Global Institute 2016

For eight days in July, a delegation of 28 Palestinian, Israeli and American youth met in Washington, DC, for an intensive program in advocacy and social action.  Check out this day-by-day report!

 

Day #1

The first full day at the Global Institute was an exciting and busy one. Starting the day at the Church of Epiphany, participants were put into groups, each based on a famous activist, and discussed their thoughts and emotions with Kids4Peace Staff. The staff asked questions such as “what do you need to feel supported?” and “when you hear the word ‘leadership’, how does that make you feel?”. Participants had no issue opening up to one another, some sharing that they were at first nervous about going to Washington, D.C. for the Global Institute. They were anxious about making friends and being around people they didn’t know. However, they were able to realize the value of the experience and overcame that anxiety.

Dina and Devorah are a perfect example of how easily friendships were made in the first day of the program. When describing why she decided to join the Global InstiNew Friendstute, Dina said that she “grew up in a small town where not a lot of people know about my religion. The Global Institute is a great opportunity to talk to people about it.” She added that “having this opportunity at our age is amazing; it’s a new generation and change starts with us”. Devorah, on the other hand, explained how she grew up in a very diverse part of Israel. “Kids4Peace has always been a part of my household, but I realize not everyone has opportunities like this”. While listening to Scott Rechler from LearnServe international speak to them about social entrepreneurship, groups of participants were told to think of something that makes them mad, then create a solution to the issue that bothers the entire group the most. They presented their ideas through skits to the rest of the Global Institute. Next, the participants took a quick trip on the metro to the U.S Department of State. For many, this was their first time riding the D.C. metro. At the State Department, participants were able to listen to Shaun Casey, U.S. Special representative for Religion and Global Affairs, Ira Forman, Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, and Arsalan Suleman, U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, discuss their jobs and how they cared about issues relating to the participants. Participants were then able to ask questions talk about Kids4Peace. Dina later described the visit to the State Department as “an amazing opportunity to hear everyone’s opinions”, while Devorah said that the Officials were “really respecting of and interested in what we had to say”.

Next, the group walked to meet with officials from USAID. When Dave Harden entered the room, participants were filled with joy to see a familiar face; many had seen him recently at an Iftar in Jerusalem.When Harden asked the participants how they are going to change the world, many were eager to answer.Describing the experience, Devorah said, “I learned that a lot of people have different ideas on how to make change, and the other participants are very passionate.” Dina agreed and said that “people kept adding onto one another, and everyone’s ideas made each other’s better.” Harden wrapped up the meeting by telling the Global Institute that they are very powerful, as proven by how many important people want to meet them, and that they should share their ideas with the officials they meet because they are very influential.

After meeting with USAID, the Global Institute walked back to the Church of Epiphany to eat dinner with New Story Leadership. They were able to have discussions with a group of Israeli and Palestinian activists just 10-years older than themselves. This group was visiting the US in order to share their stories and gain skills to make change.
When describing the day Dina said that “everyone was very welcoming, and everyone shares the same goal”.

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Although the participants are tired after a long and exciting day, they remain optimistic for the days ahead.

Day #2

The Second Day of the Global Institute was full of meeting new people. In the morning, the participants were split into two groups to do community service; one group went to One Acre Farm while the other went to DC Central Kitchen. At One Acre Farm, a produce farm in Maryland, participants helped dig up potatoes, which would then be sent to a city school called Simon’s School. Lana Lana, who was a part of this group, spoke positively about her experience at the Farm. She said that “Farmer Mike introduced himself and said that we would be digging for potatoes by hand, and that because of all the rain they would have to do more work than expected; just like in life how unexpected things happen”. Lana said they dug potatoes for about an hour and a half, and she really enjoyed it. “Similar to how in life, things take time for the perfect result, potatoes take one hundred days to grow. Before I never thought about potatoes that way” she explained. Adam went with the other group to D.C. Central Kitchen, where food is produced to be sent to homeless shelters, transitional homes, and nonprofit organizations in the D.C. area. When they arrived, they talked to the CEO of the organization for about an hour, then some participants went to bake cakes while others went to chop celery. Afterwards, there was a buffet for the participants to celebrate their work and eat lunch themselves. Adam said of his experience that “I didn’t know what was going to happen but it was really fun and we felt that we were doing something good for the community. I liked this place because there were people from prison or people that are homeless and everyone was treated the same. It felt good to give myself to the community.”

