Solidarity in Seattle

by Jordan Goldwarg, Northwest Regional Director

In my life, I don’t think I have ever had the experience of an unknown grown man hugging me while breaking down in tears. Today, it happened twice.

These have been an intense, emotional few weeks in the United States. To add to the weight of those emotions, last weekend, someone vandalized the main sign at the Muslim Association of Puget Sound, the largest mosque in the Seattle area and one of K4P’s oldest partners in the region.

In an act of vandalism, someone took a sledgehammer to the granite sign outside MAPS (photo courtesy of MAPS)

In an act of vandalism, someone took a sledgehammer to the granite sign outside MAPS (photo courtesy of MAPS)

In response to this act of hate, MAPS responded with love and hospitality by hosting an Open House for the whole community to come and learn the truth about Islam as a religion of peace.

The Kids4Peace community showed up in force for the Open House and also stayed afterward to hold up signs of support as members of the MAPS community arrived for the large Jum’ah prayer.

Standing in front of the mosque with our signs was such a simple act. It literally took only minutes to coordinate the invitation to our families and to make signs (which for some families, became a fun Thanksgiving activity!). This simple act, however, had a profound impact on the members of the MAPS community who saw it — and by extension, on all of us from K4P who were there. Countless people came over to talk to us and to thank us for standing together with them. Some brought snacks and sweets to share with us, further extending the hospitality of the Open House. Many people took photos or selfies with the group. And toward the end, a teenager approached and asked if it would be okay to take a photo of his grandfather with the group. The older gentleman had sunglasses on, so it was hard to read his expression. But when he put his arms around the shoulders of me and a K4P father as we posed for the photo, we could feel him start to sob. After the photo, without saying a word, he hugged each of us as the tears streamed down from under his sunglasses.

Standing in front of MAPS

Standing in front of MAPS

It is so important for Jews, Christians, and others to be strong allies for our Muslim friends and neighbors right now. A simple act of support goes such a long way toward lifting people’s spirits and making everyone feel like they belong in our communities.

In the wake of this divisive election campaign, if you are thinking about concrete things you can do to make a positive difference in the world, here is one easy solution: grab a group of friends of family (or both!), make some signs, and stand outside your local mosque during Friday prayers. You will be making a world of difference.

Voting and Democracy

by Rebecca Sullum, Jerusalem Co-Director

“You know, I actually voted in these elections. I am registered in a swing state, so I felt that I had to vote,” I yelled on top of the noise at the US Embassy Election Celebration in Tel Aviv. I was speaking to Mohammad, my colleague of 5 years, and his wife.

I hadn’t told most people that I cast my vote this year for the first time in U.S. elections at the age of 35. I always held the belief that I should only be voting where I was living, and although I hold dual citizenship in Israel and the USA, I have only lived in Israel since the age of 14 and therefore had only ever voted in Israel.

14947406_943963982376331_6062955076667460004_n
With Trump versus Hillary, this election seemed different, more polarizing, more important to vote. So I did. I have now taken part in the democratic process in Israel and the US, something that I should be proud of, something that should be a basic right to all people.

A moment after confiding in Mohammad, I started to feel that sick feeling at the bottom of my stomach, that feeling when you realize that you have asked the wrong question or said the wrong thing, and I suddenly remembered that Mohammad and his wife have never voted.

As residents of Jerusalem, by Israeli law they can’t vote in the Israeli national elections. They also had never been able to vote in the Palestinian presidential elections. During the previous PA presidential election in 2005 there were voting booths in East Jerusalem for Jerusalem residents, but there were many obstacles in the way including inadequate numbers of workers and a general feeling of fear at the polls. Therefore Mohammad and his wife had never voted for their leadership.

So here I was in the middle of the US Embassy Celebration in Tel Aviv celebrating American democracy while my colleagues and friends can only celebrate others’ right to vote.
This seems a bit ironic, to celebrate others’ democracy and freedom while you can’t celebrate your own.

My evening started with a lot of enthusiasm and excitement but took an unexpected turn, and now at midnight I sit here writing this blog, feeling torn and wondering what I can do tomorrow for the freedom of all in Jerusalem.
14937458_943963819043014_4461672549770524028_n

Rosetta stones, ocarinas, and a whole lot of Kids4Peace Magic!

“It’s like these charts are Rosetta Stones for our identities.” So said one of the participants at the Kids4Peace Seattle fall retreat. We had just completed an activity in which every participant created an Identity Chart. These charts contain words, phrases, and images that convey the way we see our own identity (in one color), and also words, phrases, and images that convey the way we think others see our identity (in another color). By sharing our charts with the group, we not only got to know ourselves better, but also got to know the richness and complexity of other people’s identities. Just as the Rosetta Stone allowed scholars to decipher ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, these identity charts allowed our group to begin to understand the densely woven tapestries that make up the essence of our beings. Participants also noted that this activity helped us to realize that there is more to all of us than the 5 things we might initially see when we first meet someone.

img_1550

This was just one example of the amazing conversations that made up our 2-night September retreat, where 23 of our 30 youth joined us for a great start to our year-round program. The weekend was full of firsts for Kids4Peace Seattle. Our first 2-night fall retreat, our first year with participants spanning 6th-9th grade. This 3rd year of programming in Seattle also brings a doubling of the number of participants we have locally.

Our weekend began with a bus ride out to YMCA Camp Colman! Despite some traffic, we had a fun bus ride with games of telephone and Heads Up. Once we arrived, Pam met us to have some snacks and introductions before we settled into our cabins for the night.

We started our day off on Saturday with fun on a climbing wall and with archery. After that we took some time to make our community agreement for the year, being intentional with each other about the most important things we need to do to make our community safe and meaningful.
img_1515In the afternoon we had some time to make ocarinas. These wooden puzzles turned into 4-hole flutes – which everyone spent time mastering how to play! After this, with a small break in the rainy day, we made our way outside for a conversation about how we create meaningful community. We discussed the who, what, why, when, and where of communities and how we begin to use our voices to create the community we want.photo-sep-17-9-55-42-pm

Saturday evening began with the Identity Chart exercise and ended with a campfire, lots of delicious s’mores, and a bedtime story from Jordan: a reading of The Lorax by Dr. Suess, peppered with snippets of songs from the movie and rapt attention from our whole group. After the story we all headed to bed, sad that it was our last night together!

photo-sep-17-9-27-59-pm

Sunday morning brought a continued break in the rain and a chance to spend time on the lake canoeing and kayaking with friends. Those that did not spend time on the water serenaded everyone from the dock with a wide variety of show tunes, Disney songs, and other eclectic choices. Sadly, this brought our weekend to a close and shortly after we finished boating we hopped on the bus back to Seattle.img_1581

We ended our weekend with one more first, a kick-off potluck with youth participants, families, program team members, and board members! A few of our 9th grade participants spoke at the potluck, sharing a little about our weekend. At the end, Tallulah summed up the experience this way: our weekend was all about settling in, she said, 9th graders beginning to take on the role of leader and counselor; 2nd year participants realizing they are a little older, a little wiser, and a huge example to others; and 1st year participants seeing that they are part of something bigger and more magical than they realized this past summer.

The 2016-2017 program year is off to a fantastic start, and these 30 peacemakers continue to teach and inspire everyone they encounter. Stay tuned to see what big things are coming!

img_1598

Jerusalem LEAP Summer Camp 2016

Day #1

Today is the first day at the local summer camp of leap in Nes-Ammim!

We all gathered in Jerusalem to head out to the North filled with excitement. On the bus we listened to both Arabic and Hebrew music, which helped us learn about each other’s culture. Especially when one of the Palestinian kids held the other on the shoulder and started singing a  Palestinian song which Palestinians usually sing at weddings “Zareef At-Tol”!

After arriving at our camp location we started our very first activities, we played sports and participated in our first Non Violent Communication practice.

In our NVC practice (None Violent Communication) we learned more about the culture of the other. One great example was one that Maria shared with us, she learned that some of her Jewish friends have 2 names. One name that most of the people call them by and an additional middle name, usually named after grandparents or great grandparents. Maria shared:”This is all exciting and new information for me!”

Hallel, another camper added “My second name is Hana and I was given this name in memory  of my grandmother”. The kids learned about the meanings of the names and the reason why they were given these names.

It was really a wonderful first day!

Day #2

Today we woke up early in the morning to play some sports and start our day in healthy style!

We then gathered all together to celebrate Meron’s birthday. Meron is a Jewish advisor who joined Kids for peace this year. We sang “Happy Birthday to you ” “Hayum Yom Huledet” and “Sana Helwa Ya Gamil”, the Happy Birthday song in all three languages (Arabic, Hebrew and English).

After that we participated in an artistic activity, learning how to use Henna and other materials to make temporary Tattoos. We had a wonderful time seeing how the staff members and the kids were interacting with each other.   Muslim Advisors tattooed the word “Hayat”in Arabic which means life.

We participated in an excellent NVC practice, and had some really interesting comments from the kids. One that stood out was Ahmed’s comment:”I learnt that we should think about a solution for everyone and not think about the needs of only one group”. Another camper, Sheli, added:”Cooperation helps us do what we couldn’t do before, because now we thought out of the box. We need to learn how to think about alternative solutions”

We enjoyed Swimming and playing Olympic Sports! We held a competition in which the purple team won after hard work and cooperation!

The most important lesson the kids agreed on learning today is that cooperation is the key to success!

Day #3

Today we woke up early to leave for our trip to the Golan heights, we packed sandwiches and took a lot of water with us! We went on an amazing water hike. On the hike we all helped each other cross carefully over water streams and enjoyed the nature together.

After a wonderful and challenging water hike we listened to an explanation on what is happening in Syria right now. We discussed the different causes of the Syrian conflict, understanding the division of the different religious groups in syria. We looked at the beautiful landscape of the Syrian boarder and prayed for peace in this region and around the world!

13770313_862800510492679_5022781292370190987_n

We sang our way back to camp, using words in Hebrew and Arabic.

Meital was saying in Arabic to Tali “You are beautiful”!
And Basil was saying to Itai in Hebrew “I want to move to your school”!

WOW – their are so many different languages and subjects to talk about – We are learning so much!

Day #4

Today we left the camp to visit an unusual horse farm where we actually were not supposed to ride the horses. At the farm we learned how to work with the horses in a peaceful way. Through this experience we were able to learn how to be tolerant and understanding. Later we were given a tour of the farm, exploring the nature and learning more about each and every animal and the roll they play on the farm.

While exploring the farm we were asked by our guide, “How do you think this tree is so well shaped, without having a Gardner that takes care of it?” after thinking together we got to the conclusion that the animals in the farm must eat leaves form the tree and that’s how it is shaped.

One of our Advisors asked if that reminds us of the Harmony that we have in Jerusalem. This was followed by a second question,”Will Jerusalem be Jerusalem if any of it’s religious or cultural groups disappear?” We heard a united loud answer from the kids, “No”!

Itai, a Jewish camper said “I can’t imagine Jerusalem without Muslims”and then Qais a Muslim camper replied with”I can’t imagine Jerusalem without Synagogues”…….

leap3

After an amazing day of activities we returned back to camp and enjoyed a movie together in our own Kids4Peace theatre arranged by Nes-Ammim!!

Day #5

On day 5 we dove deep into trust building activities, an example of one was: the staff had to release their body and fall backward, the rest of the group had to be ready to catch the person who was falling!
It was amazing to see the trust in the eyes of the staff and kids!

We then gathered for our NVC practice session. Today we learned a little about empathy and experienced empathy by sharing each others stories and listening to each others fears and hopes. We learned how to form questions of NVC, learning how to ask about each others feelings, and supporting them by practicing empathy towards them.

In our next NVC practice session we experienced choosing our own games and setting the rules for them as well. we learned how to use NVC while creating the game rules as well as during the game it self. These skills will not only help us in our peace work but in our everyday life as well.

When one of the campers, Yousef, was asked about his experience in this session he answered “It was interesting creating the game rules ourselves as well as being aware of what we did well and what we could have done better”. Another camper, Itai, added “I learned how I can support my friends in a sensitive way when they need help”.

Day #6

Today was the trip we were most looking forward to! We took a day trip to Acre!

We got off the bus near Al-Jazzar mosque in Acre. We started our day, meeting our tour guide and watching a short movie about the wonderful city of Acre. With a lot of pride, our tour guide shared that he was born and raised in Acre, he taught us about the history of the city and shared stories from his childhood.

Our guide led us on a tour of the underground city of Acre and then guided us through the ancient narrow passages of the underground city. Our Muslim kids and staff had the pleasure of attending the Friday Jum’aa prayer at the Al-Jazzar mosque. The rest of the kids and staff enjoyed exploring the Acre old city shuk. Later we headed down to the port where we sailed on a boat looking out to the beautiful view of the city from afar.

We got back to Nes Amim just in time for the Jewish celebration of Shabbat!
After experiencing Kabbalat Shabbat and enjoying a big Shabbat dinner, we enjoyed a night of board games and sports!

Today was a big day, filled with culture, history, religion and beauty!

During closing of the day, Bassel, one of the campers shared “It was great to learn about the Jewish prayer, it is a great experience”

Maya added “I liked the trip today, I really enjoyed going to the shuk, learning about the city and being together”.

Day #7

Today we experienced a new kind of NVC, we split up into two different groups according to language, Arabic and Hebrew, each group put on a play in their own groups language. It was interesting to see the cultural differences between the groups and the patience the kids had to work in both languages.

At our last NVC session the kids were asked about their personal experience in the program, Qais, was one of the first kids to answer “With these new tools of solving conflicts we can solve any conflict! including the Israeli Palestinian one”. Gessila added “If we try to approach the other and understand their needs we will find a solution that satisfies everyone”

After all these amazing experiences with the kids it was time to have some fun! The kids decided to put on a talent show! We were amazed by how many talents there are amongst our group. Starting with Meital and Leen who played piano together with a priceless harmony and ending with Sevan who amazed us with his Dj mixing skills.

It was a great day and an even better night!

Day #8

OMG! We cannot believe it is our last day at camp.

We learnt how to make kites and waited for our parents to arrive. they finally arrived and we all hugged and told stories about camp!

At the end-of-camp party we enjoyed Ben&Jerry’s ice cream, donated to Kids4Peace, and Taboon pizza made by our Druze neighbors near Nes Ammim.

We taught our parents how to make kites and brought them over to the beach in Acre to fly them. After a wonderful day we all headed back onto the bus to go back to Jerusalem-back home.

While feeling emotional about leaving camp, one of the campers, Lior,  shared “I will miss you all so much, the camp was amazing and we had lot of fun”
Another camper, Karl, added:”It was a great experience and I made lots of friends during the camp and I wish we had time to stay here longer”!

We were all sad to leave, but all excited to come home to our families and friends!

It was truly a meaningful and fun week at camp!

