K4P Announces New Global Programs

A Message from the Executive Director

Empowering a Movement for Change

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For the past 13 years, Kids4Peace has provided life-changing interfaith peace education programs for Israeli, Palestinian and American youth.  More than 1,800 youth, parents and volunteers have participated in summer camps and year-round programs.  In the face of conflict, we remain a strong community – inspiring hope – thanks to the dedication of so many. 

11221555_702556333183765_537692727224051429_oToday, we face a new reality.  The surge of violence in Jerusalem, longstanding injustices, a deteriorating political landscape, and the lack of negotiations bring a new mandate for peace organizations.  It’s no longer enough to support a peace process; today, we must lead it.

That will require fresh vision, and an even more serious, focused and strategic approach.  In the USA and across Europe, we see the rise of xenophobia, discrimination and hatred toward religious minorities.  Solidarity among people of faith is now a matter of global urgency.

Two years ago, we adopted a new mission statement for Kids4Peace.  The first part, to embody a culture of peace, has been our strength.  The second, to empower a movement for change, is now our challenge.  We have taken some first steps, with the launch of the new young adult pilot project in Jerusalem, called Dialogue to Action.

But our youth are asking tough questions now – and they ask them at a younger age.  Through media, peer influence and personal experience, the hard issues of violence and conflict are already part of their lives by age 12 or 13.

It is no longer possible to create a community of friends outside of conflict.  Instead, we are building this community in the midst of conflict.  That community must be strong at the local, national and international levels.

In all our youth programs, we need to bring a new level of honesty, seriousness and skill.

This challenge comes with a great opportunity – to create a large and powerful interfaith youth movement, which can lead the way to peace, in Jerusalem and other divided societies around the world.  To be successful, we will need to build a program that can grow to scale – to welcome the hundreds of families who come to us each year, and the thousands more who long for peace.

To accomplish this, we will make three major changes to our six-year Pathways to Peace youth program.

First, we will shift our signature International Summer Camp from sixth to seventh grade.  This will offer youth one year in Kids4Peace at the local level, before adding the global component.  Youth will forge interfaith friendships at the chapter level, with time to prepare for the unique opportunity to share their culture and learn from new friends.  The new seventh grade International Camp will include deeper interfaith engagement and expanded sessions about self-expression, understanding conflict, and nonviolence.

Second, we will not recruit a new cohort of Jerusalem youth in 2016.  Welcoming new families is the most challenging part of Kids4Peace’s work, and we need to take one year to invest in organizational infrastructure: curriculum planning, staff training, communications, fundraising, and impact evaluation.  We will recruit both sixth and seventh grade youth in 2017, so current sixth-graders will still have the chance to join next year.  American sixth-graders can join new interfaith Day Camps and other programs in their local chapters. 

Third, we will launch a new, signature program: the K4P Global Institute for 9th grade youth.  The Institute begins with an eight-day intensive program in downtown Washington, DC, where participants will meet with political, religious and public policy organizations; interact with inspiring leaders and grassroots activists; and practice skills in political advocacy, religious leadership, grassroots organizing and media engagement.

After their eight days in Washington, Jerusalem youth will accompany their American peers back home, for visits to local chapters.  Over the next weekend, youth will speak to religious and community groups, visit cultural sites, and share their stories with the media – as ambassadors of peace.  This will be a very special opportunity for US chapters to host our most passionate and articulate youth from Jerusalem, in order to begin new conversations about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and interfaith cooperation in American society.

Kids4Peace remains an interfaith youth movement.  We are committed to fostering trust, understanding and friendships among youth of different religions and cultures.  But now, in addition to a focus on friendships, Kids4Peace will emphasize faith-based social change.  We will equip youth to draw upon their religious traditions to promote interfaith cooperation, resist violence, contribute to the end of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and advance greater justice and peace across the world.

Our program changes are driven by a single goal: to prepare all our youth to be agents of change and influential leaders for peace.  

We are a grassroots movement. We believe that everyone has a part to play. And together, we will help to end the conflicts that tear our communities apart. Together, we will build a future of peace with justice for all the children of Jerusalem and the world we share.   This is our work ahead.

