Last Thursday night was a night of hope and inspiration. All of our youth, parents, and steering committee met and discussed different topics.
Leap (7th grade) finished designing and decorating the candles they created at our Ein Gedi seminar. They then had a dialogue about:
- The different perceptions of Jerusalem.
- The importance of personal relationships to strengthening our community and therefore achieving peace.
Roots and Leadership watched a documentary called Fire Lines (including popcorn!) and then dialogued about several topics that arose from the film including identifying with the characters and how the conflict was portrayed in the film. Some questions and answers are below:
Why do you think the Palestinians went to help the Israelis put out the fire?
“In the end we’re all human beings, it doesn’t matter if you’re Palestinian or Israeli when there is danger affecting both of you at the same time.” -Hassan, age 13, Muslim
Which character did you identify with the most?
“When the Palestinian firefighters didn’t get the permits to be appreciated, the other half who did get permits decided not to attend the appreciation ceremony–which made them cancel the event. I really identify with this and would also have decided not to attend even if I had a permit.” -Zeina, age 13, Muslim
The parents gathered outside for coffee and dialogue. Their discussions continued the Parents Program curriculum on the challenges of parenting youth in conflict.
A Message from Jerusalem
As a community of Palestinians and Israelis, we feel the pain of both sides like almost no one else. And most painfully of all, we see children – so much like our K4P youth – caught up in the violence and suffering.
We cling to our common humanity, our hope for peace, our rejection of violence.
This is a blessing and a burden.Because ewe refuse to be defeated. Because we know that before the dawn, the darkness is most deep. There is so much work to do.
We need you now more than ever, to hold our hands, to stand with us, to pray for peace, to keep the flame of peace lit. We will pave the way together, as a community.
We will not be defeated. Thank you for keeping the hope alive.
Donate today: k4p.org/hope
USAID awards $100,000 to Kids4Peace Jerusalem to promote people-to-people reconciliation activities
[Jerusalem, November 2015]
USAID announced a new grant for Kids4Peace for its “Peace Builders Forum” project which connects Palestinian and Israeli youth through common activities and training opportunities. This grant supports the existing youth participating in these projects and motivates others to join and promote peaceful coexistence in Jerusalem.
USAID is investing in Conflict Management and Mitigation (CMM) grants. These grants bring together Israelis and Palestinians to work on issues of common concern and promote peaceful coexistence. The CMM Program is part of a worldwide effort to bring together individuals of different backgrounds from areas of conflicts in people to people reconciliation activities. These activities provide opportunities to address issues, reconcile differences, and promote greater understanding and mutual trust by working on common goals .
The “Peace Builders Forum” project supports conflict mitigation through youth empowerment and community development in Jerusalem.
Kids4Peace’s Peace Builders Forum will influence hundreds of thousands of people around the world through the inspiring work of 120 school students from Israeli and Palestinian communities throughout Jerusalem and the West Bank. Kids4Peace believes that through this example of Israeli and Palestinian youth working together producing inspiring content; others will support, encourage, and engage in people-to-people reconciliation initiatives.
“I am here because I believe that peace will never happen unless people face the conflict and express their most personal opinion,” Lour, age 14
The Peace Builders Forum aims to:
-Connect Palestinian and Israeli youth via common projects in media, tourism, and community outreach.
-Train youth to effectively communicate multiple narratives about life in Jerusalem.
-Share the voice of youth in the public sphere and inspire others to join a reconciliation activities. Inspire hope that peace is possible.
“We need to get the people in charge to hear us. We have to get them to care about what we are doing and know that there is another way. I mean look at us, we are doing it.” -David, age 15
Founded in Jerusalem in 2002, Kids4Peace is a grassroots interfaith youth movement dedicated to ending conflict and inspiring hope in divided societies around the world. Its mission is to build interfaith communities that embody a culture of peace and empower a movement for change. Currently, Kids4Peace serves more than 500 families in Jerusalem through a series of international camps and year-round dialogue and action programs.
by Risto, K4P Jerusalem Development Intern, 2015-2016
My name is Risto. I have arrived to Israel from Finland, from an island called Lauttasaari (the ferry island), which is a nice and nature rich small island right next to the center of Helsinki (the capital of Finland). I have had the privilege to live this life for 32 years already, and it seems that despite the happy and challenging times one may encounter, each day is truly a gift!
