Camp 2015: Being a peacemaker

by Selina, Counselor/Social Media Coordinator

8-20-15 (F)The morning started off with mindfulness, a chance to “open your heart” as Itai, a Jewish camper from Jerusalem put it. The group practiced paying attention to their breath, inaudibly counting each intake and release, staying still and silent for a whole five minutes.

Transitioning over to dialogue, four adults performed a skit with a lot of mean bullying and hurt feelings. Sarah and Cata ganged up on Julia, making fun of her hair and friendship bracelets, Julia started crying and Chelsea stepped in to ease the conflict.

After watching the pretend kerfuffle, kids picked which role they would most like to have in real life. Most flocked to Chelsea. Romi, a Jewish camper from Jerusalem, talked about how difficult it can be in the peacemaker’s shoes: “It’s very hard to do what Chelsea did. It’s hard to be the only one trying to stop it. Catie, an American, Christian camper added that: “It takes a lot of courage to stand up for somebody.”

After talking about being the one to step in and intervene, Sarah asked the group a couple of good but hard questions: “How does the buddy feel? What do they need?” Kids brainstormed a ton of different possibilities. They thought maybe it had to with getting attention, wanting to feel good but really feeling insecure, having experienced violence in their own lives and bringing into their interactions with other people, jealousy, boredom, and much more. Whether conscious of it or not, the group collectively showed empathy, understanding and thinking about what it might be like for both the bully and their target.

8-20-15 (J)In the next exercise, the kids divided up into two long lines. In the fictitious scenario, line A, while strolling along, finds line B kicking a grandma! It was up to the kids to decide what to do and how to do it. Some blocked and protected the imaginary grandmas with their bodies, others tried saying stop and talking, while tried moving the bully out of the way.

After switching roles, kids discussed what was like when they were able to help out effectively. One Jerusalem, Christian camper, Karl said: “I felt like superman!” Zelda, who is Jewish and from the US, “felt powerful”.

Using non-violent strategies, asking good questions and figuring out what is going on can be scary, counterintuitive, and hard. That said, when we see people being bullied, if we have the courage to help, we can make a huge difference. We can ask “what’s wrong, how can I help you, what are you angry about? Responding peacefully is a good option, but one that takes practice and courage.

A special guest, New Hampshire Congresswoman, Ann Kuster, spent the morning hearing about Kids4Peace, sharing stories and meeting with staff and kids. It was wonderful to hear her talk about how she uses the same, open minded approach that Kids4Peace tries to cultivate, while working with Representatives with all sorts of different world views.

8-20-15 (I)She also shared about how great it is to see kids connect on an unconscious, visceral level, overcoming differences through shared experiences without even realizing that close friendships are being formed. With only time for a short visit, it was sad to see her go so soon!

The after lunch hours flew by swimming in the lake, making masks, playing soccer, and doing acro-yoga. Before anybody knew it, the time had come for the evening talent show! Fantastic MC’s guided the evening, calling up one great act after another. The celebration continued from individual skits, dances and songs, to one big dance party with songs in different languages, both familiar and new blasting through the space.

Even those campers, who were at first glued to their seats, couldn’t resist for long the temptation to join in. Spirits high, kids walked back their cabins begging for more.

Camp 2015: Crossing the line

by Selina, Counselor/Social Media Coordinator

8-19-15 (P)A puzzling picture was presented to the kids when they arrived at dialogue. Some saw an elderly woman, while others found a young woman’s face. After some discussion and lots of explaining, most people were able to see both, but then had the confusing experience of switching back and forth. As a whole group the kids talked about how oftentimes we only see things from one perspective, but if we’re open to looking, we can see something completely different. This talk led into a game. A rope was laid down the middle of the room and the kids were split into two groups. Each group was separately given the same objective: to get all the members of the other group to their side of the rope. Language was intentionally left neutral, winning/losing, your team/their team, etc. was never mentioned.

Kids used different strategies to try and accomplish what they were told to do. Some thought of a good solution but didn’t know how to involve others. Some tried to create a really attractive environment with fun games on their side, so kids from the other side would be excited to join them. Others pleaded, begged, bribed or tried coercing the other kids across. Some tried negotiation and explaining. After about 20 minutes, they all came to the agreement to stand on the centerline, with one foot on each side.

In the debrief, kids reflected on the experience. Alexxa, a Christian camper from the US, noted that: “People are thinking about just their goal, without thinking about both groups”. Joseph, a Christian, Jerusalem camper had a related thought: “Nobody thinks about the middle ground”.

Most kids realized that they had been thinking in terms of winning and losing, and assuming that the first side with all the people would win. When asked to explain the purpose of the game, many of them all had good ideas. One said it was to “learn listening” another mentioned “empathy” another wanted to emphasize “seeing things from different perspectives” and another talked about “working together”. They were able see how all these skills fit together to in order to cooperate.

After working hard in dialogue, the kids once again went off to practice and develop their Abraham tent skits.

8-19-15 (C)Down at the waterfront, after lunch, pairs of kids swam around, jumped off the dock, chatted, laughed and splashed. The same afternoon rotations of mask making, sports and games/acro-yoga took place before dinner. At that meal, the much anticipated clean cabin award was presented. Spaces were judged on their cleanliness, as well as the feel and how welcoming they were. One of boys’ cabins had cleaned everything, even the porch, and was thrilled to take home the prize!

The evening was relaxing, watching a movie, Remember the Titans, and drawing backdrops for the Abraham tent play. Cleaning up spilled popcorn after the movie, kids worked together, pausing on the way back to their cabin to admire the stars.

Camp 2015: Word of the day: Empathy

by Selina, Counselor/Social Media Coordinator

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 8.46.48 AM8-18-15 (E)
The word of the day was empathizing, which one Muslim camper from Jerusalem, Qais, defined as “feeling somebody else’s pain”. Sarah, who was leading the discussion talked about how when we show empathy, we support the other person.

The kids then split into groups, writing down stories about something that had happened to them. Stories were randomly drawn out and read, followed by everybody else finding good language with which to empathize. One Jewish camper from the US, Isa, felt moved by one story: “I’m really sorry for whoever that happened to, because that sounds terrible.” After dialogue, Abraham tent groups met to start figuring out their skits for Sunday’s big show!

The afternoon was split between swim test and three rotations. Groups either made plaster masks, played sports, or did group games/acro-yoga. For two hours after dinner, preparations were hurriedly made for the upcoming talent show! Cartwheels were practiced, songs were rehearsed, dances were taught and many surprises were devised. The rhythm of camp life is definitely setting in.