Cincinnati Day Camp 2016

Kids4Peace is so excited that our newest chapter has launched its very first youth program.  Rising 6th and 7th graders, Muslim, Jewish, and Christian, came together today for an interfaith day camp.  The whole K4P family sends lots of love to this newest chapter, and we can’t wait to see what these newest peace makers accomplish!  Stay tuned to hear more about their week, and check out more photos and updates on Facebook.

Day 1

By Rob Gleisser, K4P Cincinnati Day Camp Director

Wow, What an amazing day!  Coming to camp this morning I did not know what to expect. I can honestly say that the kids and our wonderful staff blew me away.  The enthusiasm in the room was apparent from the very beginning, and our camper’s willingness to participate established a camp community in which we were all able to succeed.

Our day began by getting to know one another. We played a variety of “get to know you” icebreakers that allowed us to loosen up a little bit as we prepared for  our day of learning and dialogue. The theme for Day 1 was listening and we worked hard Monday morning figuring out how to become a more active and effective listener. We created a community contract, where we envisioned how we wanted to act within our Kids4Peace community, and how we wanted our Kids4Peace conversations to sound and feel.

DSC_3745-1

After formulating some discussion guidelines and framing the day surrounding our theme of listening we spent some time with members of the amazing educational staff from the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati. Our teachers, Nina and Fatimah, led us in an interactive program about Islam, where we went on a tour of the prayer space, learned some Arabic words, and created a painting using Arabic script. Our final products each read “alhamdulillah” meaning “Praise to God,” a phrase that is consistently represented throughout each of the Abrahamic religions. We were treated to a lovely meal of schwarma, pita, and hummus, and we spent some time during lunch talking about how each of our faith traditions approaches prayer before and after a meal.

DSC_3766-1-1

Following lunch we played a few rounds of what was surely a favorite camp game called Mafia. It was great to see the campers working and playing together, and it was clear that the work we had done on community building in the morning allowed our campers to interact with each other comfortably.  After our game we jumped into a truly remarkable dialogue session.  We learned about the importance of effective vocabulary. The Kids4Peace counselors and staff led activities, discussing how harmful stereotypes can be, and they were given an opportunity to discuss how they interact with stereotypes throughout their everyday life. As our campers began to open up about the challenges that they each face as members of different identity groups, it was easy to sense that we were building a group dynamic that promotes openness, understanding, and support.

We finished the day by learning some camp songs and the Kids4Peace cheer. It was an incredible day where we created the foundation on which we will build our camp. We established some safe space guidelines, we learned a ton, we had a lot of fun, and we began to truly get to know one another. I can’t wait for tomorrow, and I look forward to seeing what the rest of this week will bring!

DSC_3810-1

Day 2

On a foggy Tuesday morning our Kids4Peace campers and staff gathered at Adath Israel Congregation for an amazing day of learning and growth. Where day one was filled with opportunities to get to know one another, on day two, our Kids4Peace community began to truly forge the bonds of lasting friendship. Working off our day’s theme of Trust, our staff and campers jumped in to the activities with an inspiring confidence, and thirst for knowledge.

DSC_3878

The day began with excitement as a channel 5 WLWT news team visited our camp! Members of the Cincinnati community have embraced our mission of peace and understanding. It was a pleasure to be featured by our local news and it is nice to know that other people in our community support our message.  A local correspondent interviewed two of our campers and the videographer got some great shots of us doing a fun icebreaker called “talent search”. During  “talent search” each camper described a talent or interest of theirs, and the other members of their small group created a fun nickname. It was great hearing our camper’s special talents, and to get to know each other a little better!

After a quick review of our discussion guidelines we transitioned into our morning session at the synagogue where we learned about Judaism. Rabbis Karen Kriger Bogard and Daniel Bogard worked together to lead an incredible lesson on the ins and outs of Judaism. We took a tour of the synagogue, learned about some important Jewish practices, and were taught some awesome Jewish songs! Additionally, each camper made a small tzedakah box. Our group learned that Tzedakah, the Hebrew word for charity, is a main tenant of each of the Abrahamic religions. Our campers were encouraged to put a small amount of money aside, as they are able, and put it in their own tzedakah box to be donated to a charity.

DSC_3876

Our afternoon was filled with awesome camp games and powerful dialogue. We laughed together as we played a few rounds of classic camp games like “bippity boppity boo” and “the meatball game”, and we raced to the finish during a kids4peace relay race. Our community’s ability to learn freely and safely about each other’s religions was on full display, as we held an impromptu conversation on daily prayer after some our Muslim participants stepped out to pray the mid-day prayer of Zuhr.  Our dialogue session was filled with activities that surrounded the theme of trust, helping us to discuss risk taking and how we build trust with others. We were able to have wonderful conversations after activities like the “trust fall” and the “risk poem”. Hearing our campers describe how they want to be a part of trusting and supportive interfaith communities was a special moment for all of us.

DSC_3830-1.JPG

Day two was fantastic. We learned about Judaism, were featured on the news, played a ton of games, and had some amazing conversations about trust and support. As we move to our last house of worship tomorrow I look forward to deepening our understanding of each other’s faith traditions and continuing the journey toward a strong and collaborative interfaith community in Cincinnati!

Check out the Channel 5 news interview here!

Day 3

After two awesome days at The Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati and Adath Israel Congregation we concluded our interfaith curriculum at St.Barnabas Episcopal Church. Our Kids4Peace camp group continues to impress as both campers and staff remain interested and engaged in learning about one another’s cultures. Today’s theme was “community” and it has been amazing to see our own Kids4Peace community grow together.

DSC_3950_edited-1-1

Rev. Nancy showing us around the Church

Our day began as one of our staff members led us in a fun activity, playfully called the “Toilet Paper Game”. This icebreaker allowed us to get to know each other a little bit better and got us all loosened up for the day. This morning’s religious education session was lead by Rev. Dr. Nancy Turner Jones. Reverend Nancy took us on a tour of the church, and went to great lengths to create a safe space that encouraged asking questions. We learned a lot about Christianity and were able to delve deeper into the culture and tradition of the Episcopalian denomination. Each of us learned about the importance of mosaics in our faith traditions, and we were able to carry on that tradition by creating our own small mosaic.

The afternoon was filled with camp games and dialogue. We worked off of our theme of community as we played team builders such as the human knot and a team tower building activity. Additionally we engaged in a fruitful conversation finding similarities within the three Abrahamic faith traditions. We learned about the importance of working together and we discussed what it means to give back to our own communities.

DSC_3976

As we approached the end of the day some members of the Kids4Peace Cincinnati leadership team visited our camp. Some of our campers were given the opportunity to explain some of the activities we had done throughout the week, and a few leaders shared how important they felt our day camp is to the Cincinnati interfaith community.

We had a great day learning some new facts about Christianity while we engaged with activities focused on the importance of community. Our leadership modeled how much a supportive and motivated community can do when they put their minds to it. Moreover, our campers continue to amaze with their willingness to participate in deep and insightful conversation. Tomorrow we head to Barbash Vital Support Center in Clifton to work in their food pantry. After 3 days learning about the importance of listening, trust, and community I feel as though we are truly ready to serve the Cincinnati community with positivity and intention.

Day 4

Day 4 was absolutely amazing and truly demonstrated how a group of kids can come together to make a difference. Our theme today was service and while we were dropped off at the Mayerson JCC, we spent the majority of the day working on at the Barbash Family Vital Support Center’s food pantry in Clifton. The Barbash staff taught us about the communities that the food pantry serves, and the campers and staff learned about the services that food pantries and soup kitchens provide. Today we were helping the food pantry re-stock their shelves. Our Kids4Peace community spent the week collecting canned foods and non-perishable food items to donate, and after our donation was added to the pantry’s weekly food collection we got right to work!

Campers and staff organized food and spent the morning arranging the products on to the shelves of the pantry. Sandee, the food pantry’s volunteer coordinator, later lead us in a thought provoking activity where our campers were given the opportunity to role play a week as a family who shops at the pantry. We learned to value what food we do have, and we were able to see how important it is to give to those who currently face hunger within our own community.

DSC_4033

The afternoon was jam packed with fun camp games including a fun improv game where we told some stories one sentence at a time. Back at the JCC we engaged in a powerful conversation about the dangers of stereotypes and then began our closing thoughts. We spent time sharing affirmations and gratitude, and we shared openly about what we respected about our fellow campers and staff. We each created bracelets decorated with beads that each represented some important moments during camp, and we each signed our Kids4Peace banner signifying a pledge to continue to work towards peace in the future.

Whether it be at the Church, Synagogue, Mosque, or on our day of service our Kids4Peace camp was able to work together to build bridges across different cultures, religions, and communities. We learned an incredible amount in just a few short days and we formed friendships that will surely last beyond the confines of camp. We listened to each other’s stories, we trusted that our group would support one another, we came together as a community of peace, and we worked to understand the importance of service. It was an incredible journey and I am so lucky to have gotten to know a wonderful group of campers and staff.

This is only the beginning. As we plan reunions and other yearly programs we will continue to work towards our dream of peace. This camp was the first of many steps that this community will take in order to make the Cincinnati interfaith community a model for the rest of the nation.

DSC_4110

Kids4Peace #ForwardTogether Walk and Youth Panel

usaid

Invitation to:  Kids4Peace #ForwardTogether Walk and Youth Panel

This Thursday, youth of Jerusalem are making change. Over the past summer Jewish, Christian and Muslim youth, participants of Kids4Peace Jerusalem, traveled to Washington D.C. to meet with 14 Congressional offices to show their support for HR 1489, a bill that would create an International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace. The bill, co-sponsored by Reps. Joseph Crowley (D-NY) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), will expand grassroots people-to-people efforts to build coexistence.

Now they are back and are eager to share their experiences from the White House and the Capitol.

This Friday, 100 Jerusalem youth, Muslim Christian and Jewish, Palestinian and Israeli, will  walk 360 degrees around the Old City of Jerusalem, co-led by professional Israeli and Palestinian guides, leading us in the path to a more peaceful Jerusalem and showing us that we are stronger together.

Partners: Tiyul-Rihleh, Kids4Peace

 

Kids4Peace Youth Panel:

Date: Thursday, 22nd of September, 2016

Time: 19:00-20:00

Location: Youth Conference – Agron Youth Hostel, 6 Gershon Agron St., Jerusalem

 

360 Jerusalem – #ForwardTogether:

Date: Friday, 23rd of September, 2016

Time: 9:00-15:00

Location: Leaving from Agron Youth Hostel, 6 Gershon Agron St., Jerusalem

About Kids4Peace:

Founded in Jerusalem in 2002, Kids4Peace is a global movement of Jewish, Christian & Muslim youth, dedicated to ending conflict and  inspiring hope in divided societies around the world.

Through a network of local chapters, Kids4Peace operates five international summer camps and a six-year, year-round program for hundreds of Palestinian, Israeli and North American youth.

We are changing the conversation — asking new questions and finding new answers to the struggle for peace, ones that are based in real relationships of trust and understanding.

Our mission is to build interfaith communities that embody a culture of peace and empower a movement for change.

About Tiyul-Riheh:

Tiyul-Rihla (“Trip” in Hebrew and Arabic) is a bi-national organization which develops educational opportunities focusing on Palestinian and Israeli historical narratives, cultures, and identities. Tiyul-Rihleh’s multi-day trips bring mixed groups of Palestinians and Israelis on tours which provide a unique opportunity for participants to learn about each other from each other by exploring the land and the history they share.

For further questions:

Mohammad Joulany, Co-Director – Email: mohammad@k4p.org, Phone:  054-692-2236

Michal Ner-David, Grants Coordinator – Email: michal.ner.david@k4p.org, Phone: 054-778-0838

Learning To Connect

When I first applied for an internship at Kids4Peace, I anticipated a unique experience that would allow me to try new things while practicing writing and photography, two hobbies of mine. In school I have taken photography classes Processed with VSCO with b1 presetfor two years, and writing has always been something I enjoy. Coming from a Lebanese background and being someone who has an avid interest in feminism and equality, this opportunity seemed to suit me perfectly. Little did I know, this experience would have a great impact on me. 

 

It has restored my faith that peace can be made and that there are people working hard to make it happen. As I reflect on how I see the world today, I realize the division and disconnect between members of society. Especially in America during a very divisive election, it can be easy to get caught up in the hate that is being spread by politicians and celebrities.

The idea that our world is doomed and that we should all be living in fear has become an epidemic. I have found myself being affected by this pessimistic energy and perpetuating it by talking about politics and current events in a negative light, rather than focusing on the positive.

When I met the participants in the Global Institute, it felt like a breath of fresh air.
These were engaged teenagers who cared about the issues facing our world today.
They were hopeful, optimistic, and unapologetically confident in the work they’re doing.

When I walked into the room full of the participants and staff, I didn’t know what to expect. But from the moment I sat down with their discussion circles and listened to what they had to say, I was astonished. The youth expressed that they were nervous about the Global Institute, and they even shared what they needed in order to feel supported.

Their abilities to open up and share their thoughts and emotions in front of people that they didn’t know, as well as people who came from very different backgrounds from them, was completely foreign to me. I wasn’t used to seeing kids my age being so honest while also focused on working productively. That first impression was a lasting one.

I also learned more about the career path that I hope to pursue throughout my summer with Kids4Peace. During the Global Institute, we visited the State Department, The U.S. Institute of Peace, USAID, and The Washington Institute for Near Etim kaine!ast Policy, to name a few, meeting with senior officials from each institution. We even had the opportunity to meet with staffers from fifteen legislative offices in order to discuss a bill that would increase funding for peace organizations in Israel and Palestine.

These experiences gave me an inside look on how international policy and peace-building functions on a federal level, and it furthered my interest in studying matters like this later in life.

I was inspired when meeting the people who are doing the work I hope to someday do in my career.

For example, we met with Mati Amin, chairman of the board for School of Leadership, Afghanistan, the first and only all female boarding school in Afghanistan.

I am passionate about fighting for women’s rights around the world, and through learning about his path towards women’s rights advocacy I learned how I too can pursue a career in this field.  

For example, I asked him during dinner what he studied in college to be able to do this kind of work. Instead of telling me a specific major as I expected, he told me to study what I love, and the career that follows college will be successful. It was a good reminder that passion is what makes seemingly lofty goals achievable.  

The Global Institute has also allowed me to learn about other cultures and have an inside look on their point of view of issues the world is facing. In the past year, I have listened to anti-Muslim rhetoric in the media, and among my peers.

While I am strongly against it, I have felt its impact on my outlook. On the second day of the Global Institute, I tagged along while the Global Institute attended a Muslim prayer service that was held in a church. This alone is remarkable; it represented to many of the participants as well as myself the unity and solidarity that is achievable between these two religions. This was the first Muslim service that I had ever experienced, and I didn’t know anything about what it would be like as I first walked into the church. I saw men and women of all ages take their shoes off and begin gathering in the center and sides of the church, as I sat in the pews.

