Meet Sergio, K4P’s new D.C. intern

My name is Sergio and I’m the new intern at Kids4Peace. I’m originally from a small ‘rock’ in the southern-most tip of Spain called Gibraltar. Gibraltar is a British territory abroad, where unlike in Britain, the weather is usually very pleasant and mediterranean. For the past 6 years of my life, I have attended school in the UK – recently graduating with a politics degree from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

At the beginning of this year, the government of Gibraltar introduced me to an NGO called The Washington Center which organizes internships mainly in social science related industries for over 240 students from all around the world. Through them, I hascreen-shot-2016-09-15-at-2-56-18-pmve been blessed to be linked up with Kids4Peace. Coming into Kids4Peace, I hope to acquire powerful insight into the inner workings of a Non-governmental organization – gaining experience in communication, budgeting and organization. While at university, I learnt a lot about the theoretical aspects of NGO’s and development organizations so I enter Kids4Peace with a lot of excitement as I can now finally put my knowledge and ideas into practice.

In my time at university, I have had the opportunity to hone in on the fields of academia and politics I am most interested in, mainly focusing my studies on conflict in the Middle East. It is thus especially exciting to me, that Kids4Peace work in areas such as Jerusalem, where they aim to bring Palestinian and Israelis together through their work. I hope to utilize my experience with Kids4Peace not only to grow on a personal level, but also academically and professionally – seeing first-hand the impact of NGO’s and interfaith organizations on a global scale.

Kids4Peace #ForwardTogether Walk and Youth Panel

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Invitation to:  Kids4Peace #ForwardTogether Walk and Youth Panel

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

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

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

Partners: Tiyul-Rihleh, Kids4Peace

 

Kids4Peace Youth Panel:

Date: Thursday, 22nd of September, 2016

Time: 19:00-20:00

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

 

360 Jerusalem – #ForwardTogether:

Date: Friday, 23rd of September, 2016

Time: 9:00-15:00

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

About Kids4Peace:

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

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

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

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

About Tiyul-Riheh:

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

For further questions:

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

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

Bringing a Message of Peace to Washington, DC

by DanDan, Kids4Peace Intern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DSC_1555DSC_1597

The Power of Hope: Kids4Peace International 2014 Annual Report

“Together, we are walking a new path — where religions cooperate for the common good, where children grow up with trust and respect for those who are different, where nonviolence is the way to justice”

#TogetherPeaceIsPossible

From the Director: Together In Pain & Hope | Ways to Help

FrJoshTo the Kids4Peace Community,
As Shabbat comes to Jerusalem on this first Friday of Ramadan, our prayers are mixed with tears.An escalation of violence in Jerusalem and the surrounding region has brought death and suffering to yet more Palestinian and Israeli families. Calls for retaliation and vengeance threaten further destruction.In the midst of overwhelming fear,

Kids4Peace remains a powerful sign of hope.

We are one of the only places where Jews, Christians and Muslims from all parts of Jerusalem and the West Bank meet face to face.  Our long-term approach is our strength. With the leadership of Jerusalem Co-Directors Mohammad Joulany and Rebecca Sullum, we are responding to the current situation with courage and compassion.

  • Interfaith Iftar: Next Wednesday, K4P Jerusalem will gather for an Interfaith Iftar: A Dinner of Prayer, Community and Hope.
  • #ViolenceStopsWithMe: K4P Jerusalem launched a  online campaign, to counter the message of vengeance and retaliation that is spreading through Jerusalem.  Join them by changing your cover photos to the pic above.
  • We continue our regular programs and meetings, to the extent that safety will allow.

Kids4Peace was born in the midst of violence, by brave families who risked coming together, precisely when the conflict was driving them apart.  Two years ago we met to pray during the violence in Gaza.  We face another moment of deep pain, suffering and fear.

As violence spreads in Jerusalem, it is time to come together again.

  • Together, we mourn the death of Mohammad Dudeen, Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-ad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach, Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir and the many victims of the conflict whose names have been forgotten.
  • Together, we affirm the sanctity of all life and pray that no more families will feel the pain of this most tragic loss.
  • Together, we commit to continue our daily work of ending conflict and inspiring hope in Jerusalem and beyond, through interfaith learning, leadership development and nonviolent action.

And it’s only possible because of you.

Next month, nearly 100 Jerusalem youth will attend camps in the USA, and I want to shower them with support. Here are some ways to help.

  1. Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem. Remember the victims and the peacemakers in your congregation’s prayers.  As people of faith, we need to acknowledge the pain and maintain our hope.
  2. Send a Message of Support. Write a note to a young peacemaker on this .  This year especially, it will be so hard for the Jerusalem kids to leave home and come to camp.  Your support will make all the difference.
  3. Follow & Share the Kids4Peace Blog There is so much bad news coming from the media.  We need to remind the world that people still work for peace. Follow  and share daily updates with family and friends.    If you have contacts in the media, please .
  4. Give as Generously as you can. This is a critical time, and you can be part of the solution.  Help Kids4Peace end this conflict, so no more children will die of violence.  .

