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.

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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:


Remembering Ahmad Amara

Ahmad Amara
May 1926- February 2014


Ahmad’s accounts of growing up on the Palestine’s coastal city of Jaffa included pleasant memories of visits by Jewish friends to his grandfather’s orange grove.

One of his earliest memories is of visiting his mother in the hospital shortly before she died, when he was 5 years old. “The passing away of my mother had a great deal of influence in what I wanted to do with my life,” Amara said. “It had a great effect on me.”

In a less peaceful vein, Ahmad recalled harsh curfews imposed on Arab towns by the British after the riots which followed the Palestinian General Strike in 1936, later known as the first Intifada, and his father’s arrest when he was at market ordering fruits and vegetables for his family.

His father, who graduated from the French Lycee, preferred that Ahmad attend the Friends Boys School in Ramallah for his final two years of secondary school. He then went to the American University in Beirut, Lebanon, But the war in Palestine broke out, therefore he went to University of Edinburgh, Scotland for medical school.

In the war, his father lost his business and his land, and Amara had to settle on a degree in microbiology.  He also holds degrees from the University of London (Portsmouth) and Escuela Oficial de Idiomas of Madrid, Spain.

He then spent most of his adult life working at a pharmaceutical company that sent him to England, Spain, Switzerland and New Jersey.
Amara and his wife, who passed away nearly three years ago, retired to Asheville in 1989, after being drawn to the area because of Mission Hospital and the College for Seniors.
”We searched around and decided we’d come to North Carolina,” he said. “We looked around until we found Asheville and decided this is where we’ll stay. … One thing we saw, in contrast to New Jersey, was that walking on the street in Asheville, people smile at you.”

Ahmad became involved in the community, taking classes at the College for Seniors and volunteering as an interpreter and at Mission Hospital. Ahmad, who was Muslim, also started speaking about Islam and the Middle East at local churches before he was asked to teach a class at the College for Seniors. Among his courses were: Islam: Religion and Politics, Myths and Realities; History of Medieval Spain; Islam: Faith & Way of Life; Middle East Contemporary Affairs; History of the Middle East; and History of the Arab People.

Ahmad was active to the very end working on peace & justice– he was slotted to speak to the Asheville Friends Meeting on Feb. 16, 2014.

He leaves behind two daughters, Nadia and Catherine, both in the United Kingdom, and six grandchildren; and two siblings in Jordan. His ashes will rest in Edinburgh, Scotland.

He was an active member of Kids4Peace, serving as Muslim advisor for the North Carolina camp.  At the camp, Ahmad was a mentor to dozens of Muslim, Jewish and Christian youth from the USA, Jerusalem, and his native Jaffa.

This biography draws on Ahmad’s 2010 Asheville Citizen-Times story on him, his OLLI biography, and recollections by Beth Keiser.

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.


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.


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.


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

Moving toward a ‘culture of peace,’ one child at a time

Interfaith camps offer fun, peacemaking for Jerusalem, U.S. youth

[Episcopal News Service] Climbing Stone Mountain in the Georgia humidity and triple-digit heat was one of the hardest things 11-year-old Miller had ever done — but he managed just fine, with a little help from his newfound friends.

There were nearly two dozen of them, in fact; 11- to 13-year-old Muslims, Jews and Christians, from Jerusalem and the United States, who learned about each other’s faith traditions and lives during a recent two-week Kids4Peace summer camp experience in Atlanta.

“I really thought a lot about peace in the world, and about violence,” after scaling the rocky summit, added Miller, who resides in Powder Springs, Georgia. “Because when we were on top of Stone Mountain, looking out into the world, everything was okay. Nothing was wrong.”

Which was partly why Kids4Peace was founded in 2002 through the efforts of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and collaborative U.S. partners, according to the Rev. Josh Thomas, executive director of Kids4Peace USA, during a July 17 telephone interview.

About 450 kids have participated in the program in the nine years since the first session, at Camp Allen in the Diocese of Texas. This year, the agency organized summer peace camps for a total of 48 Jerusalem youth. Groups of 12 Jerusalem youth — four each Muslim, Christian and Jewish — are sent to a campsite, either in Atlanta, North Carolina, Boston or Vermont.