Thank you for your courage and commitment –

Fr. Josh Thomas, Executive Director
Kids4Peace International


 

New Summer Program Sequence – Beginning 2017

Grade Jerusalem North America Program Focus
6th Local Programs Interfaith Day Camps
in Chapter, or other local programs
Interfaith learning, friendship & Community
7th International Camp
For Jerusalem and American youth, in USA
Launches in new format in 2017, Location(s) TBD
Cultural exchange, understanding conflict, dialogue
8th National Camp National Camp
For youth from all chapters
History, identity, justice, and religious sources of peace
9th Global Institute
For Jerusalem and American youth, in Washington, DC
Faith-based social change, advocacy and public leadership
10th Specialized programs based on interests of youth:
politics & diplomacy, human rights, arts & culture, education
Practice skills. Explore vocation.
11th

Chapters will continue year-round programs for youth and families, including after-school programs, overnight retreats, public events and community service projects. 

 

Transitional Year – 2016

Grade Jerusalem North America
6th No Programs in 2016
Current sixth-graders can join next year.
Interfaith Day Camps
in several chapters
Information will be posted January 1
7th National Camp
Nes Ammim
National Camp
Burlington, VT
Registration open
8th National Camp
Kibbutz Keturah
9th Global Institute
For Jerusalem and American youth, in Washington, DC
followed by homestays in local chapters
Registration open
10th No Programs in 2016

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Visit the Kids4Peace website for details & registration information. 
http://www.k4p.org/summer2016/

Sermon: A New 5,000

By Fr. Josh Thomas, Executive Director
At St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Washington, DC

May I speak to you in the name of God, who was and is and will be forever.  Amen.

11817156_10101012624040127_3642492811711591022_nGood morning St. Mark’s and thank you for welcoming me, and our community of Kids4Peace, into this community of love and justice.  You’ve heard me talk about Kids4Peace a lot in my time here – an unusual, seemingly-impossible group of friends – Palestinians, Israelis and Americans; Christians, Jews and Muslims; on a mission to end conflict and inspire hope in Jerusalem and other deeply divided societies around the world. Societies like ours here at home, where violence, discrimination, hatred, and fear are just as alive as they are in the so-called Holy Land, thousands of miles away.

I will confess that this is a sleep-deprived sermon, on the tail end of 12 extraordinarily full days of camp – first in the gorgeous mountains of North Carolina, and – over this last weekend, here in DC.

We’ve gone canoeing and climbed a rock wall.  We’ve toured museums and rode the Metro.  We piled into the new Kids4Peace office on capitol hill for a giant group selfie.  We prayed at Sixth and I, and at the jummah prayer in the Capitol.  And we sat with top-level diplomats at the State Department to address about the challenges of our day.

It has been fun.  But it has been a struggle, too.  A struggle of disappointment when our White House tour fell through.  When the food was not quite as good as home.  When long days made for tired bodies, and long sessions made for tired minds.  A struggle to live together with people who are so different from us – day in and day out.

When youth join Kids4Peace, they are in sixth grade.  Mostly short and cute — children still.  Everything is new.  They discover other religions and cultures for the very first time, come to camp for the very first time, make new friends and sing silly songs.  They learn to chant, with the one thousand other Kids4Peace from the last thirteen years: “Everywhere we go, people want to know, who we are, so we tell them, 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.  Salaam.  Shalom. Kids4Peace!”

It is hopeful and powerful and inspiring and good and holy.  But these youth here today are in seventh grade — older and wiser, one year on into this journey of peace.  It’s not so easy anymore.  Not so easy to do what the adults tell them.  Not so easy to go with the flow.  Not so easy to be happy all the time.  Not so easy to just sing the songs.

Kids4Peace – though you drive your advisors crazy with your persistent quest to get your way; when you won’t take no for an answer.  This is exactly what will make you good peacemakers, when you face the real struggles ahead.

Yes, you need to compromise, but also to stand your ground.

Yes, you need to listen, but also to make your voice heard.

Let your frustration, your anger, your pain, your disappointment; your desires and your longings, let them all be the energy that drives you to make peace.

You have faced struggles already – war in Gaza, attacks in Jerusalem week after week that have everyone on edge.  You have seen Ferguson and Baltimore unfold on TV.

And just in the last week, while we were here at camp, the stabbings at the Jerusalem gay pride parade, a Palestinian baby killed in a price tag attack, and just this morning, a Muslim man beaten outside his home on his way home from prayers.

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Last weekend, some of our Jewish campers marked the fast of Tisha B’Av, which remembers the destruction of the first and second Jewish temples.