After the community service activities, the Global Institute headed back to the Church of Epiphany for a Jummah Prayer with Imam Suhaib Webb. The church was full of people praying and observing those praying. The Imam spoke about current events as well as how the Muslim community must bring peace through their actions, even encouraging those who attended to go to the Catholic mass on Sunday in order to show solidarity. Adam explained his perspective Central Kitchenon the service. “I’ve been to Muslim Prayers before, but this was a big prayer.” When asked what he thought about the Imam bringing politics into the service, he said that “I don’t think it’s a good idea if the people don’t have another option [of service] to go to.” Lana expressed her opinion by saying “the prayer part I really liked, because it defines what peace means to me; the Christian church having a Muslim service.” She added on that “we’re here to support each other, not to segregate humankind.” However, she was not a fan the Imam talking about politics. “My personal opinion is to not put politics into religion, because that may influence a person’s religion.” Adam agreed and expressed that it “made me me very mad when the speaker at the service talked about how Palestinian kids are being slaughtered, but that may make people think certain ways about the other side. It may be best to not say it at all.” Shayan, another participant, spoke highly of the Imam after the service. “I started listening to his lectures when I was 12 and he’s been a role model for me ever since. He’s very relatable, and he helped me love my religion and going to the mosque. I think him talking about politics is good as he’s trying to speak to the Muslim community as a whole because that’s what we need to hear; speaking together and reaching out to other faiths. I think that’s what me and many other people believe will stop the hatred.”

During a brief community meeting where participants and staff shared feedback and developed a community agreement, Lana explained how “we all discussed how some people wanted to change the schedule, so everybody was able to use their leadership skills to advocate for themselves and what they believe in even though other people may disagree”. Participants ate a light dinner before heading to the Sixth&I Synagogue for Shabbat. There, participants listened or participated in Jewish prayer, and staff members of K4P gave speeches sharing their connections to Jerusalem. The night ended with a second dinner, where participants chatted with guests of the Shabbat whom they had never met before. There was plenty of laughing and good food.

Day #3

The third day of the Global Institute and Shabbat started out with discussion circles, in which participants were given a variety of quotes about leadership and were asked to chose which meant the most to them and why. Participants were able to discuss the religious experiences they had in the days prior, compared to the religious experiences they typically have at home. They also were asked to visualize a ladder of progress and discussed what causes them to move up or down on this ladder, as well as who they have seen move upward throughout the Global Institute. Facilitator, Jill Levenfeld described the situation perfectly when she said that “simply by being here we are all taking a step forward”IMG_0878 (1)

The Global Institute then split into two groups; the participants from Jerusalem and the participants from America. The American group learned in more detail about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while the other group was able to discuss their travel experiences, in which the Palestinian
kids had to go through close security examinations, as well as other topics. Nina, a participant at the Global Institute, explained this experience. “This was the first time I was stopped. They stopped us because we are Palestinians. When we had the discussion eveybody was bothered about what happened because everyone went through it, but by the end I felt good because everything that I had in me went out and I felt a little bit relaxed.”

The two groups then joined together for a meditation session with Jayne Sutton, of the Shambhala Center. Another participant, Mohammed, described the session. “The meditation was unique. I wasn’t thinking about anything and was listening to what she was saying, while taking deep breaths. It felt like only a minute went by.” Nina described the session. “Meditation was really relaxing, and actually when I did it and closed my eyes I felt like I was in a different world. It was a good thing to do during the program, if we had it every day I would do that.” While some of the participants were sleepy and may have used the time for a quick nap, the majority gained a skill to use for relaxation throughout their careers as activists. Shoshana, assistant program director, explained that having good methods of relaxation is important for people doing peace work and activism, as it is exhausting work in which you need to give your full self.
Following the meditation, Jordan Denari Duffner, a Catholic voice on Muslim-Christian relations, Islamophobia, and interfaith dialogue, and Usra, a Global Institute staff member, discussed how to talk to people who are close-minded or think a certain way that you don’t agree with. Jordan talked about how Islam helped her love her own religion, Christianity, even more. Participants then shared their experiences with people who don’t think like them, and Usra and Jordan gave helpful tips on how to communicate. Mohammed said on the discussion that “Jordan was speaking about how some people who don’t understand the religion say things before they even meet a person or get to know them. She said you want to have something to connect the religion that is different from yours to your own religion.” Jordan concluded the discussion by saying that speaking with the Global Institute gives her a lot of hope.. 
After the meeting, participants walked through the D.C. heat and around the monuments, which ended with the Martin Luther King Memorial.

