stones, so we also might be hit by them because we had an Israeli ID and license plate on the car.

Many times the Israelis busted into my home. One night, my brothers were inside and I have 6 brothers. We were all sleeping when they came. One of them [Israeli soldiers] got the others and said, “Oh, there’s a bunch of kids here. Come, come, come over.” It was terrible. It was not even easy to move in East Jerusalem. You would be arrested and accused even if you don’t do anything. Most of my brothers and family members suffered from this, even if they didn’t have anything to do with politics. Before Oslo, it was safer, it was better. After Oslo came, it was a disaster. Everything was destroyed.” 

For a few students, it was their first time venturing forth into these areas and getting a feel for their realities. However, for some, they’ve heard about these threads before. Yasser, a Muslim student, would learn about these realities through his father on their visits to Ramallah and Bethlehem. Eyal, a Jewish student, chose to take a class on the conflict at his school.

As in-depth as his tour was, Yaniv encouraged the students to take a closer look at the places and situations they see everyday.

   

What if Trading Cards Could Change the World?

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How can we take the message of Kids4Peace and bring it to a larger audience? How can games and competition be used to build empathy? Can trading cards really change the world?

On March 22, the youth of Kids4Peace Seattle thought about all of these questions and more. For our monthly meeting, we partnered with Victoria Moreland, a graduate student in the Organization Systems Renewal Program at Pinchot University, who led us in a design thinking exercise to develop a set of trading cards (like baseball cards, or Magic: The Gathering) that would capture some of the work we do in Kids4Peace.


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Over the course of the afternoon, we reflected on the definition of empathy, and then spent time brainstorming different ways that messages of empathy and compassion could be transmitted through the use of trading cards.

We split up into four groups and spent about half an hour building a prototype deck of cards. Once the prototypes were complete, we rotated through the different groups, seeing how the cards would be used in real life. We also gave and received feedback to improve each set of cards. Here are the four ideas our youth developed:

  • A set of cards, each of which has a compassionate action that an individual can take (e.g. “Sit next to someone at lunch who is sitting by himself/herself.”) Once you have completed the action, you would pass on the card to someone else and encourage him or her to take the same action.
  • A set of cards, each of which has an image of a person who is feeling a certain emotion (e.g. Hannah the Happy, Aaron the Angry, Samir the Sad), together with words that help to describe that emotion. In a group, each individual would pick a card that describes an emotion they are currently feeling, and then would describe why they are feeling that way. The rest of the group can then provide an empathic response.
  • A game similar to Apples to Apples, where each player is dealt a set of “Feelings” cards. Then, one player draws an “Expressions” card that shows a face expressing a certain emotion. Each player puts down the Feelings card they think most closely matches the facial expression. The player who drew the Expressions card judges which feeling best matches the face.
  • A Choose Your Own Adventure-style of game, in which participants are presented with a scenario and then face a series of choices of actions based on that scenario. Some options are more empathic than others, and those options earn more points for the player.

It was amazing what we were able to produce in just one afternoon. Our youth were excited to keep working on their games and sharing them with others, so keep an eye out for them at a Kids4Peace camp this summer! Special thanks to Victoria Moreland for leading us in this exercise.

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Filed under: Chapters, Seattle

An interview with Fr. Josh Thomas

by Michal Ner-David, Jewish Advisor, Jerusalem

The past year in Israel, but especially in Jerusalem, has been horrifying. First there was the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish young men on their way home from school, then Operation “Protective Edge”, then the murder of an Arab teenager by a Jewish gang, and then an unleashing of racism and violence–sometimes deadly–coming from both sides that included an the attack on a synagogue in Har-Nof, Jerusalem. At times I ask myself why I am still living here. And then I think of  People like Pastor Josh Thomas.

Josh is the executive director of Kids4Peace. I met Josh when I was about 15 when I was volunteering at a summer camp with Kids4Peace. After being a camper in 2004, when I was ten years old, I decided to come back as a shepherd  (counselor). Josh has been an inspiration to me since that summer. I now work for Kids4Peace and am a “Jewish Faith Advisor” for the “Leap” group, which is made up of kids in seventh grade, participating in the second year programming of Kids4Peace. This year we have about 50 kids participating, a nearly 100% continuation of the kids from the year before. The Kids4Peace community has grown to 1,800 participants, staff members and volunteers. True to their commitment to “faith in peace,” Kids4Peace children and staff demonstrate great courage in the midst of conflict – refusing to be enemies, choosing to be friends. If anyone can bring peace to the world it is people involved in projects like this one.

My interview with Josh was scheduled for 6pm Jerusalem time. I sat at my computer for a few minutes before Skyping him. I saw a post on FaceBook about a recent attack in Jerusalem, I decided to add a question to my list. Dealing with Jerusalem and peace right now is like playing with fire. So, why focus your work on Jerusalem?  I then proceeded to call Josh on Skype.

“The situation here is all very upsetting, What motivates you to keep going?” I asked.

His answer is a good example of why I find him inspiring: “I realized that we are Creating a community. We are Motivating people to set an example of social change”, he says. “That is what keeps me going. Nowhere else do I know of a place where people of such different religious and political beliefs can come together”.

“Peacemaking and peacebuilding are not foreign concepts to me. I grew up in an environment where this was always talked about. But you didn’t grow up with it. So what inspires you to become apart of this movement of social change?” I asked him.

Josh grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania, once a coal mining town, in a Congregationalist Christian community that he describes as “a very conservative, very small town, and therefore a very small world.”  In college he started creating a more critical approach to life than the one he had growing up in a small town.  A professor he worked with was going to work in Bosnia to study the impact of war and violence on the kids in Bosnia growing up after the conflict in the 90’s. He went with him, and this was a life-altering experience. “I was really struck by the way religion and violence were intertwined in Bosnia.  I started asking BIGGER questions”.|

“So when did you become an Episcopalian Christian?” I ask.

I was drawn into the Episcopal Church in college, a community of spiritual seekers who were very accepting and in search of an accepting community.”

“And how did all these things–social change and the Church–come together?” I ask.

Bosnia made me think about how I could reform religions from the inside, to seek change. To bring the voice of peace. I then stayed in college for two extra years as the campus Chaplain. Everything started coming together.

After college Josh went to Seminary and only then was truly exposed to the world of interfaith. Josh went to Seminary in NYC across the street from a Jewish Seminary (JTS – Jewish Theological  Seminary), where they sometimes studied together. He also took classes on Zen meditation. Josh went through his studies with the following question in mind: “How does one do religious education in a multi-faith world?” He says he felt he had “an opportunity to be a person of influence from within a religious tradition.”

Josh does not work with a localized congregation in his pastoral work. “My congregation is spread around ten different time zones, three religions, three languages, and many cultures. I feel like I am the Pastor of Kids4Peace.”

I feel that way too. This past summer Josh came to visit us at camp for a few days and I stayed up with him until late at night discussing all sorts of faith based issues both in Kids4Peace and my personal life. Not only do I see Josh as the spiritual leader of Kids4Peace, but he is definitely one of my personal spiritual guides as well.

What I love about Kids4Peace is that we are not asking people to give up their faiths to work towards peace; rather, we want them to work on peace together. “Bringing together peoples’ hopes and dreams with the practicality of their own religion. This is definitely a main goal of ours at Kids4Peace,” Josh explained to me.

Sometimes in living in a country where reading the news and hearing about a faith, or cultural based violent attack becomes a “normal” thing, you begin to ask questions, Have we made an influence? Have we made a change?