8-18-15 (D)

Reaching new heights

by Selina, Counselor/Social Media Coordinator

8-17-15 (H)Mixing things up a bit, Monday was ropes course day! After a few big activities with everyone, the campers went into smaller groups to play cooperative games and meet their ropes course facilitators.

Eventually everyone headed off to the woods, working with the low ropes, logs, swings, and platforms. At lunch Talia, a Muslim camper from Jerusalem, reported her experience: “When I first went on the rope I felt like I was in a video, I felt like I was flying!” She also shared her thoughts on what the afternoon with the high ropes would be like: “I’m afraid of heights so I’m a little nervous. But I also like adventures! This will be my adventure.”

Sure enough, everybody’s toes where high in air that afternoon. Kids perched on top of log, called the catwalk, strolled across a bridge made of just a single wire, clambered up a climbing wall, and scrambled up a vertical playground of obstacles. On the walk back to the cabins, another Muslim Jerusalem camper, Mona, shared her experience. “It was fun! I was a little nervous but then it turned out to be so easy!”

After dinner, campers crowded around a new project, writing appreciation and encouragement cards for their friends. As notes were written and delivered, kids shyly peeked into their bags, seeing if anybody had left them a little something and having a hard time resisting the temptation to read them. Nancy, the art teacher, made it very clear that notes can only be read on the way home. It’s going to be hard to wait.

The evening consisted of a huge soccer game, with almost everybody playing, topped off with a good old campfire, songs and s’mores. Even though everyone was tired, it was hard to tear them away from the fire and fun and take them to bed. It’s only been a day, but this new site is already feeling like home.

8-17-15 (G) 8-17-15 (F)

Camp 2015: Church, Ice Cream, and a Test of Tenacity

by Selina, Counselor/Social Media Coordinator

8-16-15 (A)The day started early, finishing up packing before breakfast and getting dressed for church. It was a struggle to get all the luggage packed into the bus, but somehow everybody and everything made it in time to the Cathedral.

Bishop Tom, a well-known face from the previous days and the ice cream social, preached, giving special attention to Kids4Peace. Christian campers were able to participate in the service, lecturing and alter serving. During the homily, the entire group performed the Kids4Peace chant as well as taught the congregation a song called Peace, Salaam, Shalom.

Afterwards, the Bishop answered questions about the church, his vestments, and Christianity as well as demonstrated the rather complicated way of putting on his hat. When he finished, there was a line nearly out the door to try it on!

8-16-15 (C)After that, it was back on the bus for a short ride to the Ben and Jerry’s Factory! Two tour groups made up of campers and staff, marveled at the big machinery and sampled a delicious cup of caramel swirl chip in the flavor room. Respects were paid at the Flavor Graveyard, mourning the loss of some delectable blends.

The next several hours were spent on the bus. Tired, hot and full of people, it was ride that tested everyone’s tenacity and tolerance. It took a bit longer than expected, but everyone arrived safety to New Hampshire. After a good dinner, the kids settled into their cabins for the night, eager to see their new surroundings in the daylight.8-16-15 (B)8-16-15 (G)

Camp 2015: Filling up in NH/VT

by Selina, Counselor/Social Media Coordinator

8-14-15 (B)The second full day of camp started off learning how to ask for a translation. Sarah, the dialogue facilitator, and Chelsea, the interfaith advisor, demonstrated with a little bit of frantic Spanish. In the next activity, kids stepped into the circle, telling the group something about themselves, sometimes in Arabic, sometimes Hebrew, oftentimes English. The room was always full of voices sharing and translating.

Next, the kids split into peace groups to draw maps of what is most important to them. For many that included their family, their friends, their faith, their pets, and a few of their favorite things to do. After completing their maps, the groups shared among themselves, looking at the similarities and differences in each one.

When the dialogue session came to an end, there was a scurry of activity as the girls helped each other put on headscarves, and everybody climbed onto the bus and headed out to visit a mosque. Upon arrival, a delicious homemade feast was waiting. Walking around the space, one American camper Will, who is Christian said, “This place is really cool! It’s so different from my church but its got the same nice feeling. If I were Muslim, I think I’d really like coming here every week.”

For the service, the girls went upstairs where they could see what was happening on a screen. The Christian and Jewish campers sat in an arc around the space, observing the prayers. Afterwards, the group met with the imam, and learned about the special carpet design for praying, and much more about the mosque as well as the traditions and beliefs of Islam.

The afternoon was spent shopping on Church Street, Burlington’s famous pedestrian walkway. The Ben and Jerry’s scoop shop, unsurprisingly, turned out to be the most popular places to visit.

A little tired out, groups then walked to the Ohavi Zedek Synagogue to meet with the Rabbi. Her chat went right into the Friday evening Shabbat service welcoming in the Jewish day of rest. After blessing and sharing grape juice and challah, the entire group walked back to Rock Point, singing the Kids4Peace chant and chatting among themselves. It was a full day in every way possible.

8-14-15 (H) 8-14-15 (G)

Houston camp visits NASA

by Dala, Muslim Counselor, K4P Jerusalem

unnamedIt was our last day at Camp Allen, so we ate breakfast and headed to NASA and now we’re spending this one night at the Clear Lake Islamic Center. Our big adventure of the day began in NASA. We ate lunch there and we had a slideshow about the background and current events of NASA.

Brian Duffy is a famous astronaut that we met today at NASA, who told us multiple stories of his experiences; some were happy and some were about difficulties he’s had during missions.

Each group went with one NASA staff member to have a guided tour all around the NASA museum, and the kids were amazed by each different step they were guided. We even saw what astronauts eat during their journey to the moon and what their restrooms look like.

We arrived at the Islamic center in time for dinner; then we will be leaving in the morning for the Cathedral church tomorrow.

The next mission for the astronauts is to land on Mars, so we’re hoping in the near future that Mars will have human footprints on it, just like the moon.

Everything is possible, if you BELEIVE.

“I am very happy I had the chance to visit NASA today. I got to see things I have never seen before in my life.” -Shahd, 13, Muslim

“We spend our time today with the astronauts it was an amazing time. We also watched a movie on a huge screen. It was a great time to be spent at.” -Cleo, 13, Christian

Roots Day 5: Building a Sustainable Earth

by Leah, K4P Summer Intern

11864890_704135219692543_7241628479877859214_o 11872022_704135076359224_8688489099147585843_oThe theme of the day was learning about how to “go green”. We spent the morning at Kibbutz Lotan, a small Kibbutz that is just down the road from Ketura. There, we went on a tour of their eco campus where we learned all about composting and reusing our resources. A highlight of our visit was making bricks out of mud and hay.