According to tradition, the second temple was destroyed because of Sin’at chinam – senseless hatred.  We see a lot of what seems like senseless hatred in this world.  I’ll let you make your own list.  As we talked together at camp, about Sin’at chinam – why it happens – our very smart peacemakers had a lot to say.  It happens because one group wants to show power over another, one person suggested.  And another, that Sin’at chinam suffers from a kind of bandwagon effect — once it starts, others join in, piling on, without even knowing why.  There is a momentum to hate, an energy, a power, which grows and grows and sucks us into a disastrous vortex of death and destruction.

Senseless hate, like so many problems in this world, can seem insurmountable.

Racism, poverty, hunger, famine, and disease.  Even gun violence – if you heard the story this week on NPR – a leading epidemiologist found that gun violence spreads exactly like an infectious disease, from one person to another, in a chain of events, a series of interactions, hurt to hurt, anger to anger, fear to fear, hate to hate, frustration to frustration.

This so-called epidemic, like this so-called intractable conflict in the Holy Land, is not so senseless – it is nothing more or less than the powerful product of a series of decisions.   Decisions which have gained momentum and energy, for sure, but decisions which can be interrupted, which can be changed.

At the State Department on Friday, I saw again one of my all-time favorite quotes, by George Mitchell, who helped broker the peace in Northern Ireland.  He said this:

“I believe there’s no such thing as a conflict that can’t be ended. They’re created and sustained by human beings. They can be ended by human beings. No matter how ancient the conflict, no matter how hateful, no matter how hurtful, peace can prevail.”

This is the message we need for today.  A message of our own power, our own strength.

In our text today, we get a remix of the feeding of the 5,000 – a turning of the story into a sign about the person of Jesus.  But while we often focus on Jesus, Bread of Life, or on the miracle of the feeding, there’s one part of the story that I (at least) have overlooked until now: the 5,000 themselves.

The fact that there were 5,000 people gathered on the hillside in the first place is, itself, a miracle.  

Five thousand women and children (and probably some men, too), walking, struggling, coming to hear this prophet Jesus teach about the Good News for the poor, about a new Kingdom, a new reality coming into existence before their very eyes.

Five thousand gathered in hope. Five thousand gathered in faith.  Five thousand gathered in love and justice.  Five thousand gathered believing that something new is possible.

Five thousand people who made a choice, a series of choices, to set their hearts and minds and bodies on the struggle for equality and peace and compassion in this world.

This week, after the stabbings at the pride parade, and after the Palestinian baby was burned, there were some protests, some marches, some people standing up to say – as we do in Kids4Peace – that “violence stops with me.”

But there were not 5,000.  There were 3,000 in Tel Aviv.  1,000 in Jerusalem.  And millions who stayed home.

In Kids4Peace, we are working to build a movement for change, a new momentum to counteract the spread of hatred and violence and fear and injustice.  We face an uphill battle, against cynicism and despair, against social norms in Jerusalem and here at home, that sustain and excuse injustice.  That numb our minds and harden our hearts to the scandalous, offensive, evil suffering that tears our world apart.  This must end.  This can end.

Decision by decision, choice by choice.

Here, among these 29 Kids4Peace and their counselors and staff, is a community who have chosen to step into this struggle, with all their hearts and souls and minds and strength.

It is not easy.  They face rejection by their peers.  They are called traitors and spies.  They struggle to be here, in this place of struggle, when it would be easier, maybe even more fun, just to be playing soccer, or piano, or playstation.  It is not easy.  But it is the right thing to do.

And it’s the right thing for us, as Christians, too. Our mission in this world is to reconcile all people with God and one another.  Check it out, in the catechism at the back of the prayerbook.  That is our job on this planet — to break down the walls that divide our world, and to bring good news of a new creation coming to life among us.   It is what our new Presiding Bishop Elect Michael Curry calls the Jesus Movement — powerful, passionate, on the move for justice and change.

Our world is so broken, so torn, so filled with suffering that there is a lifetime of holy work for each of us to do.  Wherever the Spirit calls us, we are inited to put the power of our lives toward the good and holy path, to energize the decisions that will lead to justice and peace and love.

And when we do – choice by choice, decision by decision – the tide can and will turn.  Martin Luther King famously said that the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.  And it bends more and more toward justice as we have the courage to struggle, the courage to add our voice, our hands, our feet. And to invite others to do the same.

We can shift the momentum.  We can turn the tide.  We can build a movement for lasting change.

But we will need 5,000 on the hilltop again.  Ten thousand in the streets of Jerusalem.  Millions across this globe.  A Jesus movement turned out into this world, standing shoulder to shoulder with Muslims and Jews and people of goodwill from every tribe and language and people and nation.

A visible sign, a sacrament of peace.