I asked Josh what he thinks about this. He answered: “Visiting Jerusalem after a summer of violence and seeing the community grow, and seeing that power…. In Buddhism they talk about the  power of the Thanga, an energy that comes from the community. Our Thanga is cookin’.  We are the largest and most diverse interfaith youth organization in Jerusalem. We are growing. We are shifting the norm. We are used to growing up apart. Let’s grow up alongside each other. We are on the verge of something very exciting!”

Why religion?” I wonder aloud. “It is so messy, and causes so much trouble.”

Josh then surprises me with a quote not from the New Testament or the Gospels, but from my very own Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. Religion’s task is to cultivate disgust for violence and lies, sensitivity to other people’s suffering and the love of peace”.  

He continued: “Peace remains a theological vision of the way the world is supposed to be–according to Christianity. It is the gift that Jesus gives to the people. He wants them to believe that it is something that is present. Kids4Peace’s responsibility is to keep peace ALIVE! Peace is one of the names of God in Islam; we want to bring to life those places where the way the world should be enters the world as it is.”

Coming back to the subject of Jerusalem, I asked, “But isn’t dealing with Jerusalem and peace right now like playing with fire?”

“It is playing with fire,” he says. “The idea of Kids4Peace was born in Jerusalem. It came at a time of violence. It is important to keep it somewhere that the people can actually meet face to face. And it is a city that draws on all three faiths from around the world.”

And finally my last question, the one I have been waiting to ask him. “What is your best tip for a beginning peace activist like myself?”

“Our religions are different. If we want to get beyond ”Kumbaya” and “Hummus”, we  have to understand that we are stepping into the world of radical differences. We have to think hard about what we are willing to sacrifice. What are we willing to compromise? At the end of the day, we may not have the same concerns but we just have to — DIVE IN!
The Kids4Peace methodology has always been–friendships first, conflict next. If I know I love this person, how do I hold the love together with the other things? My beliefs? My religion? If we can do that well, then we have succeeded!”

I want to thank Josh for inspiring me and opening so many doors in the world of social change. I believe, like Josh, that slowly we are on the path to success.

Michal, Jewish Israeli Counselor (Left) with her co-advisor, Monatser, a muslim Palestinian (center), and Fr. Josh Thomas, Executive director of Kids4Peace

We stood Together. And that has made all the difference.

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We Are Thankful

This Year, Kids4Peace faced a world of violence and fear.

But we faced it together.

Over and over again, Kids4Peace came together when it seemed impossible.

At Ramadan iftar during the Gaza fighting.
At a demonstration for peace on the streets of Jerusalem.

We stood together. You stood with us.

With more than 100 youth at camps this summer – no cancellations.
With courageous parents who set their children on a path of peace.
With young leaders ready to move from dialogue to action.

You stood with us.
And it has made all the difference.

For the courage and strength to continue, we say thanks.

Shukran and Todah,
From all of us at Kids4Peace

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Light in the Midst of Dark Times by Rebecca

The Jerusalem “Bridge of Strings” that was inaugurated in June 2008 greets every visitor that enters into Jerusalem. The huge bridge has forever changed the Jerusalem skyline, as it can be seen from many places in the city.

The bridge was created to carry the Jerusalem light rail that has recently been both a target and a source of conflict .There was much criticism of the bridge due both to the high cost of construction,  70 million dollars, and the way in which it has distributed the skyline of the city.

As I re-entered into Jerusalem last night after spending a weekend/shabbat/seminar with Kids4Peace the majority of the florescent lights on the bridge we burnt out, leaving only a few of lights on to light up the bridge and the city. And even these lights that remained lit were dirty from the pollution of the city and the lack of maintenance. As I drove into the city, I was still decompressing the amazing and incredible Kids4Peace Jerusalem seminar where 101 of us, Palestinians and Israelis, Christian, Muslim and Jews had spent the weekend together. The seminar brought 7th, 8th and 10th grade youth together, the largest seminar that we had ever had, and even during these very difficult times in Jerusalem, we still pulled through and continued to build community in the midst of the conflict.

And then I realized, we, Kids4Peace Jerusalem, were the few lights left on this “Bridge of Strings”, we are trying to spread light and hope during these hard and violent times. The bridge to me is Jerusalem and slowly the lights are beginning to burn out, the lights are those of us left. The lights are the WE that believe in co-existence and peace, the WE that believe that we can share this city in peace.

I could continue to blog and bring you some incredible quotes from the youth and the team, to give you details of how we balanced and observed the Shabbat for our religious Jewish youth and still tried to provide a platform that would allow equality for all of our members but often actions speak louder than words and symbols can stay with you forever.

As Christmas and Hanukah, both holidays of light are rapidly approaching, I ask you to remember us, Kids4Peace Jerusalem the few lights left on the bridge. Help us re-kindle the other lights on this Jerusalem Bridge.

In peace,

Rebecca

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Vermont Kids4Peace Gala!

together picVermont held its first Kids4Peace Gala on November 9th at Shelburne Farm’s historic Coach Barn.  One hundred Vermont & New Hampshire campers, families, community members, staff, and camper alumni came together for a reunion, fund-raiser and celebration of peace-making.

Rabbi Joshua Chasan and Bishop Thomas Ely reflected on the first year of Kids4PeaceVermont in 2007.  Camper/Counselor Noa Urbaitel and K4P parents Roberta Nubile, Elizabeth Berger, and Naomi Barell spoke about the positive impact that Kids4Peace has had on their lives.  Then our special guests, Yakir Englander, Montaser Amro and Fr. Josh Thomas, inspired us with stories of hope and acceptance.

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Rabbi Joshua Chasan

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Bishop Tom Ely

Lisa Speaks k4p fundraiser

Since our New Hampshire/Vermont chapters will be starting a new year-round program, our small staff is seeking assistance for this growth.  There are opportunities for community members to become a Friend and/or an Ambassador.
Friends will volunteer time and talent to assist with year-round youth activities, service projects, photography & video, mailings & administrative tasks, media & public relations, special events, etc.

Ambassadors will be trained to become spokes-people for Kids4Peace to help with camper recruitment, presentations to community groups, faith communities and spreading the message of peace.

(If you are reading this, please consider signing up at www.kids4peace.org/vermont.  We need your energy! The choice of activities and level of commitment will be up to you.)

Surrounded by colorful posters & banners, delicious refreshments, and live music, the campers and staff shared hugs and group photos, rejoicing in the special community that brings us together in our mission of peace.

past & present k4p kids

Past & Present Kids4Peace Kids

The evening ended later with Vice President of Kids4Peace International giving a talk at the University of Vermont for students and staff.

 

Photo Credit: Kelley Gage

A Very Special Thank You, from Montaser

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by Montaser Amro

My name is Montaser Mohammad Mousa Khalil Suliman Mohammad Abdulrahman Mohammad Amro, but you can call me Mono. Recently, however, since returning to America, many people have had troubles with Mono, so I’m considering making it even simpler- Mike. Maybe even M. My story and the reason WHY I’m here, however, is not simple.

See, I’ve been an advocate for peace for almost ten years, and I believe that not only does peace come from within, but I believe that we can create change. I was born in Bethlehem, Palestine on February 20, 1991 to Mohammad and Lamia Amro. My parents expected the best from me. This caused me to excel academically from a young age. When I was a sophomore in high school, I was selected to be an international foreign exchange student. I was elated because I was going to finally see the America that had starred in all of my favorite movies. But where was I going? Would I be heading to the city that never sleeps, New York? Or maybe I could spend my academic year in the Windy City- Chicago, Illinois. Maybe I could create memories that could only stay in the city of Las Vegas! I eagerly awaited the announcement of where my cultural learning would take place in the states. However, my excitement came to a screeching halt when I read the name of a state I had never heard of before- Alabama. Little did I know, Alabama was the epitome of racial oppression, even in present day. My work was definitely cut out for me.