The kids learned about how we can use the earth and the resources around us in order to build homes and other buildings. At Kibbutz Lotan (almost, if not all of,) their homes are made out of the same material (clay and hay) that we created. In making these clay bricks, the campers got their hands dirty and mixed sand, clay, and water together. Then they shaped the mixture into bricks and put them out in the sun to dry. After, they took already dry bricks and built bridges out of them.

The bridges they built were strong enough to bear their weight so they had a lot of fun walking around on the bridges and testing their new creations’ limits. It was amazing to see how well the kids work together in a team when they are working toward a common goal. After mud building, the kids completed their tour by getting to see the homes made of clay and seeing what an ecological bathroom and kitchen looks like. We finished off our time at Lotan with lunch there, and the campers got to experience composting their own food scraps for themselves.

11882313_704135596359172_1550955720072931400_oOn the way back to Ketura, we took a detour and went to Yotvata, Israel’s dairy capital. The kids loved buying their favorite dairy products there and trying the delicious ice cream. Once we got back, the kids listened to a presentation about the Arava Institute that is hosted here, at Ketura. Learning about the institute really helped them round out their eco experience. Later, they had their movement session with Shuli.11856301_704135749692490_8064042934508902601_o

For the last night here, we had a barbecue and pool party. The kids loved swimming, dancing, and bonding. We are sad to leave but excited to see what Kids4Peace brings us in the future. The campers can’t wait for Leadership!

A very special thank you to the US Consulate General in Jerusalem for making Roots Camp at Ketura possible! The campers are so thankful for their experience this summer.

8th Grade Roots Camp Day 4: Awaiting the Big Surprise

by Leah, K4P Summer Intern

11882806_703657183073680_598313525766737926_o 11879117_703658353073563_9118155578323815440_oAnother exciting, hot, and action-packed day! The highlight of the campers’ day was definitely their movement session with Shuli. Shuli organized a session where they really got to explore their creative side. The unique part is that for the first time, they were told to make a mess.

Shuli gave the kids a ton of newspapers and asked them to rip them up into tiny pieces until the ground was completely covered in newspaper shreds. They got really into it and even started making snow angels in the newspaper! Though I suppose they’d be called newspaper angels…

Throughout the session she had them do different activities and competitions with the newspaper mess. First, she split them up into four different teams and asked them to choose a corner. Then they tried to get as many newspaper shreds to their corner as possible. The next exercise was a bit more challenging. They were asked to make a fort or home out of the furniture and other supplies in the room we were in and then create a presentation to show to the group.

BUT, they were supposed to do all of this without speaking. It was really incredible to watch them use their imaginations and work so well in teams, all without talking to each other. They cooperated so well with each other, and you could really tell how much they trust each other and each other’s ideas.

This is what Lour has to say about the movement session today:

“This is the fourth movement session that we have had during this camp, and every day it becomes more and more exciting. Shuli is very focused on helping us explore other cultures and letting our creative side run wild. I was a little bit surprised when she told us that we had to rip up newspapers and throw them on the ground. I remember looking around at her and the advisors with a very puzzled look on my face. I thought the idea was a little bizarre, but the moment I began ripping the newspapers apart and tossing the tiny shreds into the air, It felt very good. I felt like art and creativity can be expressed so differently and that it isn’t only limited to quiet and clean activities. It was also an amazing experience to try and build homes out of materials. My group was very successful at it and I must say, our presentation was hilarious. Overall, it was great to see everyone participate in making a mess and surprisingly, in cleaning it up. I felt like we were all very connected and could work together as a team.”11882398_703646379741427_4416038817952705029_o

After the session we planned our hike and poike dinner for tonight, painted the concrete shapes we made on Monday, and went swimming. We told the campers that we have a surprise for them tonight. We’re going to watch the meteor shower! Stay tuned to hear about our experience!

Half way through Houston Camp!

by Dala, K4P Muslim Counselor, Jerusalem
11846748_491779597655920_2136038619410923129_n 11836784_491780017655878_116455258060498258_nAnd we’re on the 6th day now, 5 more days to go. Today is our last night at Camp Allen so tomorrow we will be heading to the Islamic center to stay for one night.

We had another morning with a birthday and it was Lutfi’s birthday, one of the Jerusalem campers.

After breakfast we continued with our regular schedule with art, music, and Olympic Games.
Today was the last day to swim in the lake, so everyone had fun doing the blob, giant swing, iceberg, and the canoeing. After 2 hours of swimming and laughing it started to rain, so everyone started to run so we can get to the cabins as quickly as possible. This is Houston, it is very hot that it even starts to rain from that high temperature “Crazy Houston”.

We ended our night with a great movie “Apollo 13” which was considered a failure, but then ultimately a successful mission to the moon. Everyone sat with their pillows and blanket all in one room to watch that movie and we were getting the kids ready to our adventure tomorrow in NASA.

Counselor Prep in Vermont

 by Selina, Counselor/Social Media Coordinator, K4P NH/VT camp

8-10-15 (E)8-10-15 (I)Monday, August 10th was a full day of working hard and building group moral for the VT/NH staff. Individuals had trickled in throughout the previous day, including a big van from Boston bringing the Jerusalem Counselors and one of our lovely cooks Debby.

They arrived too late at night to really meet anybody until the next morning. The tone of our work together was set after breakfast, sitting down to make trilingual nametags.

Counselors passed around napkins and scrap paper, practicing the Hebrew and Arabic spellings of their names, comparing translations and decorating their individual papers. Later the group paired off to tell each other their life stories.

Experiences ranged from childhood in Jerusalem, coming to U.S. for a high school exchange program, leaving Iraq and immigrating to Jordan and later the U.S., doing peace work in Nicaragua, participating in interfaith travels and much, much more.

Between stories, staff members found comfort in each other’s company, breathing together, sharing weight, laughing and sharing.

In the afternoon, counselors eagerly donned Kids4Peace T-shirts, split into groups, and worked on logistics for the kids’ arrival. Signs were hung, floor plans were drawn, schedules were written out, spaces were set up… in other words, much was accomplished!