Thank you for keeping the light of hope alive.

Fr Josh Thomas, Executive Director

Kids4Peace International | josh@k4p.org

Kids4Peace 3300 Chimney Rock, Suite 301, Houston, TX 77056

Donations are tax-deductible

Interfaith Prayer during the Fighting in Gaza Two Years Ago

Join the Campaign #ViolenceStopsWithMe

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.

 

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

By Luke Blount | July 23, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We in Kids4Peace believe, that here in Jerusalem, in a country everyone fights over, a city that seems sometimes to be an obstacle to peace, that here we have the ability to do things differently. We refuse to abandon the prayer and the dream.” – Yakir Englander, Director of Kids4Peace Jerusalem

Interfaith youth program demonstrates a culture of peace

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

BUILDING A NEW CULTURE OF PEACE

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

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

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

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

CAMP MIKELL HOSTS KIDS4PEACE

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

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

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

Read the full article online here 

 

 

Kids4Peace North Carolina Receives Bishop’s Medal

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

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

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

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

Watch the Kids4Peace North Carolina Video

Watch the Award Ceremony

Kids4Peace Leadership Camp 2011

Kids4Peace Leadership Camp Celebrates First Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By The Rev. Nicholas Porter
Camp Coordinator & Host

Yakir Englander receives award for work with Kids4Peace

Ms. Rula Saleh, Mr. Yakir Englander, Fr. Josh Thomas, Ms. Reeham Subhi, representing the three faiths of Kids4Peace at the awards ceremony.

Ms. Rula Saleh, Mr. Yakir Englander, Fr. Josh Thomas, Ms. Reeham Subhi, representing the three faiths of Kids4Peace at the awards ceremony.

The Council of Higher Education in Israel bestowed the “Shosh Berlinsky-Sheinfeld Award” on Mr. Yakir Englander, Kids4Peace Jerusalem Director and PhD student at Hebrew University, for his work with Kids4Peace.  He was chosen from among all the universities in Israel as the researcher making the greatest contribution to Israeli society.

Acceptance Speech

Mr. Yakir Englander, June 14, 2011 

We in “Kids4Peace” believe, that here in Jerusalem, of all places, in a city everyone fights over, a city that seems sometimes to be an obstacle to peace, that here, we have the ability to do things differently. We refuse to abandon the prayer and the dream.

Honorable Director of the Israel Council of Higher Education; Members of the Council; Members of the Awards Committee; fellow Lecturers and Researchers; fellow Recipients of the Award, my dear family members, and my dear friends:

At first glance, granting an award for academic engagement and service in the social community might seem surprising. The usual image of the academic researcher is of someone devoted full time to his or her research – very often in the “inner chambers” and cut off from everyday experience. Intellectual research requires the ability to engage in an internal and intimate dialogue with texts and with subjects and realms that are not usually busy with the here and now.

And yet, if we look more closer at the role of the academic, we see that this role is essentially engaged with the community. The greatest of thinkers have been those who believed that daily life both directs and defines the way of thinking and the questions raised by the researcher. They also believed that the responses and insights that arise in the process of academic research have the power to forge a better society, or at least a society more aware of its choices.

So it was with Socrates sitting in the streets of Athens, engaging the citizens of that city in conversations, and with the Rambam (Maimonides) who served actively as the leader of the Jewish community in Egypt, and with the Muslim philosopher Ibn Rushd Al-Qurtubi (known in the West as Averroes) who governed the city of Cordoba and became a judge in Morocco, and with the French philosopher and thinker Michel Foucault, to name just a few.

All this is descriptively interesting, but I think there is also a deeper philosophical point. The beginning of philosophy is a sense of wonder inspired by the world we live in. Wonder requires a sort of “stepping back”; we look at the world, at its phenomena and events, before we engage in any intuitive judgment. Our duty as researchers is first and foremost to allow the world to appear to us just as it is, to be attentive precisely to those statements that may be regarded by society as clear and even banal – for example, the statement that we are right and others are wrong. The researcher allows the phenomena of the world to speak, to express themselves; it is an act of grace, but also a duty. In the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Baba Metzia, it is written: “Jerusalem was destroyed simply because the judges there judged according to the Torah.” In other words, a society that judges only by the letter of the law cannot be an ethical society. A society, and a society’s judicial system, have the obligation to judge by guidelines that transcend law, that go beyond even “the truth” as each society understands it, and to thus give a voice to those regarded by society as “wrong,” a voice to those whose suffering society cannot see.

Our point of departure is precisely our difference, that calls us to listen to voices other than our own.