I arrived in the fall of 2006 and quickly realized that I could not live in this state for long. After several terrible living situations, I knew I had find a new host in Alabama or just return to Palestine and go back to the life I knew. The only person’s number I had in my phone was a guy I didn’t like each other very much, but I knew that he was a loyal guy. Corey ended up letting me move into his house, and even became my legal guardian while in the states! This experience dramatically changed my life, as well as my perception and tolerance of others, mainly because Corey and I hated each other in the beginning. After moving in, we spent many nights comparing Islam to Christianity, talking about racism and music. However, our deepest conversations stemmed around a subject that we both were passionate about- food. He soon started referring to me as his brother and showed me that not all Americans are the same.

Saying goodbye at the summer of 2007 was not an easy thing to do, even when just a few months prior, I was begging to go back home. I realized during my visit that no two people are alike. However, it didn’t stop at someone’s nationality, it also extended to their religious beliefs. Famous, influential musician John Lennon said it best when he said, “I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe that what people call God is something in all of us. I believe that what Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha and all the rest said was right. It’s just that the translations have gone wrong.”

These spiritual leaders had many messages, verses and direction. However, every word ever spoken by them was deeply rooted by one simple message- love. It was also John Lennon that helped coin the phrase “all you need is love.” This message is so simple, yet so influential. All you need is love. The world does not need us. The world does not need the Bible, the Quran or any other religious text. Because that’s all it is- text. It is a tangible thing. However, love is intangible. It can not be physically touched, but can be felt. Love does not have an image, but can be seen. It can not make a noise, but can be heard. Love is the most complex, confusing, terrifying yet gorgeous and fascinating thing that will be a part of this Earth for eternity…as long as we let it.

After returning back to Palestine, I pursued a degree in Civil Engineering from Palestine Polytechnic University. While I was a senior in college , I decided to set my sights on my true passion- bringing peace. I searched around for different ways to help, and stumbled across an organization called Kids 4 Peace. I immediately enrolled to become an Advisor !

People often ask me what Kids4Peace means to me. There is no simple answer to this. When you truly have a passion for something, you’re following everything with your heart- not your mind. Therefore, I can not quite put a simple answer into words. However, I reflect on my past. I think back to the days that I vowed to see Israel fall. I think back to the days that I viewed America as a corrupted country. I then think back not too long ago when my mind was changed and I realized I was wrong. I could not continue to live life generalizing every culture.

Kids 4 Peace has helped me utilize my tools to show that love can overcome anything. To quote another wise man, Master Yoda, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Kids 4 Peace taught me that love can make us brave. Love can bring joy and can end the suffering.

During the Israeli-Palestinian conflict of 2014, there were 2200 reported deaths on both sides. However, the true numbers will never be known. What can be known is that during the same year, Kids 4 Peace held a camp with over 100 campers from both conflicting sides. If each camper told 10 people of their enlightened time spent with the organization, we could reach almost half the number of the reported casualties…in one year. Amazing. The organization is still young, and so is my role within it. However, I plan on being an integral part of this organization for however long they allow me. I feel my purpose on this Earth is to make change and bring peace. Change starts young, with kids. I can bring change with Kids 4 Peace.

I would love to thank the organization for helping me come back to where I now call home- America. I would also like to thank them for allowing me the oppurtunity to create the change that my heart aches for every day. Many people walk through life wondering what purpose does their life have. I’m privileged to not only know what my purpose is, but be able to fulfill it. I would not be able to do this without the help of Kids 4 Peace, their staff and especially their donors. No matter the amount of resource you donate to us, we would not be able to do anything without your help. We are the vehicle driving peace, but our donors are the drivers, and for that, we are forever indebted to you for your selfless contributions. We are nothing without you. Thank you.

Read more on the Kids4Peace Blog 

Naomi reflects; “We listened to the youth to build a program that met their needs.”

by Naomi Rouach, former Co-Director of Education

Naomi joined Kids4Peace in 2006 as a Jewish Advisor and since then, together with Reeham Subhi, she founded Leap, Roots, Leadership, and Counselors in Training programs in Kids4Peace. Naomi studied Judaism and Christianity at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and has a teaching certificate from Kerem. Naomi completed the Seeds of Peace advanced facilitation course, which helped prepare her for her most recent position as co-director of education. Naomi recently stepped down from her role in Kids4Peace as she, her husband and daughter Natalie Sarah recently moved to the Big Apple– New York City. Kids4Peace will miss having Naomi on staff, but knows that she and her family are part of our community forever!

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“There are few places I can call home. Kids4Peace is has been one of the few for over seven years. I joined Kids4Peace while studying religion and education at Hebrew University in 2005. I was ambivalent to join the program because I had no experience and intercultural work and well, I was distrustful and afraid of Arabs.

When Yakir Englander first asked me to join as an advisor I told him “no”. I don’t like to be persuaded to do things, but months later when he still had not found a suitable volunteer Yakir was able to convince me to join. To my surprise, I immediately fell in love with Kids4Peace.

The children melted away all my preconceptions. Their energetic and hopeful spirits rubbed off on me. As fall neared and summer faded away it was unfathomable to me that the youths’ new friendships would fade away too. That year we began our continuation programs. Very informal at first, we met for pizza or a movie at my parent’s house and at youth’s homes. We went on our first seminar to Ein Gedi.

The following year I met Reeham and we immediately became good friends and colleagues. We planned the second Kids4Peace seminar that took place at Givat Haviva. Over the next few years, together we built the Leap, Roots, Leadership and Counselor in Training Program. Dedicated to the program, inspired by the youth, we listened to the youth and tried our best to build a program that met their needs.

I went on and studied facilitation so we could make more out of the youth dialogue sessions. I still remember the fear I felt the first time we truly enabled the youth to talk about the “situation”. The youth had voiced that it was important to them to share their experiences and opinions with one another. As educators, Reeham and I felt that it was imperative to offer the youth an opportunity to hear the voice of the other and allowed all the youth to be heard. Still, we feared the repercussions. What would parents think? Up until then we had only spoken about religion, and dealt with the conflict on a very basic level. What would outsiders think? Would they label us as a political organization just for allowing voices to be heard. Would the youth be able to hear one another? Would it break up the group? Would we be able to handle whatever came up?

Acknowledging our fears and concerns and with the support of the Kids4peace team, we decided to take a leap forward and I believe it is one of the best decisions Kids4Peace ever made. I am proud to have been part of this growth.

Today, in Kids4Peace, we have youth dedicated to peace, not out of naiveté but out of an understanding that there is room in Jerusalem, in Israel and Palestine for different voices to be heard and that we can live together, with our differences. While I officially leave my position at Kids4Peace this week, it is only a technicality. Kids4Peace is in my heart, is my home and I take my home with me wherever I go.”

 DSCN1788ogj8389epMtKwqCEn4jRr40HRqlAoywRIS7XOoP6CIY 315391_10151050136361703_937209051_n   10377078_10154317035190434_6839337099533503270_nThank you Naomi! We miss you already an look forward to your return!

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Hannah | “A symbol and sign of peace worldwide”

SONY DSC Hannah Hochkeppel is an enthusiastic Kids4Peace leader who is originally from Virginia. She grew up as a Christian Baptist, however in college, Hannah became a Catholic and went on to study Pastoral Studies in graduate school at Seattle University. She is currently a children’s minister at a Catholic Church in the Seattle area.