The late afternoon included time to visit a nearby park, play soccer, explore the waterfront, or participate in an outdoor yoga class benefitting Kids4Peace. It was a long day, but one that gave us all the chance to set good intentions for the upcoming camp.

We will, we will SPREAD PEACE!

by Ariel, Jerusalem camper at NC camp

We will spread peace
(to the tune of ‘We will rock you’)

Buddy you’re a boy making big noise playing on the streets
Gonna be a big man some day
You’ve got Ketchup on your face
Amazing grace
Spreading the peace all over the place

Chorus

Singing we will we will
Spread peace
We will we will
Spread peace!

Buddy you’re a young girl sweet girl
Playin with  the kids
Gonna be a counselor some day
You’ve got humous on your face
In a different place
Wearing your tee shirt all over the place

Chorus again

Buddy you’re an old man rich man
Seeing with your eyes what you did that day
A smile on your face
Such a sweet taste
The look of peace all over the place

Chorus again three times

Kids 4 kids 4 kids 4 peace

“All we need is here…”

by Dagan, Jerusalem Jewish Advisor, Seattle Camp

“All we need is here…”

This chant (led by our Christian faith advisor Malcolm) has become one of our camp’s many anthems.  I found myself contemplating the meaning of these simple words, and would like to share my thoughts with you on this blog post today.

11844930_511692845647533_3277266647454671294_o Since landing in Seattle last Wednesday, I’ve been experiencing a strong sense of expansion and space. Coming from Israel, a land so dense and over-stressed, I can notice an inner hint of new air, of new opportunities. Must we go so far to renew? We are seeking a process of deep transformation, first within ourselves, and next, hopefully, for the world.

The Washington environment seems to me profoundly abundant; the trees grow so tall, with such grace… Fresh, clean water everywhere…  Vibrant green is the predominant color. Here in the Tracey Levine Center, we have all these beautiful meeting spaces for our activities, meadows for soccer and frisbee…  Here we are enjoying delicious food and comfortable accommodations. All this abundance is, no doubt, a wonderful starting point for the Seattle Kids4Peace camp.

Then add the richness each of us (staff and campers alike) brings, in our bodies, minds and souls. Together we form a unique creation, which expands and evolves each day. As camp enters its 5th day, it seems that our common quest, for peace, is to be reached through the non-conventional means of truth, the human heart, and the faith that unites us as living beings.

Peacemakers! We who choose to see, to keep our hearts open, to not accept the “truths” of the conflict. We choose to remain sensitive in the midst of hardening. We are peacemakers! Boldly saying, “No” to the violence. We who wish to live together. To believe peace in our turbulent land is possible. We resist, by building an alternative of love…

Yet, each of us is bound, by his own borders of perception… So at the Kids4Peace camp we create safe spaces, where we can study and question ourselves and others. As we explore ourselves, so we begin to meet the other more profoundly, more truthfully; without fear. I know myself, I trust myself, and therefore I am willing to listen to you and willingly accept you. I am not  afraid that your story will take my place. You are not my enemy. Hey, you can even be my new best friend! We collect tools of the heart to help us on our journey to peace. We do this in community, each sharing his perspective and knowledge. In our community, words such as “gentleness”, “feelings”, “compassion” and “trust” do not denote weakness – on the contrary,  they are a sign of inner-power. The true power of the future is the quality of inner-wisdom. And when this rippling power emerges in more and more people, peace will find its way back to our land.11875036_511685965648221_5621357679019118551_o

Indeed, all we need is here. We live in such abundance; there is no need for violence. We have all the knowledge and heart we need. Let us have courage to celebrate our differences, and come together to realize a greater union.

(And thank you to Pam Orbach for help editing this post!)

Boston trip 2015!

by Matt Loper, Kids4Peace Boston Director

11822288_10153390734331066_7577270442019899004_nAnother exciting, action-packed day at Kids4Peace! After an early start and a sad goodbye to Camp Merrowvista, our home for the last 8 days, we loaded our bags onto the bus and headed back down to Boston. The amazing singing talent of our kids was showcased all the way back from camp to the delight of the staff. All of the kids promised to keep their day jobs.

Our first stop today was the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center where we had lunch before a quick tour and Jummah prayers. After prayers and a compelling sermon by a guest Imam, we sat with our friend Nancy who answered a number of thoughtful questions we had about the service and Islam in general. She was very knowledgeable about the history of the ISBCC and commiserated with us about the difficulties of parking in Boston. She spoke about peace in Islam and helped us understand more about the practice of Islam in Boston and in other parts of the world.

After the masjed, we moved into our new accommodations in Newton, MA and enjoyed some easy time and a fabulous PIZZA DINNER!! Although we miss Camp Merrowvista, we certainly can’t complain about the pianos we can play, the beautiful soccer fields, comfy beds, and air conditioned rooms! We then walked to Temple Shalom of Newton where we had another quick tour before song filled Shabbat services. Rabbi Gurvis and Rabbi Abrasley spoke passionately about the importance of keeping an open heart and bravely loving others…even if you don’t get along with them. The congregation praised us for the hard work we’re doing, reminding us all that what we’re doing at 12 years old, some people never do in an entire lifetime! They even showed their gratitude and support with ice cream during the Oneg! Woohoo!!!!!

After the walk back (we got in about 3 miles today) the kids got ready for bed, Gabe turned into a soap zombie but he seems to have gotten better. Long story short it was a long day! And we look forward to a slower paced Shabbat day tomorrow while we await our Church visit on Sunday.

8th Grade Roots Camp Day 1: This is the Desert!

by Leah, K4P Summer Intern

11221555_702556333183765_537692727224051429_oIt was an incredible and action packed first day at Roots Camp! We began the day at the Kids4Peace office at 6:30am. The kids came energetic as ever, hugging all their friends, singing songs, and eager to get down to Kibbutz Ketura. After a three and a half hour bus ride, we arrived.

Nadav, one of our Jewish faith advisors was there to greet us, along with other members of the Ketura staff. Campers filed off the bus, one by one, each with a wider smile than the next one. We were here! And boy, was it hot.