After a plentiful amount of photos, the Global Institute met up with two young men, Ricky and Max from an organization called Operation Understanding DC (OUDC.) They explained that OUDC is based upon the idea of bringing together African American and Jewish youth to combat racism and Anti-Semitism. They then led an activity that demonstrated what privilege is and how everyone is privileged in a different way.DSC_0533

Despite the wind, participants made it back to the church without being caught in an oncoming storm. Aaron Jenkins, known as AJ, met the participants for dinner. He is the Director of the Center for Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Department of Commerce, and had a lot to say about peace among religions and erasing racism. His energy and enthusiasm captured the participants’ attention instantly, starting with him asking what superpower they would pick if they could choose any one. Participants gave answers such as invisibility and reading minds. One participant wanted the power “change the world instantly”, and the others voiced their agreement. Aaron Jenkins made it clear to the participants that they need to find their superpower, no matter what it is. He also explained the importance of asking the question ‘why?’ frequently to learn as much as possible with every opportunity. After discussing the Black Lives Matter movement, one participant asked, “how do you erase racism?”. He responded by saying “with all of me, everyday and everywhere”. The connection between the peace movements in the Middle East and in the United States was shown to be very strong. After AJ was done speaking, participants were eager to talk with him; taking selfies, friending him on social media, and asking questions. Mohammed spoke about the experience very enthusiastically. “I like the way he started to approach everybody, being humorous and trying to make a bond before giving the lecture. I’m going to start using the question ‘why?’ now because that leads to endless possibilities and answers.” After Shabbat ended, participants held a brief talent show to end the day. While the day was restful, the people who the participants met and the activities they did left an impression on the Global Institute that will last.

Day #4

Service Projects were the first task on Day 4, half of the participants went to D.C. Central Kitchen and the other half went to the shower ministry at Mount Vernon Place Church of Worship. Those who went to D.C. Central Kitchen helped cook for those in need, while participants at the shower ministry worked hard doing cleaning duties. Kadijah, a participant in the Global Institute, described her experience. “Today in the morning I helped with the church’s shower ministry which gives homeless people a place to shower. It made me feel accomplished and proud, and more motivated to do similar activities and events in my community for the homeless. I really liked the fact that we were welcomed into the church. IMG_0901They gave us a shout out during the service, recognizing the work that we did. Participating in all of this community service makes me feel very proud and accomplished. I enjoy doing work like this and it pushes me to do more work for my community.” Tia, a participant in the Global Institute, described her experience. “It actually felt boring at first, but then when I started thinking about how we were helping people, it felt amazing. I got to hear a story about a women– she told us her name and how we are doing something important and how it means a lot to her. I was thinking about when walking through DC the people in suits with money weren’t that happy; when you walk by those people and say hi they don’t say hi back. And when I saw the women laughing and making jokes, she seemed like the happiest woman ever. She’s homeless. They say money can’t buy happiness. I also realized how much my mom works when she cleans the bathroom; it’s hard to clean.” Participants then attended a church service, where they heard the pastor speak about the necessity of play in our everyday lives. Tia, spoke in front of the entire service on what Kids4Peace is. “It was a bit scary talking in front of all these people, but the fact that my friends were in front of me, I got the courage. It was so cool and different.” After the service, participants split into discussion circles; Jerusalem participants and American participants. Khadijah, from Seattle, was in the American group. In the group, she said “being African American and coming from a low income community, I definitely have been exposed to different situations than most kids in the group. Looking around and being in this kind of environment, it definitely makes me want to push harder and succeed.” Tia, who was in the Jerusalem group, shared her thoughts. “We were talking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and trying to find a solution. The one solution that most of us talked about and argued about is the two-state solution and how we can make it better. At that point I realized that when it comes to talking about peace, it isn’t the same side of them as when you’re playing and laughing with them. We also talked about what Kids4Peace is, it’s goal, and where it would stand if there was a two-state solution. Some of them responded K4P would have done its job by making peace. Some responded that K4P is a place where we meet people, [and we should] not to let go even after peace is made.”