I got a chance to sit down with Hannah to discuss her Kids4Peace experience thus far. She got involved with Kids4Peace through being a graduate assistant for a Rabbi on the Kids4Peace board. She describes the way things fell into place as “Kids4Peace magic.”

Hannah got involved with Kids4Peace just in time for preparation for Seattle’s first summer camp experience. She related to me that having a new camp meant freedom to break boundaries. They were able to take information from past camps and play on new ideas. Hannah describes the camp experience as being just as she expected.

“In the first few days the kids tended to stick to their own groups. The first few days are somewhat awkward. By the middle of the week however, the kids were interacting and playing all together.”

The new camp however came with inevitable difficulties as a result of the different cultural groups within the camp attendees.

“A lot of disputes came from language barriers and cultural barriers.”

“Often times the immediate reaction is to become offensive and standoffish when someone else does not understand you or your culture and that was a major challenge. We ended up spending a lot of time on getting the kids to work out and learn how to communicate.”

Hannah gave me an example of two boys at camp that seemed unable to get along for the entire duration of the camp. When the boys were sat down together to talk out their differences, one was upset because the other picked on him and called him names. The other boy then said the only reason he did that was that he had not been allowed to sit with them at lunch the first day. In the end, it was a misunderstanding, which could have been solved if the boys had been able to communicate better. This may be one of the challenges for Kids4Peace in going forward is making sure to take into account cultural differences and learning how to communicate with language barriers.

Despite language and cultural barriers, kids4Peace still hopes for a world of peace and though peace is hard to define, I asked Hannah to give me her own definition:Hannah Pic 2

“I define peace with the idea that you don’t necessarily understand everything about someone, but that you take the time to talk things out before you decide not to like them. A lot of times people jump to conclusions about people they don’t really know about and Kids4Peace is making a change away from that.”

I also asked Hannah to give me her thoughts on the future of both Kids4Peace as a whole and the new Seattle Chapter.

“At Kids4Peace each day is like a week. It is so long and so much happens at one time. You are completely drained emotionally and spiritually but we hope to take the ideas from camp to the real world. Kids4Peace is becoming a brand name in a sense that people know what you’re talking about. As long as that continues, I hope that it becomes a symbol and sign of peace worldwide. Seattle specifically will be focusing on relationships from camp but also we are going to be focusing on food justice.”

This new program for the Seattle program will focus on helping local people gain better understand of and access to food facts, nutritional information and produce.  It is the hope of the entire Kis4Peace organization that the Seattle program and others continue to grow and develop ways to find peace worldwide.

Hannah Pic 3

Filed under: Blog, People, Seattle, Staff

Kate | “We can learn from our children”

Kate Pic 1Kate Atkinson was brought up in the Episcopal Church with her time divided between England and Connecticut and is now an Episcopal Priest at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Kate described to me a childhood where her family regularly hosted students from other countries.

 “I grew up knowing people of different countries, nationalities and religions. It was a natural part of my life to include different people. We didn’t view it as strange or unusual, it was just a part of our lives. The idea of encouraging children to break down the barriers of ideology and nationality was very appealing to me.”

Kate got involved with Kids4Peace through her Interfaith Council and is working with the New Hampshire Chapter, who just had their first camp this past summer. The kids came to Church the first Sunday of camp and Kate described this as a “wonderful experience.”

“The kids took part in the service, did readings, read prayers and sang a beautiful son in Arabic, Hebrew and English.”

In addition to working with the summer camp, Kate is a part of the steering committee for the New Hampshire Chapter. She and others work in “galvanizing support of different people. I would raise the topic of Kis4Peace at Episcopal diesis meetings. Financial support is important but prayer support is very important also.” They also create promotional materials and assist with Honor Card donations for when people want to contribute financially in someone’s name. Further, Kate’s daughter Georgia was at the camp in New Hampshire last summer!

I asked Kate about what she thought of the organization as a whole and she responded with thoughtful words and a good story.

“What works really well is the strong desire for living together in harmony. We all are different and there are fundamental differences between us but we don’t want to change one another. We can all model peaceful behavior.”Kate Pic 2

Kate told me that while attending the Kids4Peace summit several weeks ago, the audience heard from a boy who had been a part of the Boston camp. He spoke to the group about what they learned at Kids4Peace and he said he became a more peaceful person. His mother, who was in the crowd, stood up and asked if that was why he didn’t fight with his sister so much anymore. For Kate, this story reveals a fundamental part of Kids4Peace.

“We are not just learning about global peace but learning about individual peace. How we deal with one another on a human and individual level.”

I further asked Kate about what she would like to see for the future. She expressed that she would love to see the New Hampshire chapter moving forward to continue to offer a successful camp every summer and establishing more year round programming so that kids can take what they learned a few steps further, keep relationships alive and keep growing together. She also voiced that she would like to take Kids4Peace kids to Jerusalem.

“It is important to see the place that features so strongly in conversations and peacemaking exercises and it is important for young people to know more than just their corner of the world. The moment we step out of what’s familiar, we become more committed to making a difference.”

Kate also shared thoughts on what aspects of Kids4Peace are so important and why it is really making a difference.

“The most important thing that I have learned is that we can learn from our children. Since the entire camp came to visit St. Paul’s, we have had campers visit and they visit other places as well. Everywhere they go, they are helping to make a difference. Children can teach adults, adults can learn from children and sometimes that’s the way it has to be. In bringing peace to the world, that is a very important thing to remember, that our children have something to teach us.”

Filed under: Blog, New Hampshire, People, Staff

Dick | A bridge builder

Dick Dutton is currently co-chair of the New Hampshire/ Vermont Chapter of Kids4Peace with Rabbi Robin Nafshi, and as a part of this role he “gets people, organizations and communities together” in the cause for peace. Though the New Hampshire Kids4Peace is brand new, Dick’s personal experience with peacebuilding is extensive and frankly, impressive.

Dick started off our conversation by describing himself as having “always been a bridge builder.” He grew up in New York State and St. Louis, Missouri and his father was a Baptist Minister who had people from different ethnicities, religions and cultures in their home all the time. Thus, Dick “grew up with excitement about the rest of the world” and told me that his room was filled with maps on the ceiling and walls.Richard Pic

After receiving an undergraduate degree from Baylor University in Texas, Dick went to a then very progressive Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. He described to me always having “imagination to bring together people of different cultures.” At his first church in Virginia during the American civil rights movement, he encouraged black and white dialogue and was almost kicked out. Captured by his vision for peace, Dick was gradually able to understand the sentiments against him and his cause at the time.

Dick’s quest for peace did not end there however. He moved up the east coast from Baltimore to New York State and eventually New England and created local interfaith groups with Jews, Christians and even Buddhists. Building bridges all along the way, Dick worked with a local Catholic Priest in New England to bring twelve kids from Ireland, some Catholic and some Protestant, to the US to interact with American children in a ten day camp much like Kids4Peace.

Two years ago, Dick became involved in Kids4Peace and helped most recently with the first New Hampshire camp this summer, which he described as a “thrilling success.” I asked him to give me his thoughts on Kids4Peace as a whole.

“They had such a good time playing but every morning had serious discussion where they broke into groups and talked about conflict resolution. Everyone was able to get involved and participate in discussion. We would like to think that this isn’t a ten day thing. All the kids have made a commitment to spend some of the next year doing social service with different groups. Kids are continuing to talk to their peers and their parents and having on going conversations about some ways that they avoided conflict, negotiated and conversed with each other at camp.”