My educational background is international business, yet within the last several years more integral part of my life has been sharing through volunteer- and peace-work, therapeutic yoga, variety of workshops and courses, as well as assisting people with physical handicaps. Right now I have been given a gift to continue M.A studies in Non-profit management and Leadership, as well as to contribute via internship through Kids4Peace here in Jerusalem. For both of these I am truly grateful.
My hope and aim in life is to support others in moving towards the authenticity of their being, and to facilitate and support more genuine, peaceful, and meaningful future for us to live together in. I believe that peace starts within each of us and expands from there to reach others, and yes, I am definitely far from being perfect. Yet I hope to be able to do my best and grow in this way of living. :)
Volunteer Title: Faith Advisor | Jerusalem
Summary of Post: Kids4Peace Pathways to Peace programs have one Faith Advisor for each faith tradition represented. The Faith Advisor will work with an interdisciplinary/interfaith team in devising and implementing appropriate programs for youth. The Faith Advisor works closely with parents and youth in his/her faith group and with the rest of the participants in general.
Interfaith Role model
- Act as a positive role model and maintain an respectful atmosphere within the group.
- Have knowledge of and ability to represent the faith, practice and tradition of each family, and especially of each child, regardless of the advisor’s personal beliefs.
- Organise activities/programs with interfaith team
- Supervise and take care of youth during monthly programs, trips and seminars.
- Provide support for participants’ growth.
- Communicate by telephone, sms and email with parents in designated group, in order to make certain parents know about program details
- Be the first line of support for parents’ concerns
- Participate in monthly team meetings and trainings and in two annual team trainings.
- Administrative tasks arising from the role (e.g. statistical records, reports, correspondence, social media, etc).
- Provide feedback for the program and to team members in order to strengthen the program.
During Summer Camp:
- Working as part of an interfaith team ensuring that the Kids4Peace outcomes and goals are achieved at camp.
- Actively accompanying and supporting group to, from, and throughout duration of summer camp.
- Support other team members during their camp sessions when appointed
- Provide 24 hour support for the youth including morning wake up, meal time, assisting in transition time, ensuring the youth are ready for the day, etc.
- Physical Health and Dietary needs
- Facilitate with youth weekly worship at camp program
- Create with youth introduction to your faith
- Represent your faith during camp program and work with local faith community to create a positive and inclusive faith experience
- Implement daily Kids4Peace faith curriculum
- Co-create and attend post-camp youth meeting
- Provide Summer Camp Feedback & Report on youths’ development
- Attend Team Appreciation Evening
Candidate Profile: The ideal candidate will have the following skills and attributes:
- Ability to build a rapport with youth, respond constructively to challenging behavior and overcome resistance.
- Ability to work with youth within Kids4Peace Safe Guarding guidelines.
- Ability to work with youth in cross-cultural contexts.
- Be a self-starter with an ability to work as part of a team and on one’s own initiative.
- Flexibility, creativity
- Basic skills in interfaith dialogue, communication, teamwork.
- Knowledge of one or more of the faith/culture traditions represented in the program.
- Basic Social Media skills.
- Fluent in at least 2 of the following 3 languages: English, Arabic, Hebrew.
- Computer Skills: use of Microsoft Office, internet, online sharing folders (ex. Google Drive).
- BA/MA or student in relevant field of social work, education, youth/community work, conflict resolution, or a related discipline.
- A strong track record in the design and delivery of activities which engage youth and result in tangible outcomes.
- The capacity to take part in outdoor activities (under qualified instruction).
Application is by way of C.V. and cover letter outlining suitability for the post. All applications should be addressed to Jerusalem Co- Director, Rebecca Sullum.