Next, special guests from The Sanctuaries came to visit participants to talk and make art together. The Sanctuaries is a community that uses art to address the issues of race and religion, and to empower the D.C. community to be forces of social change. Each group worked on a different activity; writing raps or stories, drawing, or creating prayers. Tia was in the drawing group. “We chose a picture that represents a blackDSC_0638 man with police behind him. The guy is the center of attention in the picture and he is making a heart with his hands. We split that picture into eight pieces and we each drew the piece of the picture. We all drew the way we drew. At the end we glued the pieces together, and they were all different. We realized that we all see with different perspective and we all have our own way of thinking.” As the guests left, participants expressed their thanks.

To end the day, Mati Amin from School of Leadership Afghanistan spoke to participants about his work with the first and only girl’s boarding school in Afghanistan. He discussed the challenges he faces, which include security and finding qualified teachers, as well as how his background led him to this career. Participants asked many questions which continued during dinner. Khadijah expressed her admiration for his work; “What he did was very courageous, especially for the women who are advocating for their education.” Tia agreed and said “that was the most interesting thing of the day.” Khadijah summed up her experiences of the day and at the program so far. “I had a very good day. I really enjoyed the discussions, the interviews, the lectures and the activities. The Global Institute is a way for me to interact with people different from my faith and nationality. I like finding common ground with people who are different me… who actually are not so different from me. I’m able to travel, which I always love. And having seminars about serious topics expands my knowledge and perspectives.”

Day #5

Day 5 began with a visit at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. There, participants heard speakers David Makovsky and Ghaith al-Omari speak to them about negotiations and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One participant, Zeina, shared her experience at WINEP. “I felt like when Ghaith was talking, I felt like I had the same understanding that heDSC_0654 did, because he knew what Palestinians thought about what was happening. I also learned about more the conflict that I didn’t know before.” Mutaz, another participant, said the experience was interesting  “especially when they said there couldn’t be a solution for both sides, that’s a clue that it is so complicated that it needs more effort to be solved. But there were parts that I agree with and disagree with.”
The group then had the opportunity to go shopping in the Metro Center Area, so they split into small groups and headed on their merry way. Mutaz said that he “liked it because there were more shops here than in Jerusalem, I especially liked Nando’s.” Zeina agreed and said it was a “good break from what we’ve been doing.” Next, the Institute met with Kevin Rachlin, a lobbyist and Kids4Peace Board Member, to help them prepare for lobbying in Congress the following day. He gave participants tips on how to have conversations with Staffers in Congress. Then, Daniel May joined the participants to show them the importance of storytelling and how to be successful storytellers. Each participant was told to create their story, and then several shared and were given feedback. Zeina said that she “liked listening to the stories; they make me learn more about people. It makes me know people’s personalities.”

Lastly, the participants did further prep for the legislative visits the next day. They did role play, guided by Daniel May, to act out how the visits may go. The energy in the room was heightened, participants were nervous and excited for the chance to talk about Kids4Peace, H.R. 1489, and their own stories in Congress. Bill H.R. 1489 was introduced to the House last March and proposes the creation of an International Fund for Israeli Palestinian Peace. It is modeled after a similar fund in created to build civil society peace in Ireland. While things started out slowly, by the end of the night the students were prepared for the big day ahead!DSC_0722