Dick further described his favorite experience from last year’s camp as being the Abrahamic Tent. A show put on by the kids on the last night of camp to show case and parody  the different religions. He describes one funny scene of two kids dressed up as Jesus and John the Baptist where John baptizes Jesus and they come out of the water to take a selfie. Another scene however struck to the heart of the matter. The scene depicted children in sheets symbolizing Muslims making the pilgrimage to Mecca. For Dick this showed an important truth. “I realized that all the religions are on a journey and are in transition. No one has arrived yet.” Overall Dick said the first camp experience was for everyone a helpful one.

“Now people are aware of Kids4Peace and the camping program so this second time around we will learn from the last time, improving and building on what happened last year and making it even better next year.”

Additionally Dick expressed a humble appreciation for the many people involved in the camps.

“The willingness and cooperation between those who were helping to organize this was phenomenal. The volunteers who helped out with meals, transportation and those, who did 100 tasks, all the volunteers were just fantastic and so willing to give time to do this. A tent or booth was present at two multi-cultural festivals and we had volunteers for that. So the volunteers at all levels were just spectacular. And then the Director, the Faith Leaders, the counselors, other adults, parents and the Kids, the Kids…we had a real family, and all were committed to what we were doing.”

Filed under: Blog, New Hampshire, People, Staff

Montaser Amro “We plant the seed of peace”

Mono Pic 3Montaser Amro, or as his friends call him, Mono, is from the city of Hebron the southern West Bank. He related to me that he grew up surrounded by a city of mainly close minded people, not open to new ideas and often unwilling to seek peace. “My family understands and supports me in my work but sometimes if it’s pretty tough, like with the recent war, a lot of people get more emotional.”

Mono is currently a Muslim Advisor for Kids4Peace and when I asked him about his plans, he told me plain and simple:

“I feel that what I am doing right now is one of the best things I could ever do. I am trying to make change in a nation and I am going to keep working for Kids4Peace.”

He was raised in a family of educated people, studied at a United Nations school and even attended 11th grade in the United States as a foreign exchange student. He continued his schooling to receive an engineering degree however; Mono’s life course altered when he was introduced to Kids4Peace and recommended to become a Muslim Advisor.

He started the winter of 2013 and since then has been involved in two camps; one in Atlanta and one in New Hampshire. Mono was involved in bimonthly meetings with kids prior to their camps in the US, which teaches aspects of community and peace and how religion is a push towards peace. In participating with the kids, Mono had some surprises along the way.Mono Pic 1

“I had this image of how the kids would behave but it was totally different. Once they are in the camp and get involved in the activities, they start becoming like really good friends.

Some of the kids have kept working with Kids4Peace. I was shocked that some of the naughtiest kids are actually being responsible and doing good and the shy kids are interacting a lot more with others. I am hoping to see the same thing from the kids next year.”

I asked Mono to tell me some about how he saw Kids4Peace and what peace meant to him.

“At Kids4Peace, we plant the seed of peace into the kids so that when they are grownups, they will understand what it means and will work for peace. I met two leaders who were youth advisors and in the camps ten years ago and I see that the program is growing and growing. There will be a lot of grownups who can affect change. Each person talks to five or ten of their friends and will spread the ideas of peace.

Peace is the most wonderful thing that you can ever see. Seeing a lot of people from different colors, backgrounds and nationalities live as if they are from one background living together. I cannot imagine what peace is going to be, but it is going to be awesome.

Mono Pic 2

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Marathoning for Peace

K4P Northwest Regional Director Jordan Goldwarg and Sam McVeety at the finish line of the Sunriver Marathon.

K4P Northwest Regional Director Jordan Goldwarg and Sam McVeety at the finish line of the Sunriver Marathon.

 

by Jordan Goldwarg, K4P Northwest Regional Director

Earlier this summer, Sam McVeety and I were thinking of innovative ways to fundraise for Kids4Peace Seattle. We decided to indulge our love of running and train together for a marathon, raising money and awareness for K4P along the way. While doing a marathon for charity is nothing new, we added a few twists by launching an Indiegogo campaign to help us with our fundraising. In true crowdfunding fashion, we offered some fun incentives to induce donations, including things like going on a training run with us (for a $200 donation), getting a cross-country ski lesson from me ($300), or getting some rowing lessons from Sam ($500).

The campaign was a success, raising over $1700 for K4P Seattle! And the marathon was also a success: yesterday, we competed in the Sunriver Marathon near Bend, Oregon, finishing together in a time of 3 hours, 24 minutes, and 18 seconds.

While the Indiegogo campaign is finished, people who want to support this effort can still make a donation directly to Kids4Peace. And if you want to take advantage of the incentives, we’re happy to oblige! Just email me at jordan@k4p.org after you make your donation.

Filed under: Chapters, Seattle, Seattle 2014, Staff

Visiting Kids4Peace for the First Time: Truly a special place

by April, Communications Associate (K4P Seattle)
 
I knew it was true before I attended K4P camp for the first time, but now I can share with certainty that this truly is a special place.
 
I am relatively n ew to the K4P organization, and was thrilled to have the opportunity to visit the Seattle Camp for a few days.  I had no idea what a memorable few days it would be.
 
My first evening at Camp, I was welcomed with smiles and greetings from a world of people I had never met, but am now so thankful to know.  At dinner I heard the kids discuss their exciting day in Seattle, in which they had visited Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, where the Christian kids read prayers in English, Arabic, and Hebrew.  Later in the evening, the kids met with Hannah and Najla, Christian Faith Advisors, to go over thoughts and questions they had about the service.  I also heard excitement at dinner over their “surprise” visit to the Space Needle, Seattle’s most notable landmark.
 
One thing that has become abundantly clear, just in my few days at camp, is how dedicated counselors and staff are to making this experience a truly rich one for each and every Kids4Peace kid.  The dialogue sessions are an excellent example of that.  In these sessions, the kids have an opportunity to explore their feelings in a safe and supportive environment.  They are taught strategies and words to use as tools to equip them to handle the various emotions and feelings that conflict may bring into their lives.
 
Beyond these sessions, counselors and staff are attentive to the various needs of the kids throughout the day.  Since camp is a 24/7 experience for these eleven/twelve year olds, some conflict is bound to happen naturally.  It has been amazing to see how the kids are cared for and listened to throughout it all.  Kids4Peace teaches kids to be with each another and confront conflict in ways that are respectful of one another and of themselves.  I have no doubt that these kids will take these life-lessons back home with them, facing conflict with this approach.  This is the beginning of the building of peace-makers; meeting them where their own hurts and needs are, and working with them to peacefully resolve them.
 
It is also true that the kids themselves are quite remarkable.  I have been in awe of the kindness and generosity they have shown each other in their words and actions.  Even in frustrated moments, they do their best to express themselves with grace toward one another.  It is something I have learned from in my short time here, and something I expect comes from real-life experiences beyond what I may have faced as an eleven/twelve year old.
My second night at Camp, the group participated in “Movie Night.”  The chosen movie was called “Smoke Signals,” and it was about two young men who live on an Indian Reservation in Idaho.  The movie revealed themes of identity and forgiveness, both of which are very important to the K4P mission.  After the movie, the kids shared what came up for them during the film.  On the topic of forgiveness, one camper, Omar, said “You can’t be angry forever.  You have to forgive them sometimes.  What’s the benefit of being angry?”
 
These words, and many others I heard from campers, counselors, and staff, will stick with me for some time to come.  I am truly thankful for the opportunity to experience this very special time and place.
 
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Filed under: Blog, Camp, Seattle, Seattle 2014, Staff Reflections

Hope Beyond the Walls: Hamze’s speech at the US Capitol

Hamze with K4P Executive Director Fr. Josh Thomas at the Congressional Forum.