The organization “Kids4Peace” which I have directed in Jerusalem for the last four years is dedicated to creating a new discourse in Jerusalem and in the Israeli and Palestinian communities of the Jerusalem area. Formally, “Kids4Peace” is an a-political movement, precisely in order to allow the development of dialogue precisely among people who cannot even imagine dialogue to be possible. This movement appeals to the cultural and religious identities of each of us, identities that differ according to our national and social contexts, and bridges between them. Our point of departure is precisely our difference, that calls us to listen to voices other than our own.

Members of “Kids4Peace” are first of all children – who begin their encounters with each other at the age of 11 and continue with the hard work of dialogue through High School. The parents of these children are also fully engaged throughout the program, and of course we have professional adult staff, Interfaith Advisors, Interfaith Coordinators – Jews, Christians and Muslims – who devote themselves to the skills of respectful listening and learning from each other. All of these together embark on that philosophical imperative of “stepping back” to allow the other to speak.

As an organization, “Kids4Peace” may not offer new and unheard of solutions to the conflict we are stuck in. It does, however, create a new culture with different questions.

As an organization, “Kids4Peace” may not offer new and unheard of solutions to the conflict we are stuck in. It does, however, create a new culture with different questions. The new culture of “Kids4Peace” is forging a new language with a different music to it, a language that seeks different answers. The movement turns to all members of our society, and especially to those who do not have the means for luxuries.  We in “Kids4Peace” believe, that here in Jerusalem, of all places, in a city everyone fights over, a city that seems sometimes to be an obstacle to peace, that here, we have the ability to do things differently. We refuse to abandon the prayer and the dream.

“Kids4Peace” has members who have lost loved ones violently in this conflict, on both sides, and members who have lost their homes or their livelihood, and are struggling for the good of themselves and their children.

There are so many such peacemakers – our job is simply to allow them to realize their heart’s desire.

This Award that you have bestowed on me today is not mine; it belongs to the Jewish, Christian and Muslim members of “Kids4Peace” in Jerusalem and in the nearby Palestinian and Israeli communities.  It belongs also to our sister organization in the United States, “Kids4Peace USA”, that has done everything to make our dream possible, knowing that whoever cannot dream can never effect social change. This award belongs to the Muslim girl from the Qalandia Refugee Camp who explains in her school that not all the Jews are intent on harming them. To the Jewish boy who is a fan of the Beitar Yerushalayim soccer team, but refuses to join the shouts of “Death to the Arabs” during the soccer game, and convinces his friends also to stop. To another child who joined “Kids4Peace” to find a way to grapple with feelings of fear upon seeing women wearing the hijab.  I accept this award in the name of every person who cannot stop praying, working, struggling for peace. There are so many such peacemakers – our job is simply to allow them to realize their heart’s desire.

It was my privilege to be raised in a Hassidic home, among a family of loving kindness and deep faith. When I was a child, I would walk with my father on some Sabbaths to pray in the synagogue of the Vishnitz Rabbi. As we walked along, my father told me stories of the Tzadikim – the Jewish sages and saints, who would give their lives to help others. I would like to share with you, in closing, one of these stories. It is a tale that has given me strength in moments of stress and crisis, which in my work directing “Kids4Peace” are all the more frequent as our work touches more closely on the roots of the conflict and its suffering.

As one of the Tzadikim lay dying, his most beloved disciple came to him, and asked that after the Tzadik arrived in heaven, he would come in a dream to the disciple, and tell him what heaven is like. The Tzadik agreed; but, three days after he had died, the disciple still had received no dream visitation. This disciple, who was a great saint  himself, began to be concerned for the welfare of his departed teacher. He decided to go himself up to heaven to find out what had happened.

Once arrived in the Higher Realms, the disciple asked the angels for news of his Rabbi. Yes, the angels replied, the Tzadik’s day of judgment had gone very well, and the Holy One Blessed Be He had Himself invited the Tzadik to join Him in a Heavenly havruta, studying together the sacred texts in Paradise. The Tzadik, however, chose rather to go into a great forest, filled with the dark powers of Evil. The disciple, who had always followed his teacher faithfully in life, decided to go after the Tzadik into the dark forest to find him. After three days walking in the darkness, he saw a light at the edge of the forest. Coming out in the open, the disciple found his old Rabbi, the Tzadik, standing on the bank of a great river, leaning on his stick and gazing sadly into the turbulent waters as they rushed by.

The disciple approached his teacher. “Rabbi,” he said, “Why are you standing here alone by this river, when God is waiting for you in Paradise?”

The Tzadik replied: “My beloved disciple, the water in this river is all the tears that are shed by people who are suffering in our world. When, on my judgment day, I heard that my lot was to enter Paradise, I said to God: ‘As long as You do not stop this flow of tears, I will remain here by this river, and will not enter Paradise with You.’”

It is our wish, our prayer, that our sacred work in dialogue in “Kids4Peace” will be able to lessen, even by a few drops, the flow of tears in this river of suffering.

Thank You.

[Translated from the Hebrew by Henry R. Carse, June 16 2011]