Day #6

The sixth day of the Global Institute began with a visit at the United States Institute for Peace, where participants met with Ambassador David Saperstein, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom and Mike Yaffe, Senior Advisor, Special Envoy to Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations. There, several participants were asked to share their stories in front of everyone at the meeting. Adan was one participant who shared her story.DSC_0806 She said that “at first I was a little nervous because I was giving this big speech and I didn’t really know how to present it and if they would like it. I’m usually pretty confident with public speaking, but this time I was slightly nervous. I was a little bit intimidated because they had such high positions and I’m just a fifteen year old girl. The story I shared was personal and I never really talked about it with anyone before. When I actually got to speaking everyone was silent and all eyes were on me. I got them to listen to me, and it was astounding… I loved it. I felt like I achieved something I was aiming for for quite a while. It really gave me the confidence to continue to not be afraid to express myself.”
Next, it was time for the big moment. Participants split into groups and prepared for legislative visits on Capitol Hill. They discussed who would share a story, tell about the HR 1489 bill that they were presenting, and who would talk about Kids4Peace. There were lots of nerves in the air, but excitement as well. One participant, Adel, shared his experience. “When we talked to the staff, I was very nervous at first because I’m not a good speaker in front of new people. And also when I was talking to the staff I stopped for a minute because I was so nervous. We were trying to pass this bill for Kids4Peace and other peace organizations so I felt responsible for talking about the bill. During the first interview I was a little nervous, but the second and third went fine. After the three meetings we had, I felt ashamed of myself because I didn’t know why I was nervous. I learned from that moment that I should be more brave because nothing bad is going to happen.” Adan shared her unique perspective on the meetings. She said that she “had to talk to three different staffers and one of them got really emotional when I told my story
And this is what I want, I want her to feel how we felt during the experience. Also I really liked how in every office there were different objects. For example the staff member of Illinois was in this really formal room so we were taking really formally. The one from Vermont had us sit wherever we want and she was more friendly and got emotional, and I liked that more.” Many participants happily discussed the success of their meetings, and the relief that they felt when they were over.

To end the busy day, Kids4Peace held a public celebration. There were many guests who participants ate dinner with, and seIMG_0934veral participants shared their stories, even receiving standing ovations. A movie, Jerusalem Voices created by Dandan Lui, a former Kids4Peace Intern, was played that shows life in Jerusalem amidst the conflict, and it features Lour, a Global Institute participant. After the film, Lour received many hugs. Adel said, “The movie was amazing and it really shows how the Palestinians are living, and I actually saw my school in there. Obviously you can see who’s dominating in Israel.” Adel also commented about the party after, “I also liked how everyone brought their own style of dancing from their own culture.” Adan added, “The party was my favorite part, because seeing how many people came out of their day to talk to us is something that really touched me. Back home most people like to criticize, but these people were totally open to listen. My favorite part was the dancing because it’s proof of how strong we are, and how Kids4Peace like home. It also shows how everyone has their own type of dancing, but we are all dancing together, and that is a metaphor for Kids4Peace.” Once most of the guests left, the participants danced the rest of the night away to the music produced by The Brother Yares. It was a bittersweet night, as the participants knew their time together coming to an end.

Day #7

The last day of the Global Institute was full of bittersweet emotions and utter exhaustion. We started the day bright and early with a trip to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House. Once through security we gathered in an incredibly decorated room with Dr. Stephen Galperin, Chanan Weissman, and Zaki Barzinji. Participants shared their stories and the hopes for the future and the staff wasIMG_2026 very responsive. Yasmine, a participant from Boston, shared her story of experiencing discrimination, based on her Muslim faith, in the United States. Maryam then pointed out that we had not met with many female officials and asked what could be done about the lack of female representation. The White House staff were quick to note that 3 out of the last four Secretaries of State have been women and that the current administration has done more for gender equality than any other before. They also made sure to note that our young leaders are part of this; they will be the future of tomorrow and strong powerful female
 leaders were in the room. After this impressive and impactful meeting we were able to tour the East Wing of The White House! A quick lunch in Lafayette Park was followed by visits to different lobbying organizations in DC. Groups split and went to JStreet, AIPAC, ANERA and AAI. In usual form the Global Institute participants asked the hard questions and learned a great deal.

After the White House and organization visits, participants met with Ami Yares to learn about the power of music in generating emotional responses to injustice and using music as a tool for social change. They listened to the lyrics of Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday and discussed how it related to the problems of racism in the South at the time. They then wrote poetry and presented it to the rest of the group.