Trying to bring both sides to understand that both nations want peace and a better future for their children takes hard work.  There are accusations of betrayal  which is common against those who dare to dream and work for a shared future for both sides.

Hamze Awawdeh is a Palestinian from Dura in the West Bank, near Hebron.  This summer he is interning in Washington, D.C. with Americans for Peace Now, as part of the New Story Leadership program.  

Back home, he is an Advisor for the “Roots” (14 year-old) group of Kids4Peace Jerusalem and is active with Yala Young Leaders.  

He offered this speech during the New Story Leadership Congressional Forum at the US Capitol:


 

“When I was 3 years old, I learned that my grandfather was a Shaheed (martyr), a man who was a freedom fighter, fighting the occupation and bravely dreaming to ensure a better life for his children and grandchildren. For many years, I had to go to his yearly anniversary event where many politicians came to talk about their memories of this man. A man who I never met because the Israeli Army took his life many years before I was born. I cannot deny that I always felt proud of him. But it was frustrating to see that his dream of having a better future for me is not yet fulfilled.

Growing up in a political family, I was interested in politics in the early stages of my life. When I was 9 years old, I was nominated to represent the school in a meeting with a PLO leader.  I spoke to him about the failures of the peace process, accusing him of talking to the enemies while he was supposed to be fighting them, exactly like my grandfather and his friends did.

Being a student at Birzeit University in Ramallah, I was granted an independent life far from my family and town. I acquired the chance to think for myself and form my own opinions. On campus,  I used to meet political activists from different backgrounds. Additionally, I started learning about the other side and I decided to talk to them.

As a result, I realized the complexities of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which was deeper than I thought – not just all black and white as I had in my mind. I started to discover more and more of the Palestinian reality and shape it by my own understanding.  I started to learn about the Israeli side trying to discover their story as well.

Both nations have a valid claim to this land. Both nations believe they were victims of history. Both nations are on this land to stay. Palestinians have no other land than Palestine and Israelis have no other land than Israel. Both need to find a way to coexist.  The circle of violence will continue to repeat itself until we Palestinians and Israelis break it!

I learned also, that both sides do not trust each other.  How could they when they are still living with walls separating them? I’m not talking about the wall that Israel built inside the west bank or the one surrounding Gaza Strip, I’m talking about the walls of the past, those walls deep in our mental and emotional consciousness which prevents us from seeing hope on the other side.

How do we fix this problem? Both sides need to talk. they need to talk so they can learn and get to know  each other. There is no other choice. Now I am the one who is encouraging  9 year old children to talk with other side.  I’m advocating for  something I was once against!

Trying to bring both sides to understand that both nations want peace and a better future for their children takes hard work.  There are accusations of betrayal  which is common against those who dare to dream and work for a shared future for both sides.

In real life, it’s hard to find a common place where Israelis and Palestinians  can meet and discuss the issues. Therefore, through YaLa Young Leaders the peace social movement I’m proud to be part of, we encourage the young people to use social media to talk to each other. This is the advantage of having brave young leaders leading the change for peace!

I remember 6 months ago, I was in Tel Aviv chatting with a friend of mine, an Israeli peace activist who with me and other peace activists (from the YaLa Young Leaders movement) initiated a peace campaign, (calling for “No More Excuses” from our leaders), for the Israeli and Palestinian people to back Secretary of State, John Kerry’s efforts to bring the parties to a peace agreement. We believed that this could be achieved by harnessing the power of the young people from both sides. My friend Yael and I were so amazed by  Secretary of State John Kerry and his team’s devotion and hard work into reaching an agreement .

When we realized that the peace process was not going to bear any fruit–  both of us grasped the painful consequences of what that meant, and feared for another round of hostile conflict.

A new common thread between Palestinians and Israeli leaders became clear to us– both Israelis and Palestinians lack leaders who care about their nation’s future. They have an interest in maintaining the status quo as it serves their political agenda. Many people on both sides have taken this reality as a given. I remember sitting with my friend Yael, sharing cigarettes, as well as our fears and anger at the lack of progress towards peace, and predicted that violent clashes between the two sides would become extremely likely.

Throughout this past month in America, many people have asked me if I still have hope that Palestinians and Israelis will be able to live one day together in peace- My answer to them is always Yes!!!

Today, me and my fellow participants, Israelis and Palestinians, from different sides of the fence, even as the situation back home is dire, we are here in Washington DC brave and confident enough to speak about Peace! Embodying the change we want to see in the future! Living the recognition, the understanding and the coexistence !

If this is possible now despite the bloodshed back home, then I truly believe our people can find a way to live together peacefully, and create not only sustainable relationships, but also deep friendships based on love and trust, as I have created with my fellow participant  and my host brother, Yonathan.

Thank you for your time and continued support.

Read more about Hamze and his Israeli roommate & colleague in Haaretz.

The 2014 class of Palestinian & Israeli interns with New Story Leadership

The 2014 class of Palestinian & Israeli interns with New Story Leadership

 

Read more on the Kids4Peace Blog 

Winter Event Gathers 250 Peacemakers

In December, 2013, Muslim, Christian & Jewish youth, families and staff gathered at Kol Haneshama, the reform synagogue in Jerusalem, for Kids4Peace’s second annual winter event.  More than 250 members of the Kids4Peace community came together from neighborhoods across East & West Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Leaders from the three religions opened the event with blessings.

Rabbi Michael Melchior, a former Member of the Knesset and leading religious voice for peace, spoke about the biblical story of Joseph.  At first, he said, Joseph dreamed only of himself — believing that the world revolved around him. But Joseph learned to “listen to other people’s dreams,” and to let go of the desire to crush all the others.  In the end, Joseph became an interpreter of dreams, and the dreams changed.  “We are not destined to fight and kiRabbi Michael Melchior addresses the gathering.ll each other,” he told the group.  “The time has come” to give up dreams of crushing the other side.  The time has come for peace.

Shaykh Hussein offered a teaching on peace from Islam.  He emphasized the need to love and help others, and for Muslims to live together with Jew and Christians.  “If you hurt someone from another religion,” he said, “it’s the same as hurting someone from your own.”  And Pastor Ibrahim Azar of the Lutheran Church retold the story of Mary and Joseph, and named peace as the true meaning of Christmas.

 

Choir Performance

The Jerusalem Youth Chorus of the international YMCA was up next.  This group of teenagers from East &West Jerusalem spread thThe Jerusalem Youth Chorus performs.  "Don't pay no mind to the demons / They fill you with fear /  The trouble it might drag you down / If you get lost, you can always be found / Just know you're not alone / Cause I'm going to make this place your home"e message of peace with songs in Hebrew (Hine Ma Tov) and Arabic (Adinu).  They closed with a rousing version of Philip Phillips‘ song “Home.”  The words of the song touched the heart of our community, since many youth and families find a “second home” in Kids4Peace.