From the bus, we headed straight to the Roots meeting room. There, we recharged with cold water, lemonade, fruit, and coffee cake. We started with an ice breaker because Samer, the new Muslim faith advisor, and I, the Kids4Peace summer intern and camp media manager, had not yet met the kids. We soon went over camp rules, expectations for the week, and what we hope to do at camp this summer.11794520_702557073183691_5203347602640481250_o

After our opening session, we headed to the Kibbutz’s cafeteria for lunch. Each day this week, we will listen to kids from each religion say a prayer before meals. Today was Christian day, so the six Christian campers presented a prayer to the group. Next, we ate. There were lots of options so all the campers found something they liked. After lunch, the campers headed to their first movement session with Shuli, our movement instructor. Shuli will be here with us for the week, leading movement sessions, followed by discussions, for our campers. Reports back from the campers were “really fun!” “interesting!” “cool!” They are excited to see what Shuli has in store for tomorrow.

Later, we moved into our rooms. The girls and boys are split, each with their own suite. Each suite has four bedrooms, with three or four beds per bedroom, a common room, two bathrooms, and a kitchenette. We then headed to the pool to relax and cool off. The kids couldn’t wait to get to the sand dunes.

The dunes was the highlight of our day today. The bus pulled up to an opening in the middle of the vast desert. Once we got off the bus, the campers were each given a sheet of paper with a question on it:11791985_702556336517098_9140927453872220006_o

How do you feel now, sitting by yourself in the desert?

Loure said: “I feel so thankful to be sitting in this peaceful desert.”

Adan: The view reminded me how beautiful God is and how amazing his creations are.”

Talia: “I feel like I’m part of what’s around me. I can feel the sand, on my feet, in between my toes. Every little sound is magnified. The rustle of the paper, the scratching of my pencil. The wind doesn’t resist me. It acknowledges my presence and bends around my lone figure. I would stay like this for hours.

11223880_702556866517045_1906811591494242401_oWe each shared how we felt, sitting alone in the desert. It was a special time because all the campers were listening to each other, intent on how their peers were feeling. This was a unique experience for us. We connected to the land and most importantly, each other.

To wrap up the night, we had a bonfire next to the dunes. For dinner, we made pita bread by shaping dough and putting it on a huge round pan to bake over the fire. Ketura prepared a huge spread of things to put on our pita breads, including falafel, labneh, hummus, and white and milk chocolate spreads for dessert.

By the time we got back to Ketura, the campers were tired and ready to head to bed. If this is just day one, I can’t wait for tomorrow!

Special THANK YOU to the US Consulate General in Jerusalem for sponsoring this camp for us! 2015-08-09 (1)11794435_702557319850333_4516872084762313894_o

Grateful in Boston

11705351_10153388588706066_409844973172011895_n 11056538_10153388589361066_2616636572817550678_nWe spent the morning reflecting on our time here together through a camp-wide scavenger hunt that reminded us of everything we have done and worked on so far.

Hidden on trees and rocks and by buildings and benches, campers found slips of paper with words and themes from our week, such as “perspective,” “community,” and “empathy” among others. We shared with our peace pals which themes spoke to us the most, reinforcing the importance of the activities we did around them.

We ended the day and our time in New Hampshire the same way we do every year in Kids4Peace, with a campfire and songs! Each peace pod prepared their favorite song to lead the rest of the group in as we enjoyed the stunning mountains around the lake for the last time.

We asked all the kids to spend a moment and reflect on what they are grateful for and what they appreciated here in Kids4Peace. Here is just a small sampling of the thoughts they shared:

“I’m grateful to be here and meet new people and help change the world.”

“This couldn’t have been possible if everyone hadn’t tried, and we all had a heart and did try.”

“I’m grateful for Merrowvista giving us a place to stay at night.”

“I’m grateful for all the people here who have good hearts, because you have to have a good heart to make peace.”

11825231_10153388589456066_5845899781457608900_n“I’m grateful this isn’t the end.”

And we are too! This is not the end of our time together as we pack up to head down to Boston bright and early tomorrow morning. It was also mentioned many times by campers around the fire how grateful they were to have their peace pals here and we can’t wait to enjoy the rest of our time with them!

 

Peace can be a heavy weight, but if we all carry it together it can be a wonderful gift.

by Bar, Jewish Faith Advisor, Houston Camp

11850747_922733204449971_7011123391240170244_o Today is a beautiful, cool morning with the birds singing, the sun coming out of the trees and the lake begins to shine bright. We have some nice ladies in the kitchen, who welcome us each day with their smiles. Some of the campers dressed nice for Sunday worship.

We went to the outdoor chapel to hear Rev. Dub Brooks preach about the importance of our mission and purpose. He showed us with exercise weights that you need to share your burden because we all have a bunch of weight that we carry. Peace can be a heavy weight, but if we all carry it together it can be a wonderful gift.

Later, each group had their own different activity. With my group, we went to do art with Natalia. We are doing a mural project, and our group got the letter D to design of Kids4Peace. Everyone was making their own design, and at the end we tried to find a way to bring them all together. The combination of all the camper’s designs looks beautiful. We also began to paint it, but we still have a lot to do.

11794296_922733174449974_6042341932211129231_oAfter lunch, we went to the basketball court and everyone got ice cream, candy and a basketball to play with. All the campers were smiling and happy. Afterwards, we all went to archery and then to swim. The campers were really excited, and waited patiently to get into the water. Everyone was surprised to feel how warm the water was. Most of the youth tried all the lake water park options: giant slide, blob, iceberg and canoes and paddleboards. After a nice dinner with lots of fried chicken, we closed out the weekend with a fun country dance.

 

Giving Thanks in Seattle

by Emily Holm, Kids4Peace Intern

Eagerly awaiting our kids, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Eagerly awaiting our kids, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

After a record-breaking Northwest heat wave, it seemed as though the sky gave a sigh of relief on August 5th, bringing forth clouds, sprinkles of rain, and the perfect cool breeze for moving heavy suitcases into new cabins. The American campers were warmly welcomed to the Treacy Levine Center with Chef Russell’s delicious fajitas and enchiladas as they eagerly waited for their Israeli and Palestinian peace pals to arrive. The community felt incomplete without them.

The American campers’ inquiries increased as time passed. They asked, “Has their plane landed yet?”, “Where are they now?”, and “How long until they get here?” Finally the bus full of new friends pulled up. Greeted with signs and cheering, the campers and staff from Jerusalem exited the bus and joined our Kids4Peace Seattle family. Though they were undoubtedly excited to be at camp, it was obvious that they had been awake for a very long time. Travelling across ten time zones is quite a feat!