Finally, our last visiting presenter arrived. Bill Pierce, an experienced media consultant, visited the youth to teach them about media and journalism. They learned how to conduct themselves in an interview and how to make sure their message was conveyed properly. They also learned about how press conference work and even were able to do some role-playing. After the final sessions were over, participants gathered in a circle. They were instructed to face outward of the circle and close their eyes, with several people inside the circle at the time. As the staff read different commands such as “tap someone on the circle who you shared a special moment with” or “tap someone on the shoulder who inspired you”, those in the middle would walk around the circle anonymously sharing how their positive feelings towards their peers. When the activity was over, participants shared how good it felt to be tapped on the shoulder so many times. To end the night, and the participants’ time in Washington, D.C, there was Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream, dancing, and hugs, with some tears, as well. It was a great end to a fantastic program; one where many life-long friendships were made.IMG_0976

Vermont Homestay

Kids4Peace Global Institute Teens arrived at the Burlington airport this morning greeted by the Channel 5 News Team. See the story here: Kids4Peace Arrive in Burlington

We had a picnic lunch on the Vermont State House lawn before our private tour of the building.

GI VT State House

Taking turns at the senate podium.

GI VT Senate girlsGI VT Senate boys

On the house floor.

GI VT House

The teens welcomed a day off from lobbying with legislative staffers, peace organizations, and Middle East think tanks. After some shopping and sightseeing in Montpelier, we headed to the Ben & Jerry’s Factory for a tour and ice cream!

GI VT B&J boys

Quick stop at the peace barn.

GI VT Peace Barn

On our way to our welcome dinner some teens remarked how in DC, instead of learning skills to be applied to the distant future, one of the things that was most appreciated was learning skills to be applied right away at the next meeting or interview. The teens look forward to more fun, learning, and reflection in Vermont.

Our second day in Vermont began at Champlain College with a workshop on Gender in Leadership –Lead by Selina Petschek, Lisa Ryan, and Nadine Soudah.Champlain Selina

Using worksheets and physical space, the teens thought about how gender affects personal leadership styles and different bodies of leadership: Military, NGOs, Religion.  Teens thought about how empathy changes leadership style and even entire organizations.

Champlain CollegeChamplain International Department

 

 

 

 

 

Next we met with the Champlain College International Department to talk about the admissions process to US schools and take a tour of their campus.

Champlain Creemees

The teens spent the afternoon getting to know Burlington, VT. The day ended with a basketball game and a Shabbat dinner at a host-family’s house.

The following day teens spent the day with their host family doing various different activities.

 

The Global Institute Teens 4th day began with presentations to the Williston Federated Church congregation.

Williston with Henry

The teens were very excited to spend time with Dr. Henry Ralph Carse, the founder of Kids4Peace International. He began the presentations with a moving sermon about the hope and inspiration Kids4Peace has had on the world.

After a reception in the church, we traveled to Nancy Stones’ house to pick rasberries, blueberries, and eat a delicious lunch. We spent the afternoon at the Ohavi Zedek Synagogue.

The teens presented their stories to the community. The MGMC – Muslim Girls Making Change, a group of teenage girls from the area performed several of their powerful though-provoking poems. Click below on their picture for a video of them performing Wake Up America.

MGMC 2 at OZ

 

Matan Zamir, Israel’s Deputy Consul General to New England, stopped by to meet the Global Institute Kids4Peace teens. Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s brought ice cream and scooped it himself! Everyone was excited to meet and get a picture with Vermont’s local celebrity and long-time supporter of Kids4Peace.

 

Next we practiced some trust-building acro-balance (acroyoga) and ate pizza at the beach. The teens reflected on their time in the United States. They said they learned so much and were eager to apply new skills and knowledge back home. The evening culminated with time in the water and a salsa dancing party on the beach. Finally, it was time to go home and pack for the departure the next morning.

AcroBalancegirls on beach

Safe Travels!

Jerusalem LEAP Summer Camp 2016

Day #1

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

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

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

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

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

It was really a wonderful first day!

Day #2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day #3

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

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

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

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

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

Day #4

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

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

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

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

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

Day #5

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

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

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

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

Day #6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day #7

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

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

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

It was a great day and an even better night!