As the service went on, I was able to see how Muslims pray and practice their religion, as well as listen to powerful words spoken by the Imam. He discussed the hatred towards the Muslim community during the election, and the hardships that the Muslim community faces these days. Hearing this issue being spoken about to a group of Muslims who are the people directly impacted by this, instead of by people simply sharing their opinion on the matter, made his words all the more significant. But instead of focusing his attention on these challenges, the Imam spoke about making peace as a community, and even encouraged those in attendance to attend the Catholic prayer on Sunday to show solidarity after the killing of a Catholic priest. While I was touched by the wise words of the Imam, it was painful to hear him discuss the Islamophobia occurring in my own country. It reminded me of why I must never ignore it, and keep fighting for peace.

Perhaps the most inspiring part of the Global Institute was simply having conversations with the participants themselves. I was able to hear their stories, each one very different from the next, and their thoughts on the experiences throughout the week.  From talking to the participants after visiting each place of worship, I learned that each experience reminded them of how similar the different religions truly are. They explained how each advocates for creating peace and unity, despite the prejudices that many have about certain faiths. They expressed how it felt to overcome their nervousness and gain confidence with public speaking, and what they learned from the speakers they met. They discussed the frustration they felt when disagreeing with their peers on serious issues such as solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Writing blogs for the Global Institute forced me to continually ask the questions that led to hidden parts of each participant’s story. Because of this, I have learned to connect with people that I barely know and I believe of all the skills I acquired from working with Kids4Peace, this will take me the farthest.

selfie!


I would like to thank Shoshana Abrams for giving me the opportunity to participate and be a part of the Kids4Peace team. Being able to help the participants share their stories and perspectives as well as helping more people learn about the great work Kids4Peace is doing was truly a once-in-lifetime experience that I will never forget. I have learned so much about myself and others, and I have made many new friends. While I thought entering this experience that I would be helpful towards the program, I have instead found it to be helpful towards my growth as a person.

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 12.56.49 PM

GLOBAL INSTITUTE TEENS IN VERMONT | Imagine the Unimaginable

Imagine the Unimaginable
By Diane Davis
“Unimaginable” was my foremost thought as I listened to the young Jewish, Christian, and Muslim teenagers from Kids4Peace (www.k4p.org) during the Williston Federated Church August 7 worship service.  They were alumni of previous K4P camps in Jerusalem and Vermont chapters and had just returned from the K4P Global Institute in Washington, D.C.
It seemed unimaginable to me that these bright, articulate, animated young people who came to speak at WFC about the power of faith and love grew up in communities where fear and hatred of the “other” is the norm.
Williston EveryoneAs each youth spoke, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, heretofore only a story in the media, came alive for me.  Sadly, their stories are mirror images:
“Terrorist” a classmate flung at Lana, when she introduced herself as a Muslim from Iraq during a class at South Burlington high school.
“Spy” and “traitor” labels rained down on Aviv, a Jewish teenager who dared to suggest to his erstwhile friends that Palestinian youth are “just like us.”  He continued, “They didn’t believe me when I told them I have met Palestinian teenagers and they just want to live, like we do.  They are not dumb or mean like we thought.”
Talia, a Jewish girl from Jerusalem, shared that during a particularly tense time in Jerusalem she was afraid to walk to the corner store for milk or take the bus to school.  “We were so scared we didn’t know what to do,” she said.
Unimaginable. I don’t believe I have ever been that frightened in any situation.  How privileged I am, while these youth, their families and their faith communities live in terror and, yes, as they each pointed out, in ignorance about each “other.”
Yet, they also spoke of how they and their families reach out to other Kids4Peace families for solace and support.  They spoke about the recent opportunity in Washington where they visited the United States Institute of Peace and even lobbied state senators for actions leading to peace.  They spoke about the power of listening and learning from each other.
Williston with HenryThe Jerusalem teens met through the faith-based organization Kids4Peace and they can now imagine a different world for themselves.  Through simple dialogue with each “other” and building a small but committed network of Muslim-Christian-Jewish friends, they can now imagine living side-by-side in peace.
Henry R Carse, Kids4Peace Founder, poet, native Vermonter and long-time resident of Jerusalem said,  “I believe these young people will see peace in their lifetime.  Not in mine but definitely in theirs.”
Imagine that.  In fact, get a clear picture in your mind….because you know “If you can dream it, you can do it.”*
Imagine understanding differences.
Imagine acceptance of the other.
Imagine speaking up against bullying.
Imagine forgiving our enemies.
Imagine peace.
Through the wisdom of Yahweh, the love of Allah, and the grace of God, let it be so.
*  Quote attributed to Walt Disney

My Personal Alyiah

by Rebecca Sullum, Co-director Kids4Peace Jerusalem

“Two dates should be written on your tombstone, the years you lived and the date you made aliyah like Ben Gurion.”

I grew up believing that aliyah to Israel was a transcendental experience, a rebirth, similar to Muslims that make Hajj or others making pilgrimage. I always thought that aliyah, moving to Israel was the first step in the Zionist dream and not the end result, rather the beginning. Zionism to me isn’t enough to live in the land of Israel but rather what you choose to do in the land.

June 22, marks twenty-one years that my family has lived in Israel, moving here when I was fourteen from Allentown, Pennsylvania. Like many Anglos who have moved to Israel, we had lived life in the diaspora and knew what it was like to be a minority in a multicultural environment. Because of these experiences, diversity and cultural exchange has always seemed natural to me. My mother worked in the Jerusalem Anglican International School where she taught arts and ceramics to students from all cultures, religions and backgrounds. It was only during my high school years at a religious Jewish High School in Jerusalem, I discovered that for many of my fellow students, the Zionist dream was fulfilled just by living in Israel. It didn’t seem to matter how we treated the others living right beside us.iftar smiles

I couldn’t think of anything more appropriate to mark my alyiah, which my family has celebrated for the past 20 years, than being with the Kids4Peace community at an interfaith Iftar in Beit Safafa, a village in Jerusalem. For over six weeks, my colleagues and I have been putting together this evening. We believed if we planned an Interfaith Iftar, including learning from Muslim families about Ramadan, making arts and crafts, enjoying youth led walking tours and concluding with the traditional Iftar meal, then surely people would come. We were unsure of how many would attend since only thirty people had RSVP’d by the day of the event.

As the evening approached, the sports hall in Beit Safafa was filled with families: children, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Jews, Christians, and Muslims from all over Jerusalem were in attendance. The event drew in not only veteran K4P families, but also new families eager to celebrate Ramadan with their neighbors. When the time came to sit down for the meal at 7:51 pm, all of our one hundred fifty chairs were full and many people were left standing. I spent the rest of the evening trying to find spaces for everyone to sit, eat, drink and socialize with the K4P families.

It was an inspiring and exhausting night.

I shared the success of the Iftar with Yair, my four and a half  year old son who attends the Hand and Hand Bilingual Kindergarten. His response to my story was “Mom, you shouldn’t work so hard for others. If you work hard you are like the Israelites who were enslaved in Egypt”.

Yair expressed in that moment a fear that I think many Israelis hold, a fear of returning to be slaves in Egypt and being a minority in the Diaspora.

I replied by telling him “Yair, thiftar foode same way I worked hard to help my Muslim friends celebrate Ramadan, they also work hard with me in Kids4Peace to celebrate the Jewish holidays.”

In order for me to fulfill my Zionist dream I must live by the words of Rabbi Hillel  “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?”

The following night Yair and I drove for the first time past the Qalandia checkpoint to Adnan’s home, a friend and K4P leader. There we shared in an iftar meal with his family and felt part of a community of dedicated people who are working hard despite the risks of peace work, so that we can share this land together in in harmony.

 

 

K4P Leadership Youth Meet Diplomats

by Hana, K4P Jerusalem Media Intern

Last Thursday Kids4Peace Jerusalem’s Leadership youth (9th graders), met with diplomats from the US Consulate, the US Embassy, and USAID.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The session started with each diplomat giving a brief presentation, explaining their jobs and responsibilities. Some of their positions are more political, linked to the Consulate, others more cultural. They all express their admiration for the kids Congratulations, you are our hope for the future.

The first question that broke the ice was direct and had no hesitation: If you say you support the two state solution why does US always vote against it at the UN?

The diplomats smile at the question and make comments about how the kids go directly to the point. One of the diplomats assistants replies:

“We are working towards a two state solution to bring peace into the country. By getting involved we provide a neutral space so that both sides feel comfortable. We want to bring peace and establish a Palestinian state, however a big impediment is the estrangement between the two sides.”

The answer was followed by another question directed to the US, Why is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict such a big issue for the US?

The diplomats answered: The US is deeply connected to the history of the area, with a large population being Christian and having very important Jewish and Muslim communities. Many Americans feel spiritually connected to this land. Israel was an important ally of the US during the Cold War, and it’s very connected to WWII, so there is a spiritual, cultural and political connection. Furthermore there is a feeling of frustration for the endurance of the conflict and we believe stability within this region affects the global economy. The instability of oil and global market could get better if the region had more stability.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The kids also wanted to know wether the US supports not only organizations working with kids, but also with adults.

One of the answers the kids received was: Definitely, we also support the parents circle of Kids4Peace and are involved in environmental issues. It’s true that it gets more tense whenever parents are involved. We are also currently learning negotiation between Israeli, Palestinians and diplomats. Not only do we learn technical skills, but we also get to know each other and deepen the relationships within our community.

The diplomats also want to make clear that it is our kids job here at Kids4Peace to continue with this work as they grow up: It’s also on you guys to continue to engage when you grow up as adults.

Finally the diplomats say that they find it easier to work with both sides within similar communities:  People with common interests working together helps create peace. So working with educators, social workers etc. from each side is helpful. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At this point the diplomats feel they also want to know more about the teenagers sitting in front of them: Why do you participate in K4P?

Adam, 15, answered: Both sides are in pain, so the only way to understand the other side is to hear their story. Some of my friends are against it and I also lose hope sometimes. Even if we don’t change the world, we can change ourselves.

Talia, 15, added: As we grew up there was a moment when my classmates started discussing politics and the conflict, and I realized I didn’t know anyone who was Arab. As soon as I joined the program I started to understand that the reasons of “the other side” were rational and that it’s not fair to put the blame on them.

Aviya, 15, also expressed: I had only heard what my side was saying “They kill people, so they’re bad” I wanted to know what they were thinking as well.

Omri shared his personal experience in the public space: With my family we bought in Arab shops, we went to Arab restaurants, even my parents had Arab friends who spoke in Hebrew. Also, many of my friends said it was ok to get to know Arabs, we played football together. I didn’t have Arab friends myself and decided to join K4P. I prefer to come to Jerusalem every month because here Arabs and Jews really live in the same city, it’s not like two different cities.

Zeina: Many of us heard a lot about the other side and knew a lot of things from what people had told us, but we had never met or knew anyone from the other side. We were curious to know what they think about us too. After we joined Kids4Peace, we noticed that the others are just normal people as we are and we share many similarities.

Tia: Older K4P members and program Alumni’s encouraged me to join, some friends were against it, but I believed I had to hear what they have to say.

Guy (Leadership program coordinator) : We’ve reached a moment where more kids come to us that we can afford to accept. Friends and relatives of K4P members want to join too.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter the kids had been in the spotlight, they all had a short break. After the break it was their turn again to ask some more questions. The conflict is again, the main topic.

One of the kids asked: What do you think about “drawing a line”, creating a boarder in areas people live in? what do you think about the future, post boarder?

The kids received an interesting answer, referring to world history: It’s not up to us to draw any line. Societies have been able to work together without diminishing their pain like the example of France and Germany who have been enemies in different wars through history and now are allies.

The diplomats then received a very direct question: What are some personal goals you would like to achieve during your service in Israel?

The diplomats were pretty surprised and pleased with the question. “It’s a good question / I hadn’t thought about it. Freedom of movement is something that would help my job so much. There’s a sense of being displaced depending on the city you’re in. My wife is an Arab and she doesn’t speak arabic in West Jerusalem. If we could reduce the tension and help make people more comfortable to walk around.  A better access to resources (water, electricity) everywhere. More patience and manners: traffic is an example.  That there would never be a reason to turn away a student in K4P for lack of resources

The last question that was asked: How are we gonna get peace if there is a wall of separation? If the two populations are not connected?

The kids received a complex but yet hopeful answer: Any border is an invisible wall, and also walls can fall like in Berlin. The greatest wall is the mentality of people. Even if there are two states, you will also need some kind of border between the two states.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Diplomats also reminded the kids of their power and responsibility and working towards a change: “Remember that you guys have a lot of power, talk to the people about your dreams, about what you want to achieve. Raise your voice. Remember Rosa Parks ( African American civil rights activist) she was not alone and didn’t come unprepared. She was from a peace group in Tennessee. You can also bring change in society like Rosa Parks did.”

Overall kids showed a level of maturity and preparation that definitely surprised the diplomats who praised them. The kids were also satisfied with the session, feeling that their questions have been answered and the difficult topics addressed.

 

Finding Common Ground in Seattle

by Jordan Goldwarg, Northwest Regional Director

On Sunday, May 8, Kids4Peace Seattle held its first joint activity with students at Noor Academy, the Sunday school of the Muslim Association of Puget Sound. Over the course of three hours, our youth began the process of getting to know each other through a number of activities. There were icebreakers and teambuilding activities, such as having to navigate a human obstacle-course while blindfolded.

DSCF2456

Youth navigating the human obstacle-course

We also explored each of our three religions through a game of Interfaith Bingo. Holding a bingo card that contained images and words from Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, youth needed to find out the significance of each item by asking other youth to share their knowledge.

DSCF2496

Working on Interfaith Bingo boards

Finally, we engaged in small-group dialogue on a variety of topics. In my group, there happened to be only Jewish and Muslim youth, and we had a fascinating discussion about what it’s like to be in the minority in our schools. Youth shared stories of needing to miss important rehearsals or sports games because of religious holidays. And while most of them enjoy the opportunity to share their religion with others, there was also shared frustration of situations in which people expect them to know everything about about Islam or Judaism.

Thank you to Noor Academy for hosting us for what we hope will be the beginning of many collaborations!

Walk4Peace in Burlington June 2nd

Join us June 5th at 2pm

Your donations support the Kids4Peace Vermont Summer Camp for youth from the USA.

Come Walk4Peace

Come support Kids4Peace and walk up and down Church Street. Pledge in honor of friends and family if you like. All funds raised will help to put on our summer camps in Burlington!

Details: Sunday, June 5th. Burlington, Vermont.  Meet at the intersection of Church Street and Pearl Street on the UU lawn. The Parade will be2pm – 3pm. With a parent/kid informational meeting to follow in the UU.

#ForwardTogether: Walk4Peace! www.k4p.org/vermont

Speaking Up for What’s Right

By Jordan Goldwarg, Northwest Regional Director

In Kids4Peace, we encourage our youth to be leaders, and one powerful way of exercising leadership is by speaking up for what you believe in. This is especially powerful when you speak up on behalf of another group. We called this being an upstander (as opposed to being a bystander when you see something bad happening).