Through the rest of the night’s activities, the campers did their best to keep their heavy eyelids from closing. It was surely a whirlwind for all of them. The group’s energy waned as the staff led introduction activities and icebreaker games. By dinnertime, it was clear that the kids were ready for bed. Only one session separated them from a long night’s rest: Closing Dialogue.

Here at Kids4Peace, we end every day by bringing all the campers together for a short debrief. This conversation is led by our dialogue leader, Pam, who believes the most important part of dialogue is that everyone feels included, heard, and understood.

For the first night, we closed our day with a discussion about thankfulness. One by one, the campers went around the circle saying one thing that they were thankful for. Some were very simple things like food, good weather, and sleep. Others were thankful for family, new friends, and the sponsors that helped make camp possible for them. It was a beautiful way to start off our time here.

Thankfulness is a universal concept. It is an idea embraced by Christians, Muslims, Jews, and Druze alike. Though there are many things that differ between us, we all feel the need to show appreciation for the things we are blessed with in life. In every circumstance, we are all called to shift our attention away from distress and toward God, the source of our blessings. Despite the unfamiliar people and place, despite the severe lack of sleep after a very busy day, and despite the initial cultural differences, all of our campers were united by a shared gratitude for the opportunity to be together.

The staff team here at camp is thankful to have the opportunity to be with these incredible campers. Though we have known each other for only a few hours, we have already begun to see glimpses of peace. And this is only the beginning! As our community grows closer together, we will surely continue to be led by the spirit of thankfulness—for this place, for this organization, and most of all, for each other.

Soccer, cheer, talent and more in Kids4Peace Boston

by Matt Loper, Kids4Peace Boston Director

Soccer before breakfast has become the usual. Everyone has learned where to find the Kosher, Halal, and vegetarian food options. We are all ready for the moment of silence before our meals, and we wait expectantly for the song challenges when camp finishes lunch and dinner.11836725_10153388589886066_5879165978718833164_n

In the mornings we work through interfaith and leadership activities, and in the afternoons we join Camp Merrowvista’s woodworking, boating, swimming, rock-climbing and other activities.

As our camp routine takes hold, our community is growing stronger. We are building on our Discovery activities, to take on bigger topics, and this morning’s Discovery block prompted us to consider the stereotypes we hold of others.

After breakfast, the group made their way to the chapel for a program called “paper bags.” They each received a stack of little papers and a pencil, and entered the room quietly. Each bag had one word written on it, including: “Jew,” “Safety,” “Muslim,” “Mosque,” and “Army.” The staff asked them to walk slowly around the room and write down the first word that they thought of at each bag. They put their papers into the bags and broke into their “peace pod” discussion groups when everyone was finished. As the de-brief slowly started, there was a tension in the air – kids admitting that they didn’t like what they wrote, and others worrying about their new friends’ thoughts.

“Paper bags” held remarkable moments of growth, in the context of a strong community of friends. As the facilitators read what was written in each bag, the kids had a chance to discuss how they felt and how they could work together to overcome stereotyping, conflict, and prejudice.11822822_10153388590251066_6323094357021691123_n

But what makes our camp unique is not simply the way that we foster powerful peace education. What makes camp unique is the way that this work builds deep trust, empathy, and love.

Fast forward to the very end of our day…the annual Kids4Peace Talent Show!!! This year’s Talent Show was a special one. It was a full display of this remarkable community of new friends. Imagine acts as far ranging as Dabke dance, magic tricks, a basketball lesson, a “cup song,” modeling sunglasses, doing back handsprings and just eating an apple. The applause did not just get louder with each act; cheering and laughter filled the show from start to end. Everyone was celebrated for who they are and cheered on to be their very best. There was a palpable feeling of trust and safety in our community…you could get up and share anything you wanted, and you’d receive nothing but support. Now that sounds like the kind of world we all dream of living in!

These young peacemakers are not just learning to wade through rigorous conversations to confront injustice and build understanding. They are doing their work with celebration, joy, and dance.

THE PICTURES MAKE THIS STORY ALL THE MORE POWERFUL – CLICK HERE

11831685_10153388591706066_4551140675189015962_n 11222296_10153388591656066_4793884408679241520_n

Bringing a Message of Peace to Washington, DC

by DanDan, Kids4Peace Intern

DSC_1261Last weekend, a group of yellow backpacks broke through the gray monotony of the stately buildings and rising monuments of Washington DC. Carrying the message “Together, Peace is Possible” through the wide tree-lined streets, they were enough to cause a few passerby to stop and ask where these kids came from.

Coming from their camp in North Carolina, 29 K4P 7th graders from Israel, Palestine, and North America spent four days exploring the cultural offerings of the nation’s capital and meeting with important representatives. Their tour began with an exclusive meeting at the State Department, where a line-up of prominent politicians spoke about their peace-building work and shared their insights on conflict. “Politicians are afraid of religion, because they see it only as a source of conflict and violence,” said Sean Casey, Special Representative for Religion and Global Affairs.

As much as these government officials spoke from their own perspectives, they seemed more eager to hear from the kids themselves. Ira Forman, Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism asked the group a question: “What is the hardest thing you all have to deal with in your fight for peace?”

Lola, a 13 year old Jewish girl from New Hampshire, answered: “I think the most difficult part is that when you’re really young, you don’t always feel like there’s a lot you can do. Even though I’m going to a camp and making a lot of friends, I don’t feel like I’m making a big difference when there’s still a war going on and so I feel sort of powerless.”

Shaarik Zafar, Special Representative to Muslim Communities, could relate: “I work for the State Department and I have access to many important people. When I pick up the phone, people will listen to me, and sometimes, I feel the same way. But sometimes it’s the question of inches, not even miles or kilometers…I’ll be honest with you, just by sharing your stories with me, you’re making a difference. This has been the most important meeting I’ve had all week.”

DSC_1229This message resonated with many K4P students, who expressed this as the most important take-away of their time in DC. Gayil, a 13 year old Jewish girl from Jerusalem, said: “When I joined K4P, I thought it will not change. We’re just kids, but they give me a feeling that we are important and that we can change something even if we’re kids.”

Other leaders present at the meeting were Betty Bernstein, who spoke about women’s equality, and Chris Hensel, who spoke about US relations with Israel and Palestine.

From here, the kids took a tour of the US Capitol building while some of the campers went to meet Senator Leahy and attended Jummah prayer. “I have never ever dreamt in my life that I’m going to pray Jummah in the Capitol,” said Montaser, Muslim faith advisor. “It was such an amazing thing.”