Applications can be sent by e-mail to: email@example.com. Applications are reviewed in the summer and early fall annually. Applications will be shortlisted. If you wish to discuss any aspect of this post further, please do not hesitate to contact.
Terms and Conditions of Volunteer Position
Report to: Kids4Peace Pathways to Peace Education Directors
Duration: The post is initially offered on a one year fixed term.
Stipend: Received at the end of the year, in 2 installments.
Hours of Work: Must be available twice a month Thursday from 16:30-20:00 in Jerusalem from November-June. 10-14 day summer camp in July/August. Two team weekend seminars. Additional hours for communication, approximately two hour a week.
A Jerusalem Program for Understanding Feels Strain and Carries On
To hear voices of peace challenged by a surge of violence, simply listen to a conference call held by Arab and Jewish parents in Jerusalem who are involved in the program Kids4Peace. The bonds formed over the years their children attended the group’s dialogues and camps are at once strained and sturdy, resolute and despairing and frayed by fear. For the program’s staff, one posted message reflects their defiance at this moment in the Arab-Israeli conflict: “We will not be defeated. Nothing is cancelled.”
Over 12 years, Kids4Peace, a U.S.-based nonprofit, has brought together more than 1,100 school-age youths—Jews, along with Muslim and Christian Arabs—in Jerusalem and at international summer camps to support them in “embodying a culture of peace and empowering a movement for change.”
The kids engage in dialogue, trust-building workshops, games and joint projects aimed at bridging the often-violent chasm that separates them in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Parents must also commit to the program when their children join, creating a sustained, family engagement that project leaders say is key to creating a sense of community; 80 percent stick with the program through all six years.
The work is never easy and the opposing narratives of the students’ backgrounds leave them without a firm base to even begin a dialogue, said Father Josh Thomas, an Episcopal priest who leads the organization. But as children from families that are at least motivated to reach out to the other side, they make friends, learn about each other’s religions and, by the end, are pushed to see themselves as something bigger than just an intercultural youth group: they are trained to become a community of peacebuilding leaders. A U.S. Institute of Peace grant is helping the group evaluate the potential of that process to have long-term impact.
The latest violence in Jerusalem is testing the resilience of the organization and its participating families in new ways, Thomas said. The one-on-one nature of knife attacks on soldiers, police and civilians, as well as the response from Israeli police and defense forces in Jerusalem and the West Bank, have deepened fear and suspicion on both sides beyond what the group faced—and overcame—during the last Gaza war in 2014.
On the conference call, set up in mid-October by Kids4Peace facilitators to discuss the personal effects of the current violence, parents talked about their feelings during the tense time and how to help their children through it. The conversation was transcribedon the group’s website.
- “All of us are feeling unsafe,” the mother of a Muslim 7th grader said, concerned she’s infecting her son with the “panic” she feels walking in Jerusalem. “Someone with a gun might shoot you because you are an Arab and thus you are a suspect! Or someone stab you, thinking you are a Jew.”
- “We are torn because we want to trust, but we are frightened,” said a Jewish 7th grader’s mother.
- “Should we speak about being scared to our children?” posited a parent facilitator at Kids4Peace and father of a Muslim 8th grader. “Yes. This reality, they see it, they hear it in our voices.”
- “We at Kids4Peace, what can we do?” asked a Jewish 8th grader’s father. “How can we move forward? I do not know how we can change the situation.”
As a group of Israelis and Palestinians, Kids4Peace participants “feel the pain of both sides like almost no one else,” Thomas wrote to the community on Oct. 14. He said staff and parents would “reconnect with our sisters and brothers across the lines of conflict,” in person or virtually; the fall programs for 120 students would begin as planned the following week, meeting together if it was safe; online or in homes, if not.
“We had difficult days last week,” Thomas said in an Oct. 22 interview. “I’m hearing new ways of mistrusting the motivations of the other side, even in our group.”