This week, David, a participant in Kids4Peace Seattle, spoke up by writing a letter to the editor of his local newspaper. In recent weeks, David’s community has been the scene of an intense and, at times, ugly controversy about the building of a new mosque. Islamophobic sentiments, together with misinformation, have been spread very publicly, as documented by this article in the Seattle Globalist.

In response, David wrote a letter to the editor of his local newspaper, asking people to educate themselves and overcome their fears. Thank you, David, for being an upstander and speaking up for what’s right!

DSC_0236

David and other K4P Seattle youth, hard at work during a recent Kids4Peace Seattle service project at a local food bank.

Exploring Emotions: Vermont/New Hampshire Spring Retreat

by Nancy Stone

Our Spring over-night retreat took place April 16-17 at sisters Lola and Zelda’s spacious home in New Hampshire with 15 alumni and adults attending.  Our first activity was lessons in Arabic. Then, divided into two groups, we were told to create skits using only Arabic, adding new vocabulary as needed.  One teen remarked, “That wasn’t super hard!”  Someone else commented, “It felt good to be a little part of your culture.”  Shukran, Abeer and Lana.

The unusually warm evening found us walking through a covered bridge leading to a pizza place.  After supper on the deck beside the Contoocook River, we returned home for popcorn and the animated movie “Inside Out”, which is a fun but richly layered exploration of personality, memory and emotions. Our follow-up discussions asked: Which emotions do you feel most often?  What are your core memories?  Which emotions do you think our society values over others?  The adult staff participated by drawing a map of their own “islands of personality.”

After breakfast the next day, we lined up single-file for a silent meditation walk down the quiet street, with a focus on our breath and steps rather than the environment.  This led to sharing time about how to use this skill to calm and focus in daily life.

Art teachers Jill and Nancy then taught everyone how to make their own musical flutes called, ocarina, from kits ordered on-line.  The pre-cut wooden sections were like a puzzle needing to be carefully pieced and glued together; cooperation was often sought from a neighboring crafter.  Once the four-hole instruments were completed, everyone gathered outside to practice songs.  The activity became a metaphor for the peace-making process that leads to making beautiful music together.

May Marathons4Peace

 

 

Peacebuilding is a marathon. Our brave young peacebuilders in Jerusalem and the United States spend six years in Kids4Peace, building the skills and community they need to help heal our divided societies. This May, two Kids4Peace staff members will be running literal marathons to raise money for this summer’s programs that will bring together our Muslim, Jewish, and Christian youth — Palestinian, Israeli, and North American — as they take step after step after step in their journey toward peace.

Jeff (Northern New England Regional Director) will be running the Middlebury Maple Run (half-marathon) on Sunday, May 1. On the other side of the continent, on the same day, Jordan (Northwest Regional Director) will be running the Vancouver Marathon.

Our goal is to raise $5200, which represents 50 youth getting one day of Kids4Peace programming this summer. Will you help us to meet this goal? Help provide one day of life-changing programming that allows our youth to meet the other, to learn about each other’s religion and culture, and to develop precious skills in peacebuilding dialogue. Help provide one day of programming to heal the rifts in Jerusalem and to combat the rising tide of religious intolerance in the United States. Help us move #ForwardTogether.

Lessons from the Lotus Pond

by Hannah Hochkeppel, K4P Seattle Program Director

An Evangelical Christian Pastor, a Unitarian Minister, a Buddhist Monk, and a Jewish Business Woman walk in to a room … and it is not the beginning of a bad or confusing joke!

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of attending Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry’s Interfaith Harmony Week banquet.  The theme of this year’s banquet was, “What in the world are we here for?”  This question, one I think many of us often ask ourselves in jest, was addressed by each of the 4 panelists.  Each panelist spoke from his or her own personal experience and personal faith tradition.  Despite the extremely different approaches to faith, spirituality, and the human experience, each panelist spoke of the interconnectedness of humanity and of a desire to work always for the greater good.

Rev. Jon Luopa, a Unitarian Minister, spoke of the transitive versus intransitive use of the word hope.   For so many, hope is confined to a specific item or idea – hoping for good weather on vacation, or hoping for a favorite present on our birthday.  Luopa challenged the audience to think more broadly about how we define hope.  What if hope was instead the way that we chose to approach our life each day?  What if hope brought about a self-awareness of the responsibility we have to the greater good?

Taijo, a Buddhist Monk, began his sharing with the story of a lotus flower, growing in a lotus pond to be big and beautiful, with an unrivaled delicious scent.  He painted the picture for all of us of this beautiful flower.  Then he began to describe the pond that the flower grows in.  Stagnant water, compost and waste, dirt and mud, the list goes on but it is obvious that this pond is dirty and smells decidedly less delicious than the flower.  This description jarred us from our image of this beautiful flower, to an image drastically different.  Taijo left us with this thought: if a flower as beautiful as the Lotus could grow from the disgusting lotus pond, what can come from the difficult, and decidedly less hopeful situations that we find ourselves in from day to day, week to week?

lotuspond

As I was reflecting on the question, “Why on earth are we here,”  I settled on the word we.  We are here, we exist in the world.  I do not exist alone, nor do others exist alone, but we all exist together.  Many times this existing together as a dynamic we means that we find ourselves in messy lotus ponds fraught with political arguments, violent actions, and prejudice based on any number of judgements that one passes on the other.  Despite this mess, how does hope influence what grows?

In Kids4Peace, the interfaith work that we do is often messy.  It is hard, and emotionally draining.  Yet, it is also beautiful and life-giving.  The intentionality that we have as we cultivate growth amidst the messiness, intentionally seeing and upholding the gifts we see in others, gives me hope.  I am hopeful for the greater good of the we when I see others willing to come together amidst the mess, to find the roots for what one day, I hope, will be a big and beautiful flower.

LotusFlower

Light in the Darkness: 137 Peacemakers

Last weekend, Kids4Peace Jerusalem brought 137 peacemakers (7th-12th grade) to Neve Shalom for a weekend full of learning, sharing, team-building, and mainly: Storytelling. Thanks to our generous donors, USAID West Bank/Gaza, and our incredibly inspiring hosts-Auburn Seminary, the youth dove deeply into their personal stories and practiced the art of self expression.

Friday evening, after everyone checked in just before the sun began to set, we tried something new for Kids4Peace. Because we had all of the age groups together–we decided to break into groups in new ways. First, we divided by faith–for over an hour–to spend some time with those whom we most identify to share, connect, pray, and even sing. For each religion, this process looked a little bit different: ranging from Kabbalat Shabbat services, learning teachings from the Prophet Mohammad, and Bible Study.

“I’m seeing people I haven’t seen before in Kids4Peace so its pretty cool.” -Rami, Christian

Costume parties. Skits. Scavenger hunts. Dialogue. Sports. Action plans. Yoga. Team building. Prayer. Story telling. Tons of good food.

All of the youth discussed the parameters of a good story: Setting. Outcome. Challenge. Characters, and more…

They all answered the tough questions: Where do our families come from? How did we get to be who we are today? How do we share our stories with others in a way that is engaging and true? How do we listen to others’ stories?

Youth practiced telling their stories one on one, providing feedback, sharing in small groups, offering tips to make the stories stronger, and finally whoever wanted performed in front of the entire community.

“We started listening to each other and feeling like we understand what someone who might be our enemy goes through. We have been doing that in Kids 4 Peace for a long time, but at that moment I realized if we can do this with a group of people who are undergoing this conflict and who felt so angry about this conflict and get them to start talking about it in a respectful way then we can do it with anyone.” -Emanuel, Jewish

Copy of DSC_0073Copy of DSC_0080

A weekend seminar with K4P NH/VT

by Nancy, K4P NH/VT Art Teacher

12525371_10153974083208945_7117826685693446931_o

12657186_10153974087553945_7695393727905864274_o

Many Vermont and New Hampshire campers, counselors and staff members of the three faiths met for an over-night retreat the last weekend of January. It was great to meet everybody, whether we shared common memories or made new ones with alumni from different first and second-year camps. “It made us feel part of something bigger!”

The weekend included hearty meals, Acro Yoga, noisy card games, and a movie that led to a good discussion as to its pertinence to our lives. After our new friend Hadil taught us to do a traditional Dabkhea dance, we sang some K4P songs to her as thanks.

Following breakfast the next day, Jill led us in mindful meditation. Then camp director Jeff led a hike across the rolling hills and through the silent woods. Of course, the natural quiet had to be disturbed by a vigorous snowball fight! One camper especially appreciated the Trust Walk game when partners took turns leading the other person whose eyes were closed… ” I felt completely safe, knowing I wouldn’t get hurt”.

We attempted, fairly successfully, to hold a Social Media Flashmob by contacting K4P friends in Jerusalem and the U.S. via Facebook, Skype and Google hang-outs. Such fun!! Then, we worked on an art project for posters to be used in the Walk4Peace, held in Burlington, VT each Spring as a fund-raiser. The new posters more clearly state the mission of Kids4Peace and list our website on the backside.

Here’s a favorite interaction from the weekend:

Jeff: “I asked the group to form a circle but this looks more like an egg. Do you believe you can form a circle?

The kids responded: “No!”

Jeff: “Oh. Well, do you believe Peace is possible?”

Kids: “Yes!!!!!!”

By Nancy Stone, chapter art teacher

Standing in Solidarity in Seattle

by Sarah Rose, K4P Seattle Counselor

Kids4Peace Seattle’s overnight last weekend was one for the books! It was filled with laughter, fun, and bonding between the first and second year participants. We watched the Disney/Pixar movie Inside Out, and then tried to connect the ideas presented with the mission of Kids4Peace. We examined the importance of accepting everyone, recognizing what individuals can contribute and that everyone has something valuable to offer to society in some way. We also discussed the importance of understanding our emotions. Our dialogue leader, Pam, asked us to share a time we felt sad but did not feel we could reveal it. One of the second year participants, Maya, noted that, she “learned that there are different perspectives on each side. Someone isn’t being mean just because they want to be mean, there’s always something else going on that causes them to act out that way. Listening and understanding where they are coming from is key to accepting them.”

The issue of popularity in school and its impacts came up and definitely struck a chord for all of the participants. Establishing a safe place for everyone to be open allowed for a meaningful and eye-opening experience for all. One of the first-year participants, David, explained that he “liked how we talked about popularity and shared our real feelings. We weren’t holding anything back. It helped me understand that we all have different situations but we can still connect.”

DSC_0236

The group hard at work at the Jewish Family Service food bank.

 

Emilio, another first-year participant, came to similar conclusions stating, “I really liked the discussion about popularity, because we never talked about that stuff before so it was nice to hear other people are experiencing the same things. I also really liked our discussion this morning about connecting more with each other. I feel like now the 7th graders are talking more with the 8th graders so I feel more comfortable talking with them.”

As I sat listening to the discussion, I became even more amazed and inspired by the participants. To be able to have such an open and mature conversation and share such insightful thoughts was truly an unforgettable experience. By allowing themselves to be vulnerable and talk about a tough and very personal matter, they become an even stronger and more connected group. In Seattle, we would refer to this as the “magic” of Kids4Peace.

Another magical experience of the weekend happened when we had Hebrew and Arabic lessons. Two of Seattle’s Program Team members, Tamar and Rula, taught us conversational phrases along with some food words (such as chicken, cheese, and bread). On the one hand, this was quite fun for the kids, but on the other hand it was very frustrating. This exercise helped the kids understand what it must have been like for their friends from Jerusalem to come to camp and not know a lot of English. Beginning to understand the difficulty of learning new languages led to a conversation about how to stand in solidarity with people they encounter who do not speak English well.

DSC_0095

The group learns some Arabic and Hebrew phrases with Rula (and baby Malka!) and Tamar.

 

Standing in solidarity with each other, our friends in Jerusalem, and everyone that we encounter has been our theme this year during discussions and activities in meetings. Hearing about the seemingly relentless violence in Jerusalem, where we all have friends living, has been heart-breaking for all of us here in Seattle.  We continue to find hope in the actions of others, not just in Jerusalem but around the world.

The fact that the Kids4Peace Jerusalem family is stronger than ever and continues to have hope that peace is still obtainable, is truly inspiring and amazing. Seattle will continue to stand in solidarity with Jerusalem. Although we could not be physically any farther apart, our faith, love, and connection to our K4P family on the other side of the world is closer than ever.

A Weekend in the Life of Kids4Peace Seattle

by Jordan Goldwarg, K4P Northwest Regional Director

There are times when the life of Kids4Peace gets so busy that time seems to warp in a way that allows us to do more than we ever thought possible. This past weekend was one of those times here in Seattle.

Friday

8:30am: The work of Kids4Peace spans the globe, and 8:30am in Seattle, USA (Country #1) is 5:30pm in Lyon, France (Country #2), where I Skyped with the leader of K4P’s chapter-in-formation there. They are hard at work building the first European chapter, in a country that has seen too much violence supposedly committed in the name of religion this past year.

10am: Hop on GoToMeeting with our Executive Director (currently in Jerusalem, Country #3) for a conversation with the director of a Canadian (Country #4) foundation that funds peacebuilding projects in the Middle East, seeking ideas for working collaboratively to drive greater funding to programs working on peace and reconciliation in Jerusalem, a place that too many programs stay away from because they view the situation as too complicated.

11am: Pull out my phone (how many different communication platforms can I use today?) for an extended conversation with a colleague in Boston about the program design of our new Global Institute in Washington, DC this summer.

1:30pm: In-person meeting with Hannah, our Program Director, and a local Christian couple who have been working on building relationships with local Muslims and who are interested in finding out more about Kids4Peace and where there might be opportunities for collaboration.

3:30pm: Back on the phone for a quick chat with the Education Director of a local synagogue who wants to explore the possibility of creating a Peace Pal program between youth at his synagogue and K4P youth in Jerusalem.

Saturday

2:00pm: K4P Seattle youth gather at St. Mark’s Cathedral for our first overnight retreat of the year. (Stay tuned for another blog post about the retreat, written by one of our counselors!)

2:30pm: With the help of local Palestinian and Israeli K4P volunteers, we learn some basic phrases in Arabic and Hebrew (Shalom! Marhaba!). Although lots of fun to learn these words, we also get frustrated as we learn more and more and start having trouble remembering what we learned early on. We have a discussion about what it must be like for our Jerusalem friends when they come to camp in the US and need to work entirely in a second (or third!) language.

IMG_20160109_144815342_HDR

Risa and Evan play a language-learning game, practicing their Arabic and Hebrew.

 

4:30pm: After a game of Malcolm Ball (rules made up as we go by Malcolm, our Christian Faith Advisor), we cook dinner and settle in to watch the Pixar movie, Inside Out.

5:00pm: Meanwhile, I hop in the car and head across town to attend a Jeffersonian Dinner hosted by a K4P Seattle Board member. Over a lavish feast of Middle Eastern food, the group discusses the social justice issues that we feel drawn to, and we find a sense of solidarity through sharing our experiences. The guests also pledge generous financial support to Kids4Peace, allowing us to continue building interfaith communities that embody a culture of hope and empower a movement for change.