Due to the recent acts of violence in Jerusalem, the kids all returned to the United Methodist Church to engage in group discussions and share their feelings about these events instead of visiting the next stop on the tour. There was a strong sense of solidarity, as tears, words, and vigil-like moments of silence were shed. Rabbi Scott spoke about these events at the Shabbat service at Sixth&I Synagogue which closed the evening with Shabbat services and dinner.

The next day was packed with fun trips to the White House Visitor Center, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, and the Native American Museum. These visits were interwoven with two special guest speakers.The first was Lauren Shreiber, who spoke about her experience as an American who converted to Islam. The second came from our own K4P family. Gerald Tieyah, father of K4P camper, Shoshana, spoke with his daughter about their Comanche identity and culture. Shoshana, a 13 year old Jewish girl from Vermont, reflects over this experience: “Ever since I was in Kindergarten, my dad would come into my Jewish day school and talk about being Native American to my classmates and so I was quite proud to share it with my new family.”

DSC_1473The third day was just as packed as the first two. It began with a Christian service at St. Mark’s Church, which featured a sermon given by Josh Thomas, Executive Director of K4P International. The kids then visited the National Zoo and attended a closing potluck party at the DC Jewish Community Center. Featuring Aaron Shneyer from Heartbeat, a music organization which unites Israeli and Palestinian youth, this event brought together DC community members, sponsors, and K4P staff in a night full of song, dance, and testimonials.

When reflecting over what she had learned in DC, Alona, a 13 year old Jewish girl from Israel, said: “I felt a lot more confidence that it’s not just me and this group, but there are more people who want peace and doing a lot of it. It felt really nice to see it. Being with kids from America, I felt better because it’s not just us in Israel who want peace, but also kids from around the world.”

When reflecting over his take-away from DC, Montaser, said:

“These kids are even smarter than we thought they are. I always hear things from them and maybe because of the age group they belong in, it makes it harder for me to understand that they’re thinking on a bigger scale. But today after the discussion we had, I saw that these kids have really amazing ideas. They have really bright minds and I think something’s going to happen in their hands.”

If something does happen, perhaps the kids should take Shoshana’s advice: “DC is where all important stuff happens so if you want to make a difference, try and make it happen in DC.”

DSC_1555DSC_1597

The Great Hike

by Matt Loper, Kids4Peace Boston Director

Yesterday was such a full day that we all had no choice but to fall asleep early and catch up on some much needed ZzzZZzzzz’s.  Our legs were happy for this extra rest since they did the hard work of hiking us all the way to the top of Mount Canaan.

Yesterday was our big hike day! One of the Kids4Peace traditions is to look only at the ground as you make those final steps to the top of the mountain.  Everyone silently shuffles up together, looking only down, and then on the count of three the whole group, together, turns around for the breath-taking view.

Lots of us were nervous about the hike beforehand (for some, this was the first time ever hiking such a big mountain), but we went at a pace we could all handle.  Even though it was challenging at times, we encouraged each other, and we all high-fived at the top; each of us so personally proud to have accomplished this feat.

At the top of the mountain, we played some games, including “Interfaith Bingo”.  Many of us even got BINGO!…especially after learning so much about each other’s religions this past weekend.

After the trek back down to our cabin, we couldn’t wait to dive into the lake and wash away the grime of the mountain.  We splashed around, took out the paddle boards, and practiced our diving skills off the dock.

Eva and Jeanie (our awesome Merrowvista leaders) gathered us back on the shore and gave us quite a challenge.  We took turns telling the story of Noah and the Flood as it is in the Qu’ran, Bible, and Torah.  Imagine our surprise that all three of these religions have this story!  Little did we know that we, too, would be building an Ark!  Sure, there was no flood, but it was quite a challenge still…the leaders blindfolded half of us!

This was a big test of our communication skills, but it looks like we’re getting better and better at being able to respectfully communicate with one another while still accomplishing tasks.

A thunderstorm rolled into camp after we finished dinner, but if you were here, you wouldn’t have even noticed.  Another thunderstorm of dance and song was happening in the dishroom where the Kids4Peace boys had their turn of doing the dishes for the entire community of 200 people.

11828665_10153384112531066_970491288710302341_n 11800021_10153384113036066_6572390341181521497_n 11800143_10153384113401066_4180991047389482605_n

#dayinthelife of a #k4pkid

11039296_10153390728586066_6743036740332181810_n  Can you believe that just one day at camp can hold all of this:

– Sharing our sacred objects and learning from each other why they are important.

– Kosher chocolate chip pancakes!

– Sitting and listening to one another with care and intention.  Learning how to hear someone else’s pain and to heal together.

– Feeling, firsthand, how frustrating injustice can be via a totally unfair (but super fun!) game.

-Getting letters/emails from mom or dad. Remembering how much our loved ones miss us.

– Taking a quick but much needed nap!

– Making friendship bracelets to share with new friends.

– Recreation time!  Soccer, archery, outdoor survival, nature art, or rock climbing!

– Dance and theatre games with Brio Integrated Theatre which helped us find our joy and feel more confident in our own unique selves.

– Laughs and songs over dinner.11217538_10153390728666066_3299872787742701024_n

– Sharing with the entire Camp Merrowvista summer camp community about what it means to be a peacemaker.  We shared our answers to:

– What does friendship have to do with peace?

– Why is it important to be friends with people different from me?

– How is my perspective changing because of Kids4Peace?

That’s the life of a Kids4Peace kid.  Weaving in and out of intentional peacebuilding time and just plain having a ton of fun with friends who you never knew you could be friends with.

Helping hands, Warm heart, Vivid seeing, Searching feet

by Matt Loper, Kids4Peace Boston Director

It was another incredible day at Kids4Peace Camp – busy and full of meaning and FUN! We woke up happy and full of energy. The boys even got ready fast enough to play soccer before breakfast. It is amazing to see everyone engaging together, taking risks and sharing stories, listening intently to others, and just laughing and enjoying camp with new friends. It seems like there’s no limit to how much we can learn about each other and each other’s cultures while having so much fun!

Anyway, this day was another really full one! After breakfast, we went to a photojournalism workshop called “Naming the World: Challenging the Single Story” led by Sheya who helped us think about what we see when we look at an image and how we can see images (and people!) as more than just one simple story.

In the second half of the workshop, we even had the chance to go out and capture this place and our community with our own cameras.