 “Don’t pay no mind to the demons / They fill you with fear / The trouble it might drag you down / If you get lost, you can always be found / Just know you’re not alone / Cause I’m going to make this place your home”

 

 

Staff Appreciation

Kids4Peace’s Executive Director Fr. Josh Thomas was visiting from the United States.  Along with the Jerusalem Steering Committee, he led a time of appreciations, where we honored our most senior Kids4Peace staff, present and past:

  • Hanan Abu Dalu, Muslim advisor and CoordinatorThe Kids4Peace Jerusalem steering committee recognizes Arwa, Muslim advisor and coordinator.
  • Zoubaida Salman, Muslim advisor and Coordinator
  • Arwa Hussein, Muslim advisor and Coordinator
  • Yakir Englander, Director, Kids4Peace Jerusalem
  • Steve Israel, Co-Director of first year programs, Facilitator
  • Samar Musarsa, Christian advisor and Coordinator
  • Ramia Saleh, Christian advisor
  • Rula Saleh, Christian advisor, Coordinator, Logistics director
  • Saed Mashal, Muslim advisor and Coordinator
  • Jill Levenfeld, Jewish advisor and Coordinator
  • Naomi Sullum, Jewish advisor and Co-Director of Continuation & Leadership programs
  • Reeham Subhi, Muslim advisor and Co-Director of Continuation & Leadership programs

The staff is made up of dedicated educators from Jewish, Christian and Muslim backgrounds.  They work together as interfaith teams, to provide year-round programs for parents and youth. With their partners in the USA, they co-lead international summer camps.

Activity Stations, Community Service Project & Raffle

Jerusalem Steering Committee Chair Ibrahim Abu Dalo enjoys the drumming activity station. Co-Directors Mohammad Joulany and Rebecca Sullum announced a new community service partnership with Haddassah Hospital.   The hospital provides medical treatment to Christian, Muslim and Jewish children, including many from the West Bank.  Kids4Peace will lead activities with the children during visits to the hospital.  The children there will meet new friends from the three religions, and our K4P youth will practice the importance of charity and community service in our traditions.

After the formal program ended, parents, staff and youth counselors joined activity stations, including cookie decorating, drumming, a Kids4Peace quiz, and an art project where we made gifts to bring to the children at Hadassah hospital.

Kids4Peace youth sold raffle tickets to help raise money for Jerusalem programs.  The grand prize winner received a free night at a hotel in Tiberias, courtesy of Guiding Star travel agency.   Others received gift certificates for local restaurants and businesses.

Press Coverage

The annual event was covered by several local media companies.  Check back for updates as more links are added

 

Interfaith Iftar in Jerusalem: Community, Prayer and Hope during war

Last night, Kids4Peace Jerusalem protested against the violence. We left our families, we left our bomb shelters, our neighborhoods, our villages, to come together as a community. Yes, many of us were terrified. Some community members and even staff sent messages of love and support but were too afraid to join.

In Kids4Peace Jerusalem, many members of our community have been directly affected by the terror and violence. Whether it be close personal relationships with the teenage boys who were murdered, military lock-down, inability to enter Jerusalem, violence in our neighborhoods, cities, and even inside some homes. Everyone in Jerusalem has felt threatened, felt afraid, and had run to a bomb shelter at least once, and the war in Gaza and the violence around us is growing.

DSC_0130What was our action? We had dinner. We: Jews, Christians, and Muslims, Palestinians and Israelis. We broke bread together. We caught up with old friends. We lent each other our ears, our shoulders, and our hearts. We feel that now more than have to take a stance against violence and this interfaith Iftar was just the beginning. Kids4Peace Jerusalem co-director Mohammad Joulany opened the evening with a few explanatory words about the holy month of Ramadan, the spiritual opportunities it provides, and how an Iftar is a family dinner that breaks the daily fast.

In the last few moments before sundown, members from each religion stood up and offered a prayer over the food. As the sun started to set over the 11th night of Ramadan, all who attended felt like family and broke the fast together.

Udi, K4P Jerusalem Steering Committee Chair compared the violence to the Kindergarten that he runs. He asked everyone to imagine what would happen if one of the kids came to him and said: so-and-so ruined my drawing, and his reply would be: well then go on and ruin everyone else’s drawing too. This, he pointed out, is the extremism in our societies. They are trying to destroy everything, but here we are coming together despite it all, making a stance against violence.

#ViolenceStopsWithMe  #TogetherPeaceIsPossible

Quotes from Participants

“I came to prove to others that it is possible to be around people from the other side.” -Eden, 9th grade, Muslim

“I came to show that other than all the fighting between Arabs and Jews, there is still a way here to show peace and love.” -Carla, 9th grade, Christian

“I came because I wanted to come. The war is making us all divide up and be on separate sides. It just makes me want to come even more to settle things down.” -Aviya, 7th grade, Jewish

“The dinner was a success, as I was in a room where Muslim, Jews and Christians were eating, talking laughing together I remembered John Lennon’s song: Imagine…”  – Zahava, mother of Liav (Jewish)

“This is a really interesting meeting, but we have to build on it. It is one thing to come together, but let’s see how much we can make it grow.” -Francis, father of Mira (Christian)

“Yes, it is Ramadan and we came without the whole family. It is so important for us to be part of this meeting. We are Kids4Peace people, we are really in it.” -Aref, father of Adel (Muslim)

Read more on the Kids4Peace Blog 

From the Director: Together In Pain & Hope | Ways to Help

FrJoshTo the Kids4Peace Community,
As Shabbat comes to Jerusalem on this first Friday of Ramadan, our prayers are mixed with tears.An escalation of violence in Jerusalem and the surrounding region has brought death and suffering to yet more Palestinian and Israeli families. Calls for retaliation and vengeance threaten further destruction.In the midst of overwhelming fear,

Kids4Peace remains a powerful sign of hope.

We are one of the only places where Jews, Christians and Muslims from all parts of Jerusalem and the West Bank meet face to face.  Our long-term approach is our strength. With the leadership of Jerusalem Co-Directors Mohammad Joulany and Rebecca Sullum, we are responding to the current situation with courage and compassion.

  • Interfaith Iftar: Next Wednesday, K4P Jerusalem will gather for an Interfaith Iftar: A Dinner of Prayer, Community and Hope.
  • #ViolenceStopsWithMe: K4P Jerusalem launched a  online campaign, to counter the message of vengeance and retaliation that is spreading through Jerusalem.  Join them by changing your cover photos to the pic above.
  • We continue our regular programs and meetings, to the extent that safety will allow.

Kids4Peace was born in the midst of violence, by brave families who risked coming together, precisely when the conflict was driving them apart.  Two years ago we met to pray during the violence in Gaza.  We face another moment of deep pain, suffering and fear.

As violence spreads in Jerusalem, it is time to come together again.

  • Together, we mourn the death of Mohammad Dudeen, Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-ad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach, Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir and the many victims of the conflict whose names have been forgotten.
  • Together, we affirm the sanctity of all life and pray that no more families will feel the pain of this most tragic loss.
  • Together, we commit to continue our daily work of ending conflict and inspiring hope in Jerusalem and beyond, through interfaith learning, leadership development and nonviolent action.

And it’s only possible because of you.

Next month, nearly 100 Jerusalem youth will attend camps in the USA, and I want to shower them with support. Here are some ways to help.

  1. Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem. Remember the victims and the peacemakers in your congregation’s prayers.  As people of faith, we need to acknowledge the pain and maintain our hope.
  2. Send a Message of Support. Write a note to a young peacemaker on this .  This year especially, it will be so hard for the Jerusalem kids to leave home and come to camp.  Your support will make all the difference.
  3. Follow & Share the Kids4Peace Blog There is so much bad news coming from the media.  We need to remind the world that people still work for peace. Follow  and share daily updates with family and friends.    If you have contacts in the media, please .
  4. Give as Generously as you can. This is a critical time, and you can be part of the solution.  Help Kids4Peace end this conflict, so no more children will die of violence.  .

Thank you for keeping the light of hope alive.