11:30pm: I head back to St. Mark’s Cathedral, stopping to pick up a late-night snack of chocolate for the K4P staff who have spent all night playing games and having fun with our youth. After debriefing the evening’s activities with the staff, we all get into our sleeping bags and lie down on our air mattresses to go to sleep at 1am.

Sunday

7:30am: Three of our older participants decide to replicate the camp experience by waking everyone up with cheerful shouts of, “GOOD MORNING, EVERYBODY!”

8:00am: Pancake breakfast bar! (With blueberries, bananas, and chocolate chips)

9:00am: We begin a final dialogue session for the weekend, focusing on the difficult question of how to integrate our two cohorts of participants (7th and 8th graders) into a single group. Despite all of our practice getting to know “the other,” it can still be a challenge to step outside our comfort zone.

12pm: Pack up our stuff, have a quick lunch, and then walk 30 minutes across Capitol Hill to our final destination of the weekend, Jewish Family Service, where we spend an hour volunteering in their food bank, packing bags of groceries to be delivered to people who physically cannot make the trip there.

1:30pm: I step out of the food packing for a few minutes to help one of our high-school counselors work on an application to have K4P represented at a Teen Action Fair hosted by the Gates Foundation Visitor Center. If selected, we’ll have the opportunity to tell hundreds of local youth about K4P and how they can get involved.

2:00pm: The weekend wraps up with a discussion hosted by a Jewish Family Service educator about the concept of dignity and how the food bank has been designed specially to preserve the dignity of people accessing the service (e.g. allowing people to “shop” at the food bank, selecting their own goods, rather than simply being handed a bag of food).

3:00pm: Parents arrive to pick up their kids, and the staff head home, exhausted but happy. What a weekend!

Kids4Peace NH/VT Reunite

by Nancy Stone, K4P NH/VY 
Vermont and New Hampshire kids and parents of recent Kids4Peace local and national camps met Saturday November 21st for a much anticipated reunion.  Though some of us keep in touch via social media, it’s so much better to meet in person as we play outdoor games, listen to guitar music, and gobble snacks.  Meeting in the lovely Dartmouth College chapel, we ended our reunion by reflecting on how the Kids4Peace experience has affected us personally.  Zelda Will GaemHere are a few of the shared comments:
       *  K4P gave me a new sense of the world and now my best friends are people on the other side of Earth.  It was an amazing experience.
      *  K4P has transformed my view of the world.  It has given me an outlet to share love, understanding and empathy with people from many different cultures and backgrounds.  K4P is also a vehicle for us all together to join in the effort to expand mutual respect, human dignity and with them, to build a peaceful world.
     *K4P opened a new world for me.  It showed pain, suffering, and hatred.  I have learned that no truth is the same truth but it is the truth of your heart. I’ve learned that if you don’t go into a difficult topic with an open mind, nothing is possible.  K4P shows peace is possible, even with kids.
     *  K4P helped me to understand how people are connected to each other and what different religions are about.
     *  Kids4Peace changed my life because it made me realize that I am not the only one who matters and that I should put others before me.reunion group photo

 

A night of hope and inspiration

Last Thursday night was a night of hope and inspiration. All of our youth, parents, and steering committee met and discussed different topics.

Leap (7th grade) finished designing and decorating the candles they created at our Ein Gedi seminar. They then had a dialogue about:

  • The different perceptions of Jerusalem.
  • The importance of personal relationships to strengthening our community and therefore achieving peace.

12313878_744673528972045_5271656869902843478_n

Roots and Leadership watched a documentary called Fire Lines (including popcorn!) and then dialogued about several topics that arose from the film including identifying with the characters and how the conflict was portrayed in the film. Some questions and answers are below:

Why do you think the Palestinians went to help the Israelis put out the fire?
“In the end we’re all human beings, it doesn’t matter if you’re Palestinian or Israeli when there is danger affecting both of you at the same time.” -Hassan, age 13, Muslim

Which character did you identify with the most?
“When the Palestinian firefighters didn’t get the permits to be appreciated, the other half who did get permits decided not to attend the appreciation ceremony–which made them cancel the event. I really identify with this and would also have decided not to attend even if I had a permit.” -Zeina, age 13, Muslim

The parents gathered outside for coffee and dialogue. Their discussions continued the Parents Program curriculum on the challenges of parenting youth in conflict.

12301482_744673392305392_5388743764992573549_n

 

Filed under: Blog

Growing up in Kids4Peace

1559567_929199380430648_1875217463551991434_n The past two summers, I found myself coming home from Kids4Peace camp with the same question: Why religion?
Religion creates all of the problems in the world, I find myself thinking again and again. Let it go, forget about it, it only causes pain and suffering. Yet I always find myself coming back to it. Why?

Maybe because it is simply how I grew up, or maybe because it makes me feel good, like being part of something greater than myself, part of a community. Regardless of the reason, its impact on my life is undeniable. Whether I am joining my parents for a Friday night prayer service at their small community synagogue, or lighting the candles that sign the beginning of the Sabbath in my new apartment, I always get a tingly feeling inside.

I volunteer for an organization called Kids4Peace. After being a camper in this program as a kid, now as an adult I have been volunteering for over 3 years.  Alongside my childhood in the Jewish-American-Israeli world of West Jerusalem, Kids4Peace is like my second home, and it has opened up doors to a different understanding of religion then I would have, had I not been a part of Kids4Peace.

Kids4Peace has changed my life in many ways by challenging my view of the world and widening my perspective on the way I feel about religion in particular. I came to an understanding that religion is our common ground, and not what divides us.

When I was younger, I felt that religion was a tool; a tool that I was given to create groups in the world in order to differentiate between me and them, right and wrong, good and bad. Essentially, I felt that religion was a tool for me to create “the other”.

 

Since having been a part of Kids4Peace– the perspective I hold now has changed. I still believe that religion is a tool, however, this tool can and should be used to draw people together instead of tearing them apart. We should dare to build friendships with people who are different from us in religion, skin color, and even cultural practices. That way we can grow to be more tolerant and accepting of those who are different than us, realizing that even though we may not have the same perspective on ideas of “normal” or “right”, being open-minded enough to both listen and share with others is the key for letting religion draw us together. We should dare to LOVE everyone, including “the other”, and then we should dare to keep that love even when facing our differences that sometimes challenge our own beliefs. With the goal of love in mind, we can use religion as a tool to help us grow together, and closer to each other, rather than apart.

 

In Kids4Peace we work on creating, building and maintaining friendships. It’s always friendship first, conflict second. Kids4Peace’s methodology, which over the years has become my own methodology as well, is that if I am friends with this person, if I care about this person, if I love this person, then I need to learn how to hold that love together even when things like difference in belief, religion, and culture make it challenging to see this person as similar to you. If I have done this – I have succeeded!

 

I see the world and humanity as whole, as a body with immense potential to build, create and love. We just need to be guided by the right people, and be willing to open ourselves up to new and different opportunities.

 

In Judaism we have a well known saying “ואהבת לרעך כמוך” (“Love thy neighbor as thyself”), (-Leviticus , Chapter 9, verse 8). Rabbi Akiva’s interpretation of this verse is that we should love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Thanks to a good friend, whom I met this past summer while working together at camp, I have come to a recent understanding that perhaps Rabbi Akiva had it all wrong. We should love our neighbor as themselves and not as ourselves because maybe being equal to one another does not necessarily mean being the same. Perhaps instead equal means having the same right to and capacity for life, love and happiness, no matter the differences in our beliefs and practices of what life, love and happiness means. My neighbor may not be like me, therefore I cannot love him as I love myself, but I can grow to accept and love him/her as him/herself.

 

At Kids4Peace we work very hard on making sure everyone feels equal. Every single kid gets equal attention from the staff no matter what is their religious or cultural background. This experience has allowed me to come to my own understanding that we must see each kid based on who they are as an individual, not based on the judgements or stereotypes of their religion or culture. This way we can learn to see past the boundaries of differences and learn to love one another as individuals having their own unique experience.

 

So why religion?

10560354_10204441571901114_6827573235899721355_oReligion is a tool I was given by my parents and by God. But Kids4Peace has  taught me how to use it , to help build a better world: a society with a better future, a society which doesn’t love their neighbors as who they themselves are, but as who their neighbors are, a society that loves the other because they are different, and not in spite of that.

I wish everyone a year of peace, love and understanding.

A shanah tovah u’metukah.

A good and sweet year.

We can do it better, we can live together…Kids 4 Peace!

Interfaith Service 8/15We were so fortunate to have campers from all three levels of K4P VT/NH: Will was from this summer, Shoshana and Aaron were from the continuation 2nd year camp and Lana was from Leadership camp.  The campers read teachings from their faiths while Nancy and Areej led other parts of the service.  Then, Jeff and each of the kids spoke about the rich experiences they had through Kids4Peace.  A member of the congregation played the concertina to teach “Peace Salaam Shalom” that we’d learned from Chelsea at camp.  The benediction was composed from phrases taken from the Prayer Flags made at camp, now divided between Jerusalem, New Hampshire and Vermont.  The congregation was most appreciative and we adults were so very proud of our young ambassadors!

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

What Kids4Peace can Teach Us About Peace (Tikkun)

Eve

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full story on Tikkun Daily

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

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

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

Read the full story on Tikkun Daily

 

Filed under: Seattle

K4P Seattle: Please, Keep Talking Behind My Back!

by Pam Orbach, Kids4Peace Seattle Dialogue Facilitator

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you, kids from Kids4Peace.

Our narratives for the same event cannot be more different

by Udi, Kids4Peace Jerusalem Steering Committee Chair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shalom and Salaam,
Udi

Popsicles, games, cheers, and letting kids be kids

by Mike, K4P Jerusalem volunteer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Everywhere we go (echo)

People want to know (echo)

Who we are (echo)

So we tell them (echo)

We are Kids4Peace

Mighty Mighty Kids4Peace

Tired of the fighting

Time to do the right thing

We can do it better

We can live together

Shalom Salaam

Salaam Shalom

Kids! 4! Peace!”

Alex | “A rational and compassionate answer”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 3: Fundraiser with the Tall Granite Big Band

Kids4Peace NH Fundraiser Featuring the Tall Granite Big Band

TGBB Pitmans2-2015Sunday, May 3, 3pm

South Congregational Church, Concord
(27 Pleasant St / Concord, NH 03301)

$15 suggested donation

On Sunday, May 3 at 3 pm, at Concord’s South Congregational Church, the 18-member Tall Granite Big Band will perform a fundraiser Swing jazz concert benefiting Kids4Peace New Hampshire. We will be accepting $ 15 donations at the door.

Contact either the Rev. Dick Dutton (rdutton@tds.net, 603/526-4541) or Rabbi Robin Nafshi for more details.

April 26: Gershon Baskin speaks in Portsmouth on “The Chances for Israeli/Palestinian Peace”

The Chances for Israeli/Palestinian Peace Post Israeli Election

Sunday, April 26, 5pm at 319 Vaughan St, Portsmouth, NH
Admission: Free, however, please register if you plan to attend.


Register here: http://www.3sarts.org/performances/performance/Israeli-Palestinian-Peace-Discussion-w–Dr.-Gershon-Baskin?performanceid=960

Baskin

On Sunday, April 26 at 5 p.m., Dr. Gershon Baskin, renowned peace activist, journalist and author, will be speaking at an event co-presented by 3S Artspaces, The World Affairs Council of New Hampshire, and Kids4Peace, an organization that brings together youth from Israel/Palestine and the United States with the goal of building bridges among Muslims, Jews and Christians.

Dr Baskin has been actively involved in the peace movement for many years and is currently a member of the Palestinian-Israeli Peace NGO Forum. He has written widely on the peace process and has won a number of international awards for his efforts. Dr Baskin has been a columnist for the The Jerusalem Post since 2005 and continues to travel tirelessly to promote peace in the region. He was personally responsible for the successful negotiations with Hamas that led to the release of the Israeli soldier, Gilad Schalit.

In his talk at 3S, Dr Baskin will explore the question of whether a lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis is still possible in light of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent re-election. He will also discuss Palestinian international diplomatic strategy and international pressures facing Israel. In addition, he will address US/Israeli relations and the role of American Jewry both in US and Israeli politics.       Dr. Baskin’s speech will be followed by a Q& session.

Arrive at 4:30 and meet representatives of Kids4Peace. 

Roots: Strengthening Group Identity through Social Change

  11081244_648322711940461_4792306084737467592_n by Liana, Jewish Advisor, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Dandan, K4P Intern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   

What if Trading Cards Could Change the World?

20150322_170653

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

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


20150322_154239

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

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

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

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

IMG_20150322_164812749

Filed under: Chapters, Seattle

Vermont Kids4Peace Gala!

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

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

rabbi joshua

Rabbi Joshua Chasan

bishop tom

Bishop Tom Ely

Lisa Speaks k4p fundraiser

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

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

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

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

past & present k4p kids

Past & Present Kids4Peace Kids

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

 

Photo Credit: Kelley Gage

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

by Naomi Rouach, former Co-Director of Education

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

994183_10152144741821199_7575980607906044946_n

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more on the Kids4Peace Blog 

Hannah | “A symbol and sign of peace worldwide”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hannah Pic 3

Filed under: Blog, People, Seattle, Staff

Kate | “We can learn from our children”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Filed under: Blog, New Hampshire, People, Staff

Dick | A bridge builder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Filed under: Blog, New Hampshire, People, Staff

Marathoning for Peace

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

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

 

by Jordan Goldwarg, K4P Northwest Regional Director

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

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

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

Filed under: Chapters, Seattle, Seattle 2014, Staff

Visiting Kids4Peace for the First Time: Truly a special place

by April, Communications Associate (K4P Seattle)
 
I knew it was true before I attended K4P camp for the first time, but now I can share with certainty that this truly is a special place.
 
I am relatively n ew to the K4P organization, and was thrilled to have the opportunity to visit the Seattle Camp for a few days.  I had no idea what a memorable few days it would be.
 
My first evening at Camp, I was welcomed with smiles and greetings from a world of people I had never met, but am now so thankful to know.  At dinner I heard the kids discuss their exciting day in Seattle, in which they had visited Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, where the Christian kids read prayers in English, Arabic, and Hebrew.  Later in the evening, the kids met with Hannah and Najla, Christian Faith Advisors, to go over thoughts and questions they had about the service.  I also heard excitement at dinner over their “surprise” visit to the Space Needle, Seattle’s most notable landmark.
 
One thing that has become abundantly clear, just in my few days at camp, is how dedicated counselors and staff are to making this experience a truly rich one for each and every Kids4Peace kid.  The dialogue sessions are an excellent example of that.  In these sessions, the kids have an opportunity to explore their feelings in a safe and supportive environment.  They are taught strategies and words to use as tools to equip them to handle the various emotions and feelings that conflict may bring into their lives.
 