Like all signs of the reign of God, begins in small and fragile ways – a mustard seed, a few pieces of bread and fish, a couple dozen teenagers who have the audacity to be friends, the courage to listen and to speak their truth, to compromise and to stand their ground.

What one choice will you make today, to help build a new 5,000 – to add your power to the path of peace.

With hard work and persistence, across months and years, change will come, change does come.  As Christians, we do not have the luxury of despair.  We have set our feet on the path of Jesus, a path along the way of the Cross, confident that resurrection is coming to meet us on the way.    Amen.

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Filed under: Blog

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 >> 

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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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 

Yakir Englander receives award for work with Kids4Peace

Ms. Rula Saleh, Mr. Yakir Englander, Fr. Josh Thomas, Ms. Reeham Subhi, representing the three faiths of Kids4Peace at the awards ceremony.

Ms. Rula Saleh, Mr. Yakir Englander, Fr. Josh Thomas, Ms. Reeham Subhi, representing the three faiths of Kids4Peace at the awards ceremony.

The Council of Higher Education in Israel bestowed the “Shosh Berlinsky-Sheinfeld Award” on Mr. Yakir Englander, Kids4Peace Jerusalem Director and PhD student at Hebrew University, for his work with Kids4Peace.  He was chosen from among all the universities in Israel as the researcher making the greatest contribution to Israeli society.

Acceptance Speech

Mr. Yakir Englander, June 14, 2011 

We in “Kids4Peace” believe, that here in Jerusalem, of all places, in a city everyone fights over, a city that seems sometimes to be an obstacle to peace, that here, we have the ability to do things differently. We refuse to abandon the prayer and the dream.

Honorable Director of the Israel Council of Higher Education; Members of the Council; Members of the Awards Committee; fellow Lecturers and Researchers; fellow Recipients of the Award, my dear family members, and my dear friends:

At first glance, granting an award for academic engagement and service in the social community might seem surprising. The usual image of the academic researcher is of someone devoted full time to his or her research – very often in the “inner chambers” and cut off from everyday experience. Intellectual research requires the ability to engage in an internal and intimate dialogue with texts and with subjects and realms that are not usually busy with the here and now.

And yet, if we look more closer at the role of the academic, we see that this role is essentially engaged with the community. The greatest of thinkers have been those who believed that daily life both directs and defines the way of thinking and the questions raised by the researcher. They also believed that the responses and insights that arise in the process of academic research have the power to forge a better society, or at least a society more aware of its choices.

So it was with Socrates sitting in the streets of Athens, engaging the citizens of that city in conversations, and with the Rambam (Maimonides) who served actively as the leader of the Jewish community in Egypt, and with the Muslim philosopher Ibn Rushd Al-Qurtubi (known in the West as Averroes) who governed the city of Cordoba and became a judge in Morocco, and with the French philosopher and thinker Michel Foucault, to name just a few.

All this is descriptively interesting, but I think there is also a deeper philosophical point. The beginning of philosophy is a sense of wonder inspired by the world we live in. Wonder requires a sort of “stepping back”; we look at the world, at its phenomena and events, before we engage in any intuitive judgment. Our duty as researchers is first and foremost to allow the world to appear to us just as it is, to be attentive precisely to those statements that may be regarded by society as clear and even banal – for example, the statement that we are right and others are wrong. The researcher allows the phenomena of the world to speak, to express themselves; it is an act of grace, but also a duty. In the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Baba Metzia, it is written: “Jerusalem was destroyed simply because the judges there judged according to the Torah.” In other words, a society that judges only by the letter of the law cannot be an ethical society. A society, and a society’s judicial system, have the obligation to judge by guidelines that transcend law, that go beyond even “the truth” as each society understands it, and to thus give a voice to those regarded by society as “wrong,” a voice to those whose suffering society cannot see.

Our point of departure is precisely our difference, that calls us to listen to voices other than our own.

The organization “Kids4Peace” which I have directed in Jerusalem for the last four years is dedicated to creating a new discourse in Jerusalem and in the Israeli and Palestinian communities of the Jerusalem area. Formally, “Kids4Peace” is an a-political movement, precisely in order to allow the development of dialogue precisely among people who cannot even imagine dialogue to be possible. This movement appeals to the cultural and religious identities of each of us, identities that differ according to our national and social contexts, and bridges between them. Our point of departure is precisely our difference, that calls us to listen to voices other than our own.