Fr Josh Thomas, Executive Director

Kids4Peace International | josh@k4p.org

Kids4Peace 3300 Chimney Rock, Suite 301, Houston, TX 77056

Donations are tax-deductible

Interfaith Prayer during the Fighting in Gaza Two Years Ago

Join the Campaign #ViolenceStopsWithMe

Read more on the Kids4Peace Blog 

#ViolenceStopsWithMe

With heavy hearts, Kids4Peace mourns the continued loss of life and suffering throughout Jerusalem and the surrounding region.

At a time of great fear, when voices of retaliation and anger grow louder, Kids4Peace is committed to resisting violence in all its forms and working together for lasting change.

As a first step, we invite you to join a  online campaign:
  1. Change your cover photo to the graphic below
  2. Take a picture of yourself with the #violencestopswithme hashtag
  3. Invite others to do the same.

10449491_10100636498563597_3279460946164623499_n

Read more on the Kids4Peace Blog 

Hope for the Future: by Jordan Goldwarg, K4P Northwest Director

jordan-at-office-e1403078680644Despite the difficult and complicated history, the trip also affirmed my belief that people are capable of working together to solve the conflict and that people want peace in the region. When I see how dedicated our staff are and how hard they work to bring our kids together — Muslim, Christian, and Jewish — I have hope for the future of the region.

As Northwest Regional Director of Kids4Peace, I was often met with looks of surprise when people learned that I had never been to Israel/Palestine. Since starting work last fall, I have been giving myself a crash course in Israeli and Palestinian history, culture, and politics, but I have been longing to visit and see it for myself, and also to meet in person the wonderful colleagues I have been communicating with via email and Skype over the past months. From June 3-10, I got my wish: a whirlwind tour of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv/Jaffa, and Ramallah. I arrived in Jerusalem just as the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, celebrating the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people, was starting. One of the ways that people celebrate Shavuot is through all-night study sessions, and it was amazing to see the streets of Jerusalem packed with people on their way to study sessions all over the city. It was even more amazing to wake up early the next morning and see the streets just as packed, filled with tired people on their way home.

Part way through the trip, I joined five other Kids4Peace staffers on an afternoon trip to Ramallah. For many, this was our first time going to the West Bank. We visited the tomb and museum dedicated to Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, and we met with the staff of another non-governmental organization, , that provides additional skills training to university graduates to help them secure jobs. Traveling through the Qalandia checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah was a sobering reminder of how difficult travel can be for people who live only miles apart.

I also enjoyed a tour of the Old City of Jerusalem, seeing some of the holiest sites in Judaism (the Western Wall), Islam (the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque), and Christianity (the Church of the Holy Sepulcher). As a former history teacher, I find the layers of history in Jerusalem to be almost beyond comprehension. From the ancient Israelites, to the Greeks, to the Romans, to the Byzantines, to the Ottomans, to the British, and to many others in between, when we look at how many people have controlled this area, it becomes easier to understand why it is such contested territory. Meeting our kids and families in Jerusalem also gave me hope. Just before I left, I had the opportunity to meet with all of the kids who will be coming to Seattle this summer, along with their parents. The whole Seattle team looks forward to welcoming them in a just a few weeks! I want to give special thanks to our Jerusalem co-directors, Mohammad Joulany and Rebecca Sullum, and to the rest of the Jerusalem staff for their warm hospitality and help in making my trip memorable.

Read more on the Kids4Peace Blog 

Jodi | A K4P Mom’s Story

The mission and philosophy of Kids4Peace paralleled our beliefs and that which we are teaching our son. It is my greatest hope my child and his children will live in a world where all humanity can live in peace, accepting and celebrating each other’s differences.

My son, Eli, loves to tell the story of how he first learned of this organization. I am a little embarrassed, but appreciate the enthusiasm of his retelling. It was a day like any other, absolutely nothing unusual.297

Eli was taking a shower and I had just sat down to read The Voice, the monthly newsletter of our synagogue, Temple Kol Emeth [in Marietta, GA]. I saw an advertisement seeking children who would be entering the 6th grade to take part in an interfaith summer camp. Four interested children were to be chosen to participate in the summer camp, which would include children of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths. These children would come from the Atlanta area as well as the Middle East. I could barely contain my excitement!

I immediately jumped up and ran into the bathroom as he was taking a shower to tell him of this exciting opportunity. I don’t think he was too excited, but that was more likely due to having me interrupt his shower! Later, we discussed the program and he agreed this was a fantastic opportunity not to be missed. Ours is a family very much interested in promoting peace through interfaith dialogue, education, volunteerism and good deeds.The mission and philosophy of Kids4Peace paralleled our beliefs and that which we are teaching our son.

Three other children in our congregation, who would also be attending the camp, joined Eli in the first meeting. At that time, the Atlanta area kids had an opportunity to meet each other and immediately began to learn of the differences and similarities of each other’s faith. The adult leaders had engaging and interesting activities to draw out the children into a lively discussion. A great sense of satisfaction came over me as I watched these children discussing religion without fear, distrust, or hate. It was clear this is where the dialogue for peace and understanding needs to begin, with our children.

Eli attended the week long camp during the summer, where he met other children from Israel. He was introduced to these religions and visited various houses of worship during this time. He engaged in activities and discussion of the various religions and how each other experiences and practices their faiths. At the conclusion of the camp, the parents were invited to Abraham’s Tent, a celebration of all the children had learned. We were treated to skits representative of various holidays of each faith. It was obvious the children had much fun in putting this together and took great pride in sharing what they had learned.

It is my greatest hope my child and his children will live in a world where all humanity can live in peace, accepting and celebrating each other’s differences. Kids4Peace is one very valuable method to attaining that goal and I am so pleased my family and I are able to participate. We look forward to a long relationship with this organization.

Jodi, Mother of Eli
Kids4Peace Atlanta

Read more on the Kids4Peace Blog 

Kids4Peace Thank You

Thanks for Believing

“Together, we are standing up against those who say peace is impossible, who say violence and injustice will never end.  Together, we’re showing the world that youth have power; that religion can be a source of unity; and that Jerusalem can be a city of peace once again.”

 

 

Josh Thomas
Executive DirectorFr Josh Kids4Peace

This Thanksgiving week, I’m thankful for you: our strong, growing, community of peacemakers around the world.

Together, we’re building a movement based on respect and understanding. Together, we’re taking courageous steps for change.

Together, we are standing up against those who say peace is impossible, who say violence and injustice will never end.

Together, we’re showing the world that youth have power; that religion can be a source of unity; and that Jerusalem can be a city of peace once again.

In a time of uncertainty and fear, we remain a beacon of hope that there is another way.

Over the next few weeks, I invite you to watch your email for stories about what we are achieving together.

In photos and videos, reports and testimonials, you will see the impact of your support: Lives changed. Attitudes shifted. Friendships forged against all odds.

Because of you, Kids4Peace has become a powerful global movement and a force for good in this world.

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Every day, I’m grateful to be part of Kids4Peace.

Grateful for Palestinian and Israeli parents courageous enough to send their beloved daughters and sons to a camp with children that society calls their enemy.

Grateful for chapters across North America who nurture interfaith networks of youth, families and volunteers: both local peace leaders and global citizens.

Grateful for skilled adult advisors and dialogue facilitators, who help youth share painful stories and learn difficult truths, in an atmosphere of respect and love.

Grateful for more than 25 educators in Jerusalem, women and men from the three religions, who work together as our Kids4Peace staff team: a powerful witness to what can be achieved together.

Grateful for youth who stand up to peer pressure and embrace the identity “peacemaker.”

Grateful for the generosity of friends whose financial support makes this possible.

Grateful for you.

Thanks for believing that peace is possible.

It makes all the difference.

Fr. Josh Thomas
Executive Director

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Kids4Peace Thank You