Beyond these sessions, counselors and staff are attentive to the various needs of the kids throughout the day.  Since camp is a 24/7 experience for these eleven/twelve year olds, some conflict is bound to happen naturally.  It has been amazing to see how the kids are cared for and listened to throughout it all.  Kids4Peace teaches kids to be with each another and confront conflict in ways that are respectful of one another and of themselves.  I have no doubt that these kids will take these life-lessons back home with them, facing conflict with this approach.  This is the beginning of the building of peace-makers; meeting them where their own hurts and needs are, and working with them to peacefully resolve them.
 
It is also true that the kids themselves are quite remarkable.  I have been in awe of the kindness and generosity they have shown each other in their words and actions.  Even in frustrated moments, they do their best to express themselves with grace toward one another.  It is something I have learned from in my short time here, and something I expect comes from real-life experiences beyond what I may have faced as an eleven/twelve year old.
My second night at Camp, the group participated in “Movie Night.”  The chosen movie was called “Smoke Signals,” and it was about two young men who live on an Indian Reservation in Idaho.  The movie revealed themes of identity and forgiveness, both of which are very important to the K4P mission.  After the movie, the kids shared what came up for them during the film.  On the topic of forgiveness, one camper, Omar, said “You can’t be angry forever.  You have to forgive them sometimes.  What’s the benefit of being angry?”
 
These words, and many others I heard from campers, counselors, and staff, will stick with me for some time to come.  I am truly thankful for the opportunity to experience this very special time and place.
 
unnamed-2unnamed-1

Filed under: Blog, Camp, Seattle, Seattle 2014, Staff Reflections

Maddie | Close Friends

 That’s what I love about K4P: I get an inside look into what others believe is the way to start solving problems and becoming peacemakers.

As a high school junior living in Waterbury, Vermont, Maddie Baughman was one of our youngest counselors in 2013. She participated in Leadership Camp in 2012, and waIMG_1516s a camper before that.

Maddie comes from a Christian family, but doesn’t describe herself as highly religious. When she’s not studying, she spends time helping out with her parents’ composting business, working at a local bakery, playing basketball, participating in theater, and daydreaming of joining Kids4Peace again!

“Kids4Peace is anything but abstract. We have the rare opportunity of getting to know and love amazing people from halfway across the world—and that’s real,” she notes. She loves learning about the array of cultures and religions represented at camp. She doesn’t take for granted her ability to take part in K4P. She feels lucky to have so much support, and knows that can’t be said for all participants. That’s one reason she hasn’t hesitated prioritizing K4P in planning her last few summers.

Keeping in touch with campers and counselors alike has helped her to stay connected to the cause. She says she and her K4P friends “discuss everything from our favorite types of cars to political and social occurrences, such as Israeli involvement in the Syrian civil war.”

I caught up with Maddie to get a more in-depth understanding of how her experience with K4P changed her outlook. Here’s what she shared:

“I’ve definitely learned a lot about what the day to day experiences are for those I’ve met through Kids4Peace. As a result, my family and friends hear a lot about what’s going on too. When it comes to talking about the conflict, I don’t think people know where to start. That’s what I love about K4P: I get an inside look into what others believe is the way to start solving problems and becoming peacemakers.

I picked up a lot of skills as a counselor, namely leadership and listening. One night, there was some religious disrespect going on, and intentional or not, there were hurt feelings. With the help of the other staff members and counselors, we were able to get the campers to understand each other and resolve the issue.

As counselors, we got to explore how we can be leaders. It was a powerful transition from camper to counselor, suddenly becoming an adult in this world of conflict. The intermediate time (Leadership Camp) was the place where we learned the most, had the best conversations about the conflict, and could talk about what was really going on. People were serious, and it got intense at times, but we also had a lot of fun. Between us, we built respect and trust, the fundamentals of long lasting friendships.

The Americans that participated in this year’s camp in Houston brought their learning and hope back home. They were very enthusiastic when they came, and even moreso when they left. They brought that to their friends, communities, and households. It’s important for people everywhere to understand the different perspectives of people living in conflict in the Middle East, as well as other places around the world—including the US. The US is a great place to host the camps so that we as Americans can understand what’s going on over there.

I’m still in touch with my friends from K4P, I feel as close to them as I do with my friends at home. We bonded over exploring different cultures, languages, religions and their respective ceremonies, noting the similarities and differences. I really enjoyed that.

K4P helped stir my interests when it comes to thinking about college. I’m curious about global studies and international relations. I’ve come to realize that regardless of where you live around the world, it’s possible that we’re all still able to connect on a personal level.

 K4P has definitely caused me to examine what I want to do with my life and how I want to be a positive influence on the world. In day to day conduct it’s important to understand people as people rather than what makes them different. It’s been a wonderful way to learn about myself and who I want to be.”

At Kids4Peace we’re all on the same level, we interact with each other as other people, rather than people from different countries.

– Interview by David Rowan, K4P International Intern

Maddie - Houston 2

Maddie - Houston

Hagop | K4P Changed My Perspective

Back when I was a kid I had thoughts about revenge, and I have experienced an amazing 180 degree change—I’m really happy. I have hope and faith that there will be peace, maybe not my generation or my kids’, but we have to work for it and teach our kids the right way.

Hagop is an Armenian Christian living in Jerusalem.  He was a K4P camper in 2004 and has been involved ever since, as a counselor and now a Christian advisor.  

hagop-headshotThe last time I went as a camper was in Atlanta, 8 or 9 years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. It was an amazing experience that really exceeded my expectations. I learned so much, and it helped my personality develop. We have all this conflict between Jews, Christians, and Muslims here in Jerusalem, and the experience taught me to accept everyone.

It’s not that the conflict is between only Muslims and Jews, it’s more between Arabs and Israelis. I never felt left out of the conversation. The media often triggers tension by focusing on religious differences, but that’s not always how it is. Living here, you see it. There is also conflict between Christians and Muslims, but less often because we feel as though we are one united nation.

When you speak about peace anywhere in the West Bank, people will say, “We’ve been talking about peace for 60 years and we haven’t seen anything different.” People are tired of talking about peace, they want action, they want all that’s been said to be done.

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. You’ll almost never get an older person to believe there will be peace. When you work with young kids whose minds are open and who want to learn, they learn from their surroundings and their personalities are built through what they see on TV, what their families think and what their parents say.

So when you teach those kids that peace and harmony is possible between conflicting parties, they grow up and teach their children who then teach their children and so on. Just one child taught about peace can get excited, interested, and serious about the matter can make a real change.

My family descended through the Armenian genocide. What happened to us then was not easy, and what we are going through now as Palestinians is also not easy. As a Christian we have to forgive, but not forget. It’s stressful having that history, all the torture and evil things my ancestors experienced. It’s not easy, but for now we have to learn to get along and hope for the best.

Kids learn everything from their surroundings, their parents, and especially the media. I never thought I’d have Jewish friends. All the talk is about how they’re treating Arabs badly, killing them in cold blood. As a 12 year old kid, you just get the wrong idea. At first participating in K4P was a little hard, but then I started to notice those kids are exactly like me aside from language and religion. I was then able to accept Jews and realized there is no bad nation, just bad individuals.

At a meeting before we left to Atlanta, there was a guy called Amichai, and we started to become close friends. I was trying to talk in Hebrew so the Jewish families could understand better, even though there was an interpreter—I wanted to be challenged. Amichai came over to me as I was speaking some in Hebrew and some in English and he starts helping me remember certain words. That was the moment I thought, “Wow, this guy is nice. I like him, and he’s not as bad as I thought he was.”

A few years ago I was asked to become a leader in K4P. I was very excited when I learned that Michal was going to be the girls’ leader. We had been at the same camp in 2004, and stayed in touch. So to see how the kids were learning and interacting, it brought us back to how we were. We never realized any of it would matter in the future, but having that history with each other really helped us both.

I go to Bethlehem University in the West Bank. Conflict comes up every single day, especially coming and going, dealing with the checkpoints. There are many conflict related topics to study at school as well. It’s sad to say but I wouldn’t see an organization like K4P as very popular at my school. Even my close friends think that what I’m doing with the organization is a waste of time. They tell me, “You know it, I know it, there will never be peace.” But deep down inside I like to hope and pray for peace worldwide.

Business wasn’t my first choice as a major, I always wanted to be a pilot or engineer. Flying planes as a Palestinian person, especially after 9/11, is nearly impossible. My father owns a business, and any job in the world requires business, medical or anything else. So I thought that was a wide goal for me, and after I get my BA I can decide if I want to go in a particular direction. My dream is to make what my father built—a travel agency—bigger and stronger by widening the horizon with new partnerships, and see what happens from there.

Communication is so important. I try to keep in touch with K4P alumni to see how they are doing, where they are in life, how they are progressing. Even just a 5 minute check-in goes a long way. These relationships are built stronger by communication.

Having K4P in my life really changed me, I never thought I’d be the man that I am today. Back when I was a kid I had thoughts about revenge, and I have experienced an amazing 180 degree change—I’m really happy. I have hope and faith that there will be peace, maybe not my generation or my kids’, but we have to work for it and teach our kids the right way.

I’m interested in recruiting for K4P, helping to grow our diversity. We’re not teaching religion, it’s the door we come through to teach kids peace. I consider us farmers, planting peace seeds in the kids’ hearts and we can grow with them, teach them how to stand up straight so in the end they will be fruitful with their children and grandchildren.

Natalie Portman Visits K4P Jerusalem

On Thursday the 20th of February K4P Jerusalem had the pleasure to welcome actress and activist Natalie Portman to our offices. She took a break from filming her directorial debut here in Jerusalem to visit, an adaption of Israeli novelist Amos Oz’s acclaimed memoir A Tale of Love and Darkness.  3d4a6959 (1)

With people arriving early the anticipation and excitement was palpable. Staff, alumni, volunteers, members of the steering committee and young people from the culminating groups awaited her arrival with baited breath. This excitement was not just that we were about to meet one of most prolific female actresses in Hollywood but that this was a woman born in Jerusalem, well known throughout the world who speaks with hope that, “someday [we] use our unique human assets of language and empathy rather than military technology or propaganda to resolve this conflict” A ideal that K4P endorses and works through. Having just gained NGO statues we are working towards developing and delivering a programme that will do just that. By extending the hand of friendship we are surmounting mountains that politics in the region has failed to deliver on. This visit is a testament to all the young people that have participated and a reminder to the staff that the work we do is of importance in shaping the worlds understanding of life in the Middle East.

Co-director Mohammad Joulany introduced Natalie Portman noting her work as an actress but choosing to focus on the many campaigns which she has led and or been a part of. The list was extensive and imparted on all those present the keen humanitarian spirit with which Natalie has used her star statues. Three young people from The Leadership Programme representing the three faiths presented a bouquet of flowers and then addressed Natalie directly focusing in what K4P means to them and what they have gained from their participation in the programme as well as acknowledging the challenges they face as young people living in Jerusalem. She then addressed the crowd with great humility and compassion speaking of the hope that young people brought to the region and the support she had for the ongoing work of the organisation. The floor was then open to ask Natalie direct questions, she spoke of cooperation and the human spirit, her love for Jerusalem and her intention to continue to visit the region. Co-director Rebecca Sullum then presented her with a Kids4Peace gift bag, including t-shirts for her husband and her son as a thank you and a momentum of her visit.

We wish to acknowledge and thank Rana Khatib who sits on the K4P steering committee for arranging this visit. Natalie Portman studied Arabic with her father Omar Othman when she studied at The Hebrew University, thus furnishing a close relationship that led to her hearing about the work of Kids4Peace Jerusalem.

[shareprints gallery_id=”3031″ gallery_type=”masonry” gallery_position=”pos_center” gallery_width=”width_100″ image_size=”medium” image_padding=”1″ theme=”light” image_hover=”false” lightbox_type=”slide” comments=”false” sharing=”true”]

Magda | Camp is Over, K4P is Not

I learned so much about other faith traditions and myself. I learned about self-reliance, patience, kindness, acceptance, love, and friendship

Magda

 

Magda attended Kids4Peace Atlanta in the Summer of 2013. She is pictured with artwork created for a gallery display at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History, in conjunction with National Geographic’s Jerusalem IMAXmovie.  

A little more than one week can mean many things. It can mean how long you have to wait for a package, how long you have to finish a project, or how long it took you to read an incredible book. I’ve done many things in a little more than one week, such as planting a garden and baking cookies. Although, some of the things I’ve done in a little over a week stand out.

One of the main things that stand out is Kids4Peace.  In Early July this year, I sat in the back seat of a large, shiny, black Subaru weaving through old country roads to Camp Mikell in Toccoa, Georgia. I had made this trip many times before, but the butterflies in my stomach were especially colorful. “Alright”, my mom reminds, “You should get your stuff together. We’re almost there.” I remember my gut tightening, and taking the turn off for the Camp Mikell conference center. In hindsight, this fear could not even compare to the fun, love and knowledge I was going to receive in the next couple of days.

Slowly, our group began to become more cohesive – like wood glue, slow to set, but extremely stable when dry. We learned each other’s cultures through group chats, expeditions, and activities. We talked about the world around us and inside of us. We observed and honored beliefs, and we tried out each other’s traditions. Some things were not as serious as others, like our pizza dinner on Jewish Shabbat, countless bedroom pillow fights, or the visit to Target. During long car rides, we would sing/scream along to music, talk, and play games such as “who can irritate the counselor first”, “are we there yet”, and “I’m hungry/thirsty/bored”.

Although we had a tremendous amount of fun, we learned a lot, too. In fact, I would not give up what I learned for almost anything. I learned so much about other faith traditions and myself. I learned about self-reliance, patience, kindness, acceptance, love, and friendship. Of course it was hard and exhausting, but I had people to hold me up, and to help me. In such a short time, I grew so much.

After a little more than one week, filled to the brim with so many experiences and friendship, it was time to say goodbye. After my mom picked me up, it took me a while to realize camp was over. I simply couldn’t accept the fact. Months afterward, I know camp is over, but Kids4Peace is not. I am still in contact with the kids in my group and I get to see them sometimes (the Atlanta kids, that is).

Right now, I am debating what to get my peace pal (pen pal), Mais, for Christmas. It’s a toss-up between a large collection of Maybelline makeup or Cover girl makeup. She’s very particular about it. Although I know the package is going to take long to get there, our friendship has already arrived.

Brian | A Faith Based Program

This is going to become the thing that stops the conflict and that allows both sides to start talking to one another. Kids are going to not only be the future, but also the force that influences the present.

Brian Sullivan, the cuBrianSrrent President of Kids4Peace International, was born in White Plains, NY, but moved down to Georgia early in his life. After finishing his degree as an Art major at the University of Georgia, studying Printmaking, Sullivan decided to go to seminary and was ordained an Episcopal Priest in 1997. While working with youth at St. Anne’s, Sullivan worked with two members of his congregation who met Henry Carse in 2003, the founder of Kids4Peace, with whom started the Atlanta chapter of the organization. Later, Sullivan moved to North Carolina, where is started the North Carolina chapter of Kids4Peace.

