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.

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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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!

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

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?

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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!

“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!)

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.

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.

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.”

What if Trading Cards Could Change the World?

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

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


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

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

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

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

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Filed under: Chapters, Seattle

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.

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

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