Day #8

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was truly a meaningful and fun week at camp!

National Camp 2016

Kids4Peace National Camp

Burlington, Vermont

Evan Trust FallDay 1 and 2

There’s a certain kind of time warp that happens at camp. We’ve only been together for a day-and-a-half?? It feels like we’re family already!

As staff members, we come to camp thinking we have oh-so-much wisdom to impart upon young, inquiring minds. But, after 30 or so hours with these teens and pre-teens from Seattle, Vermont, and New Hampshire, we staff members are already getting a reality check and kicking it up a notch to meet the challenge of the bright and creative souls we’ve met here at Rockpoint School in Burlington, VT.
We began our day with Mindfulness & Meditation with Rev. Chelsea, our Interfaith Advisor. Have you ever seen two dozen teenagers sit still and pay attention to their breath for 30 minutes?? We have!

Hannah, our Dialogue Facilitator, watched the students wrestle with the concept of trust – when to set boundaries and when to allow themselves to be vulnerable. Their exploration of vulnerability continued as they shared with each other very personal stories about faith experiences.

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Day 3 – Creating Local Change

On the third morning of camp, we discussed different views and perspectives in the media, and the way that they influence how people think about and understand issues. We watched videos of news reports from Fox News and MSNBC and saw how the reporters’ biases impacted the story. We then talked about the subject of the reports, the Black Lives Matter movement, and about how the stories were reported differently based on the source. Just like the styles of reporting were able to shift views on the issue, we conversed about how we can broaden the understanding of people through our own actions and words. This led to a small group conversations, with others from our local chapters, about how we can change our community for the better.Media

Our ideas included
• A Spectrum Sleep Out combating youth homelessness. A Spectrum Sleep Out is when a group of people sleep outside to raise awareness about homelessness and simulate the experience of being in a shelter. In order to participate, you have to fundraise money that will go to help homeless youth in your community.
• Youth reporting on local news, radio, and newspapers. We think it’s important to provide facts and information that people can easily access. We experienced how the media can be warped and we think that news told from the point of view of youth would be appreciated and beneficial, and would allow the voices of younger people to be heard. We could also report in the form of videos on social media platforms.
• Religious education through clubs and fun activities. With all of the fear around religion in the media, this would give kids an opportunity to have a better understanding about what different religions are truly about. This could be accomplished through after school activities and holiday gatherings.
• Community projects within schools that would help donate to food shelves or make meals at soup kitchens. This will change our community for the better because it will help supply people with food, and it will also allow people to take on a more active role in their community.
• Helping our community by improving the well-being of the community members by starting from the grassroots and helping kids feel confident and comfortable with themselves. This would help to reduce bullying and homophobia in schools.
• Helping and volunteering at animal shelters. It’s not only the people in a community who have to feel good, and making sure that the animals at your local shelters are doing well is a great way to accomplish that.
• Buying school supplies for, and tutoring refugee kids. Many refugees have been coming to Vermont, and ensuring that they’re comfortable and have what they need for school and Vermont’s colder winters will benefit the state. This is beneficial because if we educate these young people, we will have more intelligent people in our work force.

These all might seem like challenging goals to achieve, but if we work together to accomplish these goals, then we can improve the safety and well-being of our community. Our hope is that with your help we can accomplish all these goals and more.

Day 4, Muslim Girls Making Change

On our fourth day at camp, the Muslim Girls Making Change spent the day with us performing and encouraging the teens to write and perform their own poems. Check out the video below to hear about why using your voice, regardless of age, is so important.K4P Group Shot with MGMC

Cincinnati Day Camp 2016

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

Day 1

By Rob Gleisser, K4P Cincinnati Day Camp Director

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

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

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

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

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

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Day 2

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

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

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

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

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

Check out the Channel 5 news interview here!