From a young age, Sullivan understood the importance of mutual respect and dialogue between people from different backgrounds, and hoped to reduce the conflict through a program that evoked these ideals. “I’ve always known that it is important for people who are different to get along. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the extreme version of what happens when people get too far entrenched in their own group.”

From his work with youth, Sullivan understood early on that kids are the key to changing the future. “I think kids have a way of teaching adults how to do things differently.” After working closely with Israeli, Palestinian, and American children in the Atlanta chapter, Sullivan realized not only how complex and multifaceted the conflict truly is, but also the strong impact Kids4Peace leaves on its participants. “When I met the kids for the first time and started to understand the tip of the iceberg of the conflict, I knew that this program has a chance of making a big difference.”

For Sullivan, the impact of Kids4Peace derives from its influence on the lives of the children participating in the program. Sullivan believes that once the youth from both the Palestinian and Israeli side communicate, interact, and care for one another, this respect and amity will also transfer to the parents. “On the surface, Kids4Peace looks like a really cute summer camp. But that’s only the first year of the program. For every one child involved with the program, there are five or six adults who are also involved. The kids are learning skills to prevent violence and to understand who they are on a deeper level, and they bring these skills back home with them. This is going to become the thing that stops the conflict and that allows both sides to start talking to one another. Kids are going to not only be the future, but also the force that influences the present.”

For Sullivan, the commitment to expand Kids4Peace came from getting to know the participants of the program. After working with Palestinian, Israeli, and American youth from differing religious backgrounds, Sullivan saw the importance of faith as a uniting factor for the different groups, one which will ultimately bring mutual respect and dialogue for all sides.

“Kids4Peace is a faith-based program. A lot of the different movements in the world that have made a difference, such as the civil rights movement, ending of apartheid, or Gandhi’s influence in India, were led by faith leaders.

Faith as a tool allows children to really focus on who they are. I think the most important part of Kids4Peace is that we are a program that tries very hard to get kids to be who they are, to grow up and understand who they are, and to learn what it means to be Jewish, Christian, Israeli, Palestinian, or Arab.”

For Sullivan, the most meaningful and inspiring part of Kids4Peace is the opening of hearts of the participants of the program. Sullivan shares two stories that inspire him to expand Kids4Peace, and that “iconic” to the message of the program:

“One of the first stories that inspired me was when the kids from the Atlanta chapter from 2003 went home and their parents, one Palestinian, one Israeli, had dinner together at each other’s houses. Then, the two families decided they wanted to go to the Western Wall to pray. A guard stopped the father and asked him what they were doing there. The father responded, ‘Well, they just want to go to the Wall.’  The guard did not understand how that was possible, that a Palestinian and an Israeli kid wanted to do this together. When the guard was not looking, the kids snuck around him and went and prayed in front of the Wall together.”

“One of the most recent stories that inspired me is the story of a woman and a young Palestinian coming through a check point. When they reached the checkpoint, the Israeli soldier treated the woman with respect, and asked for her name. The woman wanted to know who his parents were, how he was brought up to, and to understand why he was acting the way he was. The soldier said he was acting this way not because of his parents, but because of a program called Kids4Peace. The woman also participated in the program. That to me is the icon of what we’re trying to do, for example, having soldiers who are doing their jobs, defending their nation, but who are doing it with respect and who understand who they are.”

Nancy | Recognition and Respect

Kids4Peace helped me recognize my own faith while respecting the cultural and religious differences of others. It is that recognition and respect that we hope Kids4Peace offers the children, as well as the adult staff.

Nancy Stone is a volunteer with Kids4Peace Vermont and the art teacher for the Vermont/New Hampshire summer camp. 

Describe your background:

My dad was in the army during World War II, so I was born where he was stationed in Detroit, Michigan in 1943. Currently I live in Williston, Vermont, near Burlington and Lake Champlain. I was raised in Massachusetts and went to Alfred University in New York where I majored in ceramic design. In college, I explored a very broad range of aNancy Stonert, as well as English, history, and art education.

How has your background led you to K4P?

In 1983, I heard about the Children’s Art Exchange with the Soviet Union and I could not sleep. It really stirred me, being a mother, an artist, as well as an art educator. I wanted to use my art for peace so I became the Art Program Director for the Children’s Art Exchange. I went to the Soviet Union three times, bringing art from American children and carrying back art from the Soviet children. We also had an exchange of teachers and children. What I loved about the Children’s Art Exchange was that it combined peace, nurturing children, and art. Kids4Peace has the added element of addressing Faith. Having been a church and choir member since childhood, the spiritual aspect of Kids4Peace makes it even more special.

Kids4Peace inspires me because I want the world to be a safer place for my children and grandchildren. We have a son who was born in 1968 and a daughter who was born in 1971. They both moved back to Vermont to be near us so we do child-care for the three grandchildren. I’ve taught all levels of art from Pre-K to College level but I knew I could not keep that up if I was going to do the childcare. So, I ended many commitments but decided that I would keep working as art teacher for Kids4PeaceVermont. It has grown to a much larger commitment but I’m glad it’s still in my life.

As art teacher for Kids4PeaceVermont, I work with the camp director to come up with art projects that are significant and meaningful to each summer’s programming. We have themes such as ‘things we share’ (i.e., the earth, water, wind, etc.) and I come up with projects that reflect the theme. We have made plaster gauze masks on each other’s faces. It is amazing to see two kids from different cultures, many times with a history of deep conflict, having the trust to build a mask on each other’s face.

How did I become involved with Kids4Peace?

Well, one night in 2009 my husband asked if I wanted to go to a church Peace Potluck. I reluctantly agreed, although I was tired and didn’t want to go out to another night meeting. Soon after the camp director started the presentation and I saw a video of children from Palestine, Israel and Vermont, I was flooded with a feeling that I must become involved! So, I went up to the director and said I hoped that I wasn’t too old, but if they needed an art teacher, I was willing to become actively involved. At the time it seemed like a small commitment, just ten days in the summer, but it has become a year-long involvement with monthly meetings, a peace-walk, buying art supplies, giving sermons to my church, speaking at Rotary meetings, etc.

How has Kids4Peace influenced your life?

Through my work with Kids4Peace, I have gained a new outlook and appreciation for life. In a selfish way, it makes me appreciate the peace and freedom we have in our country now. It also makes me more conscious of the situation in Israel and Palestine, and I worry about the kids and staff members when there are reports of conflict or attacks. In the beginning, I embraced getting to know everyone in the different religions and felt that separating myself from the group to go up and take communion with only the Christians was being disloyal to the group. But after searching my heart, I realized that being a Christian is part of my personal identity. That summer, Kids4Peace helped me recognize my own faith while respecting the cultural and religious differences of others. It is that recognition and respect that we hope Kids4Peace offers the children, as well as the adult staff.

Today, Kids4Peace is a very special part of my life. I can talk to people from other religions more deeply, and I can have meaningful conversations about faith and culture.

A Muslim advisor from camp, now living in Vermont has become a dear friend. Kids4Peace makes me feel that even at my age, (I just turned 70), that I’m still a useful part of society and that I can help young people also see that they can become leaders for peace. I am so happy to be doing my work with Kids4Peace. Recognizing that the problems in our different societies are long-standing and difficult, we can empower the children with skills and understanding so that they can work for peace, perhaps even using the arts, making changes in attitudes so that we can find new ways of interacting with each other.

What are your  favorite memories from Kids4Peace?

One of my most striking memories from the Kids4Peace camps happened when we had early morning meditation along Lake Champlain. In the beginning, the kids were restless and shifting around. Eventually they settled down and just sat silently on the huge boulders, looking out at the water and mountains. When we walked back up the dirt path, one boy from a Palestinian refugee camp took the hand of another boy, a new friend who was a Jew from Vermont. It was such a beautiful moment! It still gives me shivers.

George | “It Challenged Me”

I found through K4P that the best types of relationships are the ones that challenge you to expand your point of view

George SpencerGeorge Spencer is from Atlanta, Georgia and joined Kids4Peace in 2005.  He is currently a student at UNC-Chapel Hill. 

How did you change because of Kids4Peace? 

I think Kids4Peace was the first time I really understood that there are so many different people in the world. I think by participating at such a young age it is a very formative experience that I had. It’s not something you realize while you are involved; it’s something that you understand and begin to evaluate and comprehend when you are older and can see how significantly the program has opened your eyes to the perceptions of other people. It is a humbling and empowering program that allows you to see the world from many viewpoints.

Why is Kids4Peace important to you?

Kids4Peace is most important to me because it challenged me. At a young age, I was, thanks to this program, exposed to wonderful people from broad ranges of life, who all offered something different to the program. It challenged me to grow as a person not just in my experiences during the program, but even more, after I was finished when I could reflect on my memories in the daily contexts that I face as I get older.

What do you want to tell others about Kids4Peace?

I would tell them that it changed my life. I can honestly say that I would not be the same person I am today without this experience.

What did you learn from Kids4Peace?

The most important thing  I learned was how easy it is to be compatible with people from all different walks of life. I feel like it is a common thought that people coming from different places and circumstances are innately incompatible, and aren’t able to have relationships with each other. However, I found through K4P that the best types of relationships are the ones that challenge you to expand your point of view with a person that comes from a completely different background.

How does Kids4Peace inspire you today?

I strive for a much more open-minded perspective in life. I try to understand other people’s backgrounds and opinions without passing any judgments.

Describe Kids4Peace in one word:

Universal

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

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

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

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

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

Read more on the Kids4Peace Blog 

Jodi | A K4P Mom’s Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jodi, Mother of Eli
Kids4Peace Atlanta

Read more on the Kids4Peace Blog 

Emily | “Peace Lasts”

We begin to have faith in human kind and gain the confidence to transform our violent and unjust surroundings into a land that we can feel content with due to the realization that one person has the ability to make a difference in the world through peace and communication.

 

Episcopal AtlantaPresentation to the 107th Annual Council
of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta
November, 2013

Good morning. My name is Emily, I am fifteen years old, and I am currently in the tenth grade. I attended my first camp of Kids4Peace in 2009 when I was eleven. Kids4Peace is an interfaith and cross-cultural Jerusalem-based organization comprised of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian youth that focuses on conflict resolution, mending the broken situation of the Middle East, and uniting peacefully to make a difference that will impact the world.

EmilyAtCouncil

It almost seems unfair to make an attempt to define this organization, for words seem unable to express the profound impact and true significance of this organization. I have found that there are certain moments and experiences throughout life that catch us by surprise. They affect us in ways we don’t anticipate and change the course of our lives and how we choose to live them forever. Kids4Peace was definitely one of those journeys in my life.

At the first camp, I was completely submerged into one of the most safe, open, and loving environments I have ever been exposed to. After a lot of reflection, I have found that the first camp is a lot about realization. We began to break down the wall of intolerance that has been crammed into our minds until that wall shatters altogether because of the realization that “they” are just people.  began to recognize and determine what needs change in the world upon the realization that places, people, and societies throughout the globe need change.

We begin to have faith in human kind and gain the confidence to transform our violent and unjust surroundings into a land that we can feel content with due to the realization that one person has the ability to make a difference in the world through peace and communication.

This past summer I was fortunate to be able to attend the Kids4Peace Leadership Camp. The first camp is about figuring out what needs to change, and Leadership Camp is about learning how to dissect, understand, and execute that change. This camp goes much farther in depth into the conflict and the more intimate and sensitive topics. We acquired skills related to every aspect of leadership itself, communication, and compromising. The concept of peace has the tendency to come off fake and cliché. One of the things I have learned is that conflict isn’t necessarily wrong. A speaker who visited my camp this summer told us something that really stuck with me. She said, “Conflict isn’t bad. Conflict is healthy. Conflict is normal. However violence is not.” These camps have helped me to understand the motivation, causes, and dynamics of conflict itself. Understanding conflict is the first step before attempting to resolve it.

One of the most tragic elements of the nature of conflict is the continuation over generations. People grip onto hatred, resentment, prejudice, and burden themselves because that’s all they know. This cycle is not easy to break. However, one of the most amazing epiphanies I have had is that this pattern occurs with peace as well as hatred. Humans aren’t bred with that hatred inside them.

This camp begins the chain and process of peacemaking at an age before that toxic hate has the chance to penetrate their loving hearts. It plants the seed of reconciliation and unity in the middle of a battlefield.

As we grow and evolve, peace has different meanings to us. We associate peace differently, and our understanding of it deepens as we learn. Kids4Peace has helped me with this. It has helped me to sort out and analyze the wadded knot of emotion and observations into skills and these “realizations” throughout my journey of peace. This path doesn’t have an end because peace doesn’t have an end.

Peace lasts. Peace makes a mark. That’s why Kids4Peace is so life changing.

Kids4Peace paved the way of truth, harmony, and acceptance. It is up to us now to choose whether or not to trek down the road of understanding together until we achieve our desire: peace.

Thank you.

by Emily Combs (Christian – St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church),
2009 Atlanta Camper, 2013 Leadership Camp Participant

Youth Voices: “Peace Lasts”

Presentation to the 107th Annual Council
of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta
November, 2013

Good morning. My name is Emily, I am fifteen years old, and I am currently in the tenth grade. I attended my first camp of Kids4Peace in 2009 when I was eleven. Kids4Peace is an interfaith and cross-cultural Jerusalem-based organization comprised of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian youth that focuses on conflict resolution, mending the broken situation of the Middle East, and uniting peacefully to make a difference that will impact the world. It almost seems unfair to make an attempt to define this organization, for words seem unable to express the profound impact and true significance of this organization. I have found that there are certain moments and experiences throughout life that catch us by surprise. They affect us in ways we don’t anticipate and change the course of our lives and how we choose to live them forever. Kids4Peace was definitely one of those journeys in my life.

EmilyAtCouncil

At the first camp, I was completely submerged into one of the most safe, open, and loving environments I have ever been exposed to. After a lot of reflection, I have found that the first camp is a lot about realization. We began to break down the wall of intolerance that has been crammed into our minds until that wall shatters altogether because of the realization that “they” are just people.  began to recognize and determine what needs change in the world upon the realization that places, people, and societies throughout the globe need change.

We begin to have faith in human kind and gain the confidence to transform our violent and unjust surroundings into a land that we can feel content with due to the realization that one person has the ability to make a difference in the world through peace and communication.

This past summer I was fortunate to be able to attend the Kids4Peace Leadership Camp. The first camp is about figuring out what needs to change, and Leadership Camp is about learning how to dissect, understand, and execute that change. This camp goes much farther in depth into the conflict and the more intimate and sensitive topics. We acquired skills related to every aspect of leadership itself, communication, and compromising. The concept of peace has the tendency to come off fake and cliché. One of the things I have learned is that conflict isn’t necessarily wrong. A speaker who visited my camp this summer told us something that really stuck with me. She said, “Conflict isn’t bad. Conflict is healthy. Conflict is normal. However violence is not.” These camps have helped me to understand the motivation, causes, and dynamics of conflict itself. Understanding conflict is the first step before attempting to resolve it.