We couldn’t swim in the lake today, but no worries, these awesome counselors created a water relay in our backyard full of all kinds of games in which everyone got soaked and cooled off. After drying off, we went to the third part in our religious observations: a Sunday Christian service led by our group’s Christians and Reverend Thomas Brown. As always, we concluded with time for questions and reflections.

One of the most important parts of today was when we grappled with the important questions of “What is a peace builder?”, and “Why it is important to talk about peace?” One of us summarized with a beautiful image of a peace builder: someone with …

  • Helping hands,
  • Warm heart,
  • Vivid seeing , and
  • Searching feet

The day ended with another game of soccer for the boys, and the girls taking their turn doing the dinner dishes (for all TWO HUNDRED people in the whole camp!) while having a dance party and singing together. (Of course, EVERYONE knew the words to all of the songs no matter where they came from or what language they spoke!)

11850581_10153387285701066_6763483103226731845_o

Tearful last day of Leadership Camp (K4P & JPB)

by Jiries, Christian Counselor, Jerusalem

11807321_919913288065296_517511697718386362_o The boys woke up at 6am to finish packing their bags and getting ready for the last day’s activities. They showed each other the various gifts they bought for themselves and for their parents and siblings, right before putting them into their bags. Once they were finished, the campers and counselors sat on the porch with their plates full of delicious fruits and pancakes with maple syrup from right here at Acer Farm. It was their last meal at Acer Farm, a place that brought them together and united them with peace and love. Mixed emotions filled the room.11754494_919914171398541_4925827061641501649_o

11754399_919913101398648_677150522965500689_oAfter breakfast, the boys went back to the yurt for one last time and cleaned it out while the girls finished packing their bags and cleaning their rooms inside the log cabin. At 10am, all the campers were ready and began boarding the buses, all well-dressed for church and banner painting. The buses left camp towards the church. Singing and cheering and clapping made the trip towards the church even more fun. We got to church and took our seats.

During the mass, one group presented their skit about racism. After church, the kids spoke to and introduced themselves to some of the local parishioners. We enjoyed some drinks and refreshments and then had some hot dogs for lunch. Everyone sat closely together for the last meal, while cheering and singing camp songs.

Nearby the church, a huge peace banner was waiting to be painted with beautiful colors by the campers. A professional graphic artist named Russell helped prepare the banner and brought all kinds of colors for us to complete the masterpiece that will be displayed on billboards all over New England. In the background, the Brothers Yares sang melodic and soothing songs in English, Arabic and Hebrew. Arriving soon after we did, the Iraqi young leaders from World Learning joined our campers and helped complete the painting. Then, we presented our 3 skits that we had worked hard on with the playwright Court Dorsey. One was about sexism, another about homophobia and the last about racism.

The end was near. We sang, took photos, and got ready to get back to camp and get our bags and suitcases. The last thing the kids wanted to do was say goodbye to each other. It was a tearful and sad event, mainly because of the relationships that these campers developed with each other and with their counselors. Campers, counselors, and volunteers all shed tears and exchanged beautiful parting words. The American kids got in their bus, the Israeli and Palestinian kids in another bus, and they drove away from camp waving back towards the camp, counselors and staff. A sad moment, but a moment that will never be forgotten, because one day, we will meet again, and continue our fight towards peace together.

Rock, Paper, Scissors, RAFT!

by Matt Loper, Kids4Peace Boston Director

It was a perfect day in New Hampshire!  The sky was blue, a breeze kept the kids cool, and the lake sparkled in the sunshine. You’d never know these kids met each other only 3 days ago. Together, they sang (loudly) and laughed at meals, used photos to explore the importance of communication to fully understand the “big picture”, and jumped off the raft in the middle of the lake during the afternoon swim period – using the universal language of rock, paper, scissors to decide who would jump off the raft first!

One of the Jerusalem kids switched easily between Arabic, Hebrew, and English to coordinate group jumps off of the raft. The day ended with a visit to the camp compost station and garden; a break to play soccer and basketball  surrounded by the green tree-covered New Hampshire mountains; prayers to close Shabbat and end the day; and time for reflection on what compelled everyone to join Kids4Peace.  The kids gave too many amazing reasons to list, but some memorable ones included wanting to:

 learn about other religions,

 meet new friends,

 become a peace maker,

 do something every day to create peace

 stop all the war

 and because my brother/sister loved it!

Click here to check out some pictures through the eyes of our youth! 11781600_10153381729626066_2433120783491597136_n11836796_10153381729006066_1238177170218953057_n11800328_10153381728821066_1405413446110168661_n11752579_10153381730336066_8732783748485630704_n

Too much watermelon at Leadership Camp – JPB and K4P

by Lana (Muslim) and Yosef (Jewish), USA participants

We woke up to a cloudy Saturday morning with all of us feeling tired and sad about leaving the next day. After breakfast, we split into three groups to complete our peace plans. Next, we completed our skits with Court. The skits are being preformed tomorrow, so we worked vigorously to perfect them. Just before lunch, we started writing song lyrics with the Yares’ Brothers for a song we are going to sing tomorrow. Then, we had another delicious salmon lunch courtesy of Dorothy.

After lunch, we had the renowned Crazy Olympics, which is a timed, team challenge of who could complete various crazy challenges. First, everyone on our team had to wear a freezing shirt to move on. The next challenge was to eat a whole watermelon after using any means to break it open. The hardest step was to drink a whole gallon of water. Some of the boys drank so much they almost got sick! To complete the Olympics we jumped into the pond, which started swim time.

Mary Fetchet the founder of Voices of 9/11 shared her story about the death of her son and talked about the goals of her nonprofit organization.

Then, we had a barbeque dinner made of lamb burgers that were perfectly grilled by Bishop Tom Ely and Fr. Nicholas. We ended the night with practicing our songs and an outdoor concert from the Yares Brothers.

11709810_919173564805935_1661645923129853619_o 11113261_919172641472694_2558517826834853380_o 11802633_919172454806046_304531891046723582_o 11794394_919172231472735_440470618870631247_o

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.

IMG_5883 IMG_5880

Woodshop, Archery, and a Blueberry Bush

by Matt Loper, Kids4Peace Boston Director

11058617_10153377874336066_3219658516897258191_n
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.

11838582_918730308183594_3785993565728257493_o11012113_918730514850240_5087584744893090058_o

“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

10986877_918370881552870_8530780397134756121_o

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.

IMG_5767 IMG_3259 IMG_3255 IMG_3254