While in the United States, the 12 visitors, whose last names are withheld to protect their safety, enjoy camp activities and educational experiences with equal numbers of their American counterparts. This year, 150 Jerusalem youth applied for the 48 spaces, Thomas said.

There is also a continuation program offered for 13- to 14-year-olds after the initial camp experience, which includes educational activities, dialogue and community service to help nurture a culture of peace, Thomas added.

New this year is a leadership camp, held in Brattleboro, Vermont, about 150 miles south of Burlington, to teach additional peacemaking skills to 14 to 16 year olds who’ve been through the initial camp experience, he said. Eleven youth, including eight from Jerusalem, are participating in the camp, which officially got underway July 18.

Sasha, 15, a Palestinian Christian, said she hoped the leadership program would equip her “to go back home with a lot of knowledge. I hope I can get many points of view, not only my point of view. I don’t want to listen to the same point of view as mine. And I want to have fun.”

Despite loving her initial camp experience, she found returning home changed things. “I really like the Jewish kids, but when I went back home, I didn’t feel comfortable enough to be close to them,” she said.

“In the camp we all feel equal because we’re in America and there’s no checkpoints … (but) I have a lot of friends who live behind the checkpoints and the walls, and I can’t see them. It’s been two years and I haven’t seen my best friend in Ramallah.”

Hassan, 16, is Muslim and lives in a predominantly Jewish area of Jerusalem. He hopes “that each one of us can go back home with a new experience and new knowledge and be confident in himself and be able to change the area where he lives. That if he doesn’t like it, he’ll have the courage to go and try to change it.”

Peace, for him, would be “for everybody to walk in the streets wherever they want without any limits, without being controlled or stopped or looked at in a bad way or cursed at. That’s what I think peace would be like.”

The program is hoping to expand U.S. campsite sponsors next year, Thomas said. It costs about $65,000 to host a camp, most of which is spent on airfare.

“This is a grassroots organization that relies on the kids and families as the source of this movement,” Thomas said in a telephone interview from Vermont. “We’re trying to think of it less as a program and more as a movement towards lasting peace in the Holy Land and beyond.”

In Atlanta near the end of her two-week camp, Noa, a 12-year-old Jewish girl from Jerusalem, said July 15 that the experience had taught her a great deal about herself, as well as others.

“I learned about other religions, very interesting things, but most of the things that I learned were about myself, that I can spend two weeks without my parents,” she said. “And I learned that Arab kids are not bad people. Jewish kids are not bad people, and we lose a friend if we think they are bad.”

Fares, 11, a Christian from Jerusalem said “making peace is important, because without peace it’s only violence and it’s like hate for everybody. My hope is that all the world can live in peace … and that I can be a leader in Kids4Peace.”

And for Miller, 11, of Powder Springs, who got involved with Kids4Peace “because it’s not every day you can meet kids from Jerusalem,” there were lots of surprises.

Among them, “they’re a lot like us. They wear the same clothes. They have MP3 players, computers, X-boxes. This has been a cool experience.”

The Rev. Wendy Porter Cade, co-director of Kids4Peace Atlanta, said the camp has worked because “middle-schoolers are magic, authentic … they absorb everything, miss nothing, hate phonies, crave harmony. Just as soon as they kick a hole in the wall or break down in a fit of tears, they will be leading a game of four square or holding a friend’s hand or spontaneously helping clean the kitchen.”

Cade, in her first year as director of the Atlanta program, has been involved in various with Kids4Peace since 2008. The programs works because it invokes “a blessed formula — 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,” she said in an e-mail to ENS.

Noting that one of the many camp outings included a visit to the King Center for Social Change, she added: “Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream of the blessed community is really happening. It’s not as easy as black and white. It’s not overnight. It’s a movement. It’s rippling through the lives of 12-year-olds from Atlanta to Boston to Vermont to Jerusalem.”

— The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. She is based in Los Angeles.

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]