One of the most tragic elements of the nature of conflict is the continuation over generations. People grip onto hatred, resentment, prejudice, and burden themselves because that’s all they know. This cycle is not easy to break. However, one of the most amazing epiphanies I have had is that this pattern occurs with peace as well as hatred. Humans aren’t bred with that hatred inside them.

This camp begins the chain and process of peacemaking at an age before that toxic hate has the chance to penetrate their loving hearts. It plants the seed of reconciliation and unity in the middle of a battlefield.

As we grow and evolve, peace has different meanings to us. We associate peace differently, and our understanding of it deepens as we learn. Kids4Peace has helped me with this. It has helped me to sort out and analyze the wadded knot of emotion and observations into skills and these “realizations” throughout my journey of peace. This path doesn’t have an end because peace doesn’t have an end.

Peace lasts. Peace makes a mark. That’s why Kids4Peace is so life changing.

Kids4Peace paved the way of truth, harmony, and acceptance. It is up to us now to choose whether or not to trek down the road of understanding together until we achieve our desire: peace.

Thank you.

by Emily Combs (Christian – St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church),
2009 Atlanta Camper, 2013 Leadership Camp Participant

Jerusalem Continuation Weekends – Fall 2012

Leap and Roots both had incredible weekend experiences in the last two weeks. Roots dove into the questions and intricacies of “Identity” while overlooking a beautiful view of the Dead Sea in Ein Gedi. Leap developed a new definition of “Friendship” as the group went away together for the first time and had a blast at Neve Shalom-Wahat al Salaam! Special thanks to Naomi and Reeham for coordinating such fun and meaningful experiences. We are already looking forward to the Leap and Roots weekends this coming spring.

 

Continuation – Fall Meetings

Kids4Peace “Roots” met last week, formerly known as Continuation 2, and the kids could not have been more excited to get back in touch after a long summer away from each other. The meeting took place at the Anglican School in Jerusalem, a familiar locale where Bisli and Bamba eating comes naturally to Kids4Peace. After taking a few minutes to mingle, Continuation Coordinators Naomi and Reeham led icebreakers as an excuse for the kids to practice their English and hear about each others summers.

Counselor Guy Saar Ruso then led the group through a storytelling activity, in which the kids participated so enthusiastically they could almost not speak through the roaring laughter. The evening culminated with the annual “Commercial Break”, as Roots divided into groups to create skits that will act as commercials to encourage First Year participants to stay in the program for years to come. The competition was tough, but Souwr, Miral, Carla, Tamara, Thelet, and Angela’s group won the prize and will be performing their commercial this week!

‘Kids 4 Peace’ brings Muslims, Jews and Christians to Camp Allen

By Luke Blount | July 23, 2012

[Diocese of Texas] Over the past decade, countless conventions, meetings and summits have been held in search of a long-lasting peace between faith communities in Israel and Palestine, but for the children who take part in Kids 4 Peace, the solution seems simple because they experience it every day.

Kids 4 Peace is a interfaith program developed through the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem andSt. George’s College in Jerusalem that brings together Christian, Jewish and Muslim children from the Holy Land and the United States to take part in summer camps. The first camp took place in 2002 at Camp Allen, and 10 years later, Kids 4 Peace returned to the Diocese of Texas to inaugurate an annual gathering for interfaith education.

Typically, 12 children, four of each faith, come together from Jerusalem along with 12 from the United States. They live, play, work and worship together for two weeks while exploring their similarities and differences. Currently, Kids 4 Peace has five two-week summer camps across the United States.

“Ten years ago we had this dream of a summer camp where children would have the chance to meet each other face-to-face, cross the lines of conflict, learn about each other’s lives and religions and lay the groundwork for a better future,” said the Rev. Josh Thomas, executive director.

Children from the Holy Land and the United States work together to conquer the ropes course at Camp Allen during “Kids 4 Peace” interfaith camp. Photo/Diocese of Texas

Looking at the group at Camp Allen in July, it was hard to tell which kids came from which country or religion. They liked the same games, wore the same clothes and spoke at least some English. During dinner one evening, they all sang along to a pop song from the British/Irish band, One Direction, belting out the signature line “You don’t know you’re beautiful” in unison.

“We are all friends,” said 12-year-old Eliya, a Jew from Jerusalem. “Jews, Christians, Muslims. That’s how it is supposed to be, so it’s good.”

The children spent the week observing the practices of other faiths including Jewish Shabbat prayers, Muslim prayers and an Episcopal Eucharist. After each service, they asked and answered questions to learn more about the three faiths.

Building friendships and seeking common ground came easily for the Kids 4 Peace throughout the week. They conquered physical challenges as well as emotional ones. One of the first activities they participated in together was Camp Allen’s challenge course and giant swing. The children had to work together, encourage and help each other to climb obstacles and ride a zip line more than 50 yards.

Kids 4 Peace campers engage in discussion with an adult leader. Photo/Diocese of Texas

“It’s fun because I’m not thinking, ‘They are not from my religion,’” said Eyal, another 12-year-old Jew from Jerusalem. “I don’t think like that.

Crossing cultural barriers is the central theme of the Kids 4 Peace camp, and Thomas sees a uniting principle that all three faiths can rally around.

“Kids 4 Peace’s bottom line message is that all the children of Abraham can live together in peace,” Thomas said. “Peace and being a peacemaker is a priority and an imperative of each religious tradition on its own as well as something that is strengthened by our time together.”

Throughout the week, the children displayed endless curiosity and love for each other. If one of them upset another, they were quick to forgive and forget. If another needed encouragement, they would gather together to cheer each other on. The ease with which they achieved a common understanding and the joy they expressed at every moment of the day leads one to wonder if these children could teach adults.

“Adults could learn that maybe not everyone from a certain place or group is bad,” said 12-year-old Serifat, a Muslim from Houston. “We are just like everybody else.”

“A lot of adults are not nice,” Eliya said. “I would just tell them not to behave like that because it’s not nice, and if we keep doing that, the world will never have peace.”

“If you are fighting because of different religions, it’s not a good example for anything,” Eyal said. “It’s just not the right thing to do.”

The simplicity of their message may seem trite when compared with the complexity of the conflict in Israel and Palestine, but perhaps they are on to something.

“I often say the Kids 4 Peace is the closest thing I have experienced to a glimpse at the reign of God,” Thomas said. “The ease at which they come together and form relationships is so natural that it offers a glimpse into human possibility of what we are here on this earth for. It feels as if they have been waiting their whole lives for this chance to be together.”

Thomas thinks that peacefulness is the natural state of these children, and if they can harness it at a young age, they can carry it into adulthood with a deeper understanding of what it means to be different, yet so similar. Kids 4 Peace conducts a continuation program in Jerusalem for 13- to 14-year-olds as well as a new leadership program for older teenagers to learn peace building skills as they transition to adulthood.

“It is possible to love your enemies,” Thomas said. “It really is possible to cross beyond those things that divide people and learn about one another. We can value each other’s dignity and worth while respecting differences.”

Visit the Kids 4 Peace website to learn more about the camps.

— Luke Blount is a staff writer and communications specialist for the Diocese of Texas.

Peace Builders: “We refuse to abandon the prayer and the dream”

“We in Kids4Peace believe, that here in Jerusalem, in a country 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.” – Yakir Englander, Director of Kids4Peace Jerusalem

Interfaith youth program demonstrates a culture of peace

From the spring issue of Pathways, the journal of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta.

BUILDING A NEW CULTURE OF PEACE

Nitzan came to Kids4Peace when she was 12. Her father, an Israeli bus driver, was injured when a suicide bomb exploded on his bus in Jerusalem. He brought Nitzan to Kids4Peace because he didn’t want her to grow up to hate Palestinians. For the last five years, Nitzan has been part of our community of young peacebuilders—Jews, Christians and Muslims—who are learning to trust one another, forge friendships across the lines of conflict, and work together for a better future.

“Peace is possible,” Nitzan believes, “but it is very hard to get it.” After coming to a Kids4Peace camp in North Carolina and then attending three years of follow-up programs in Jerusalem, Nitzan saw the fruits of her involvement at the first-ever Kids4Peace Leadership Camp for older teens that she attended last summer in Vermont. “We worked on it a long time, and now we are listening and saying what is in our hearts,” she says.

Founded in Jerusalem in 2002, Kids4Peace is a global youth movement, committed to developing a community of interfaith leaders equipped with the knowledge, skills and relationships to build— together—a new culture of peace. In the past 10 years, nearly 700 Jewish, Christian and Muslim children from Jerusalem and the United States have attended Kids4Peace summer camps, hosted by local chapters of Kids4Peace in Atlanta, Boston, North Carolina, Vermont and Houston.

At each Kids4Peace camp, 12 children from Jerusalem (Jews, Christians and Muslims, all about age 12) travel to the United States and join 12 American “peace pals” for a two-week peace education experience.

CAMP MIKELL HOSTS KIDS4PEACE

Kids4Peace Atlanta is blessed to hold its programs at Camp Mikell, the Diocese of Atlanta’s camp and conference center, during its junior camp session. The unconditional love and warm welcome of Mikell staff and counselors create the safe place for children of different religions and cultures to become friends.

In the mornings, while Camp Mikell is having its Christian education programs, Kids4Peace meets separately for interfaith education activities and team- building challenges. After lunch, Kids4Peace joins the rest of Camp Mikell for canteen, swimming, sports, art, and evening programs. They even bring some Israeli and Arab music to share at the evening dances.

“The program works because it invokes “a blessed formula,” said the Rev. Wendy Porter Cade, director of the Kids4Peace Atlanta camp and middle school chaplain at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School. “Interfaith kids from the Middle East who have no business being friends, plus American kids who don’t know anything outside of themselves, plus adults who believe that peace is possible, plus the crazy dream that religion can be the thing that unites us and not divide us … it’s working.”

Read the full article online here 

 

 

Kids4Peace North Carolina Receives Bishop’s Medal

Kids4Peace received the 2012 Bishop’s Medal during the Eucharist at the 196th Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina.

Kids4Peace is a powerful peace program in which 12 Muslim, Jewish and Christian children from Jerusalem fly to one of four American camp sites to join 12 of their American peers for two weeks of summer fun, faith-sharing and learning about each other.

During the summer of 2012, Kids4Peace-North Carolina campers attended a minor league baseball game, learned teamwork through a creek walk and ropes course, attended each other’s places of worship, and celebrated their common ancestor, Abraham, through a tent celebration.

The goal of Kids4Peace is to teach children from conflict-ridden Israel/Palestine to recognize their commonalities, both spiritually and personally, and to promote peace in their homeland. Once children attend Kids4Peace, they continue to be involved in leadership and peace training throughout their adolescent years. Many even later return as camp counselors.

Watch the Kids4Peace North Carolina Video

Watch the Award Ceremony

Kids4Peace Leadership Camp 2011

Kids4Peace Leadership Camp Celebrates First Year

July’s Leadership Camp at Acer Farm in Brattleboro was nothing short of amazing.  The Muslim, Jewish and Christian teens, counselors, volunteers and guest educators harmonized to produce important breakthroughs in their relationships and understandings.  The twelve days together in Vermont were a powerful time, and the positive feedback has been overwhelming.

The Leadership Camp’s goals were threefold.   1) To develop greater responsibility, initiative, self-expression, communal awareness and good-will in each individual.  2) To deepen personal, national and religious connections between American, Israeli and Palestinian youth.  3) To strengthen the campers personally, intellectually and spiritually to be effective leaders and peacemakers for a future beyond the status quo.

Personal Development:  The political and religious challenges in Israel and Palestine are complex, and substantive transformation requires maturity.  The Camp program focused on developing that maturity.  Our daily leadership seminar taught positive communication and conflict management skills.  Regular group counseling and learning sessions with guest educators like Ambassador Philip Wilcox, Imam Bilal and military officers Erez and Nour fostered both self-expression and communal awareness.  Chores of cooking and cleaning reinforced personal responsibility and accountability to the group.  The purpose was to nurture the teenager’s character and confidence in order to realize that history’s conclusions are not forgone and they are not obliged to perpetuate their grandparents’ war.

Deeper Relationships: Personal relationships are everything in the Middle East.  They are how one navigates impenetrable bureaucracies and limited opportunities.  The Camp’s small size, high adult-camper ratio, daily routines, recreational and religious programs focused on encouraging those essential relationships.  Over the course of twelve days the campers argued and played, confronted each other and themselves, laughed and prayed.  They shared meals and worship, learned to canoe and horseback ride, and listened to the truth and made new friends.  With the result that even when the group reached bitter impasse, they refused the temptation to give up on each other’s humanity or on our God’s promise of peace.  The peace of Jerusalem will be built on that trust.

Effective Leadership: Overcoming the knotty obstacles to peace for two peoples and three religions in one land will require creative leaders.  The Camp’s program challenged these Muslim, Christian and Jewish teens to learn their limits as leaders and to expand them.  Integrated rooming arrangements and interactions with religious leaders helped them confront bigotry and moral indifference.  (Imagine speaking to an imam for the first time.)  Learning new sports and frank conversation in the group counseling sessions helped them confront fear.  (Imagine walking in a dark forest for the first time.)   Wrestling with the presentations of diplomats, philosophers, politicians and military officers helped them see a truth and a possibility for their land beyond what they have known.  (Imagine acknowledging the justice of your enemy’s cause for the first time.)  The key to peace is leadership.

How do we measure the camp’s success?  It is a good question, and at this early stage of our work, our answer can only be if one of teenagers responds deeply to the program and commits his or her self to peacemaking either as a clergy person, politician, aid-worker or camp counselor then that is the mark of success.  We are delighted to report that not one but three of our teens returned home to Jerusalem intending to become committed peacemakers!

God’s grace abounded throughout the entire effort.  Among the other life-giving surprises we experienced were the forging of dynamic partnerships with Kids4PeaceUSA, Combatants for Peace, the Foundation for Middle East Peace, and the Building Abrahamic Partnerships Program at Hartford Seminary; witnessing the wisdom and ability of the counseling staff; designing and painting a highway billboard that will hang around the country, courtesy of Barrett Outdoor Communications; and the filming and production of a short video about the camp, courtesy of Brooklawn Productions.

The two great strengths of the Leadership Camp at Acer Farm are the small, carefully selected group and the religious emphasis.  The former allows for an intense, transformative experience.  The latter emphasis opens up a powerful but largely neglected resource for Mid-East peacemaking.  We plan to leverage both these strengths for the benefit of the campers and staff next year’s July camp.

Thank you for your prayers, encouragement and generous support.  We believe that the history of Jerusalem is the history of the world.  Peace is possible in Jerusalem, but peace is for the strong.  Therefore it requires patience and determination, and this is always difficult.  We hope that you will choose to remain part of this pioneer work.

By The Rev. Nicholas Porter
Camp Coordinator & Host

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]