Day 3

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

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Rev. Nancy showing us around the Church

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

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

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

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

Day 4

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

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

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

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

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

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Jerusalem Roots Camp 2016

Day 1

Roots Camp started its first day with a visit to the Qaser el Yehud Baptism site on the Jordan River. We met Malik from EcoPeace, who spoke to us about the national and religious importance of the Jordan River to all of the communities in the region. A lot of the water from the Jordan River is diverged for domestic use in Israel and Jordan and the countries even discharge their wastewater into the River, so there is not much clean water left in the Southern part of it. We learned about the quality of the water in the Jordan River and the religious importance of the baptism site in Christianity. Then, we divided into three groups, each representing a different village with different water sources, to discuss water usage.

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Finally, we arrived at Kibbutz Ketura. We got settled in our rooms and had a pool party with a group of American high-schoolers were were visiting as well. Omar and Meytav shared their experiences at Kids4Peace and explained the program to the American kids. After the BBQ and swimming, the kids went to bed to get ready for your next day!

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Day 2

Our second day of Roots Camp began with a tour of Kibbutz Ketura. We talked about the shared lifestyle of the kibbutz and toured the algea factory and solar field. Ketura’s most valuable natural asset is its sunlight, so we learned about solar energy and sustainability. The group worked in pairs to answer as many questions as they could about the kibbutz and the its environment.

Then, we moved inside to start our opening session on the theme of environment, and started to talk about how we affect the environment and how it affects us. The kids started to think about how they use water and other resources, and did a lot of games related to learning about the science of the environment.

We shared about our own neighborhoods in Jerusalem, and what we shared and is different between the different neighborhoods. It was interesting to hear about all the different environments within Jerusalem and how we feel about them.

After the sessions inside, we headed to the sand dunes to do an activity and to make our own dinner. We then star-gazed and went to bed!

Learning To Connect

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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GLOBAL INSTITUTE TEENS IN VERMONT | Imagine the Unimaginable

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

Staff Development: Taking the competition out of pain

By Michal Ner David and Selina Petschek, Kids4Peace staff

We – Michal and Selina – two Kids4Peace Staff, are here together at EXCEL: Training for Trainers program, hosted and facilitated by Jerusalem Peace Builders. Along with the other participants, we just completed the first part of our program facilitated by Dr. Paula Green, the founder of the Karuna Center for Peacebuilding.

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In trying to analyze conflict, we studied a number of theories. One of them affirms that when human needs are not met, it inevitably leads to cycles of violence. These basic needs include security, recognition, water, food, shelter, etc. While this feels obvious, it took us thinking about this deeply while feeling appreciative for having all our needs met, to make the disparities that exist in our world come alive.  Here we are enjoying the tremendous hospitality of Nicholas, co-founder and executive director of JPB and his wife Dorothy, who are opening their home and land, feeding us, sheltering us, and taking care of every little comfort we could possibly ask for. It is thanks to Nicholas and Dorothy that we are able to be together, to discuss and dialogue about the peace work that we do. This would not be possible without the environment where we have found ourselves.

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In discussing the causes for violence and trying to understand the conflict in Jerusalem –in trying to untangle the mess– we realized that when the needs of one of these groups are not met, it creates despair, loss and anguish. One piece of guidance that our trainer Paula offered, is that pain should not be made into a competition, it just is. So often, the people involved in a conflict tend to vie for the position of most victimized in a reflex of self-protection against the pain you may have inadvertently caused someone else. If we’re able to stop competing, or stop comparing, if we’re able to contain all the pain without judging where it is coming from or how great it is, we can hold the space for a different kind of reality.

After asking one of our Palestinian participants about his experience thus far, he reflected on how much impact being here in a space that can contain all of us – all of our pain and suffering and our hopes and creativity – had on the freedom of our conversation. In his words: “back home, it would be harder to find people who are willing to listen and understand”. In contrast, everyone who is here came with a willingness to be open and engage in dialogue. He went on to say that, “it’s even slightly interesting that we are acquainted with people back home who don’t know very much about the conflict.” He was further surprised that there are people who don’t live in Israel-Palestine [i.e. Americans], and perhaps have never even visited, but know so much about it and have their own ideas on how to address the conflict.

On thinking about what he is taking away from this training he added that “perhaps we’ve been able to gain a new kind of approach to this conflict, a new way of discussing it. We are not leaving with a collective plan of action per say, but rather a whole new approach that each one of us will carry back home individually. We are more capable than we were before.”