Members of “Kids4Peace” are first of all children – who begin their encounters with each other at the age of 11 and continue with the hard work of dialogue through High School. The parents of these children are also fully engaged throughout the program, and of course we have professional adult staff, Interfaith Advisors, Interfaith Coordinators – Jews, Christians and Muslims – who devote themselves to the skills of respectful listening and learning from each other. All of these together embark on that philosophical imperative of “stepping back” to allow the other to speak.

As an organization, “Kids4Peace” may not offer new and unheard of solutions to the conflict we are stuck in. It does, however, create a new culture with different questions.

As an organization, “Kids4Peace” may not offer new and unheard of solutions to the conflict we are stuck in. It does, however, create a new culture with different questions. The new culture of “Kids4Peace” is forging a new language with a different music to it, a language that seeks different answers. The movement turns to all members of our society, and especially to those who do not have the means for luxuries.  We in “Kids4Peace” believe, that here in Jerusalem, of all places, in a city everyone fights over, a city that seems sometimes to be an obstacle to peace, that here, we have the ability to do things differently. We refuse to abandon the prayer and the dream.

“Kids4Peace” has members who have lost loved ones violently in this conflict, on both sides, and members who have lost their homes or their livelihood, and are struggling for the good of themselves and their children.

There are so many such peacemakers – our job is simply to allow them to realize their heart’s desire.

This Award that you have bestowed on me today is not mine; it belongs to the Jewish, Christian and Muslim members of “Kids4Peace” in Jerusalem and in the nearby Palestinian and Israeli communities.  It belongs also to our sister organization in the United States, “Kids4Peace USA”, that has done everything to make our dream possible, knowing that whoever cannot dream can never effect social change. This award belongs to the Muslim girl from the Qalandia Refugee Camp who explains in her school that not all the Jews are intent on harming them. To the Jewish boy who is a fan of the Beitar Yerushalayim soccer team, but refuses to join the shouts of “Death to the Arabs” during the soccer game, and convinces his friends also to stop. To another child who joined “Kids4Peace” to find a way to grapple with feelings of fear upon seeing women wearing the hijab.  I accept this award in the name of every person who cannot stop praying, working, struggling for peace. There are so many such peacemakers – our job is simply to allow them to realize their heart’s desire.

It was my privilege to be raised in a Hassidic home, among a family of loving kindness and deep faith. When I was a child, I would walk with my father on some Sabbaths to pray in the synagogue of the Vishnitz Rabbi. As we walked along, my father told me stories of the Tzadikim – the Jewish sages and saints, who would give their lives to help others. I would like to share with you, in closing, one of these stories. It is a tale that has given me strength in moments of stress and crisis, which in my work directing “Kids4Peace” are all the more frequent as our work touches more closely on the roots of the conflict and its suffering.

As one of the Tzadikim lay dying, his most beloved disciple came to him, and asked that after the Tzadik arrived in heaven, he would come in a dream to the disciple, and tell him what heaven is like. The Tzadik agreed; but, three days after he had died, the disciple still had received no dream visitation. This disciple, who was a great saint  himself, began to be concerned for the welfare of his departed teacher. He decided to go himself up to heaven to find out what had happened.

Once arrived in the Higher Realms, the disciple asked the angels for news of his Rabbi. Yes, the angels replied, the Tzadik’s day of judgment had gone very well, and the Holy One Blessed Be He had Himself invited the Tzadik to join Him in a Heavenly havruta, studying together the sacred texts in Paradise. The Tzadik, however, chose rather to go into a great forest, filled with the dark powers of Evil. The disciple, who had always followed his teacher faithfully in life, decided to go after the Tzadik into the dark forest to find him. After three days walking in the darkness, he saw a light at the edge of the forest. Coming out in the open, the disciple found his old Rabbi, the Tzadik, standing on the bank of a great river, leaning on his stick and gazing sadly into the turbulent waters as they rushed by.

The disciple approached his teacher. “Rabbi,” he said, “Why are you standing here alone by this river, when God is waiting for you in Paradise?”

The Tzadik replied: “My beloved disciple, the water in this river is all the tears that are shed by people who are suffering in our world. When, on my judgment day, I heard that my lot was to enter Paradise, I said to God: ‘As long as You do not stop this flow of tears, I will remain here by this river, and will not enter Paradise with You.’”

It is our wish, our prayer, that our sacred work in dialogue in “Kids4Peace” will be able to lessen, even by a few drops, the flow of tears in this river of suffering.

Thank You.

[Translated from the Hebrew by Henry R. Carse, June 16 2011]