Publicly, he declared: “We feel called to take leadership in building a new future. Division, despair, hatred, fear, injustice—this cannot be our future.”
As comments posted on the organization’s website make clear, kids who participated in the program’s monthly meetings, quarterly overnights and summer camps in the U.S. over the years, say it opened them up in new ways. In one of the most poignant remarks—unattributed by religion or ethnicity—a student said: “Kids4Peace broke the wall of hate in my heart.”
In sixth grade, the students explore each other’s religions and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through dialogues, workshops, volunteering and a summer camp. In seventh grade, the focus shifts to fostering relationships and solidifying commitment to peace. In eighth grade, a year for coming of age, students tackle historical narrative and personal identity and how they relate to the broader community. The ninth grade program centers on leadership skills and issues of living in a conflict zone. Finally, participants are offered opportunities to become counselors in training with the Kids4Peace program in the 10th and 11th grades.
‘From Personal Transformation to Societal Change’
“The value of this project is the embrace of self-reflective practice,” said Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen, USIP’s director of programs on the Arab-Israeli conflict. “They are asking the tough questions of themselves and their work at a particularly trying time in the field—how do you move from personal transformation to societal change?”
An interim report on the research paints a complex picture of Kids4Peace outcomes. Participants value their relationships, the experience of respectful cooperation and the model they’ve created of peaceful interaction. They have found Kids4Peace a sane sanctuary amid war and violence.
But fear is high: almost everyone is more afraid for physical safety than at any point in their lives. Confidence in a peace process is low: emotion and frustration are taking a growing toll even on committed peacemakers.
Almost every Jewish Israeli said their time in the Army is a turning point in their lives and, for many, one that can sometimes force compromise with their values. For Palestinians, Jewish Israelis’ mandatory military service leaves them asking why friends would agree “to occupy us,” since their only association with the Israeli military is likely of soldiers serving at checkpoints and within the West Bank.
The general climate is such that “people are more drawn to extremes now,” Thomas said. “They have to be demonizing the other, totally pro-Palestinian or pro-Israeli.”
Yet, on Oct. 22, with the violence unabated, Kids4Peace’s fall session began as scheduled. More than 100 grinning kids and 50 of their parents gathered in Jerusalem for an evening of music, dance, and tough dialogue, Thomas reported to his supporters, sending along photos. The meetings were moved to avoid locales perceived as most dangerous, and a conference line was set up for people too concerned about security to come.
“Everyone says similar things,” Thomas said. “Kids4Peace provides a place to be honest, to share, to disagree. In the end, they come and see again, yes, there is an alternative.”
The guiding principal, he said, is stubborn optimism.
This sounds like such a simple concept. But it is a remarkable fact of life in Israel that Arab and Jews who are sharing the same air and the same space and the same hot, daily grind, whose lives are so intricately bound up on one another, for the most part barely speak to each other.
One of the most precious aspects about the Kids4Peace parent meetings is the discovery that, as parents, we are all pretty much the same. We all try to get our kids off the computer, we all try to get them to clean up their rooms, we all live for school plays, academic presentations, sports games, and we all really just want a nice life for ourselves.
Still, Thursday night, October 22, was a little different. This was the first time we were meeting in a context of violent tension. Many people at the meeting said that they don’t remember a time when Jerusalem was this edgy: when life had completely come to a halt as everyone seemed to be staying home.
People are so anxious right now that Kids4Peace held a phone meeting for parents a few days earlier, under the assumption that most would not want to come in person. Significantly, Thursday’s group proved them wrong and, despite the surrounding events, some 60-70 parents turned up, from all sectors of society.
As people began sharing feelings and experiences, one Arab woman described a scene that really shook me. She had been looking after her elderly father in the hospital for the past few weeks, which gave her a ringside view of the comings and goings in the hospital around terror attacks. One day, when a female soldier had been stabbed and badly injured, the hospital staff made visitors make room for them to wheel the victim through the corridors. As she stood with her 8-year-old son she had a jarring conversation with him. He assumed, she told us, that the victim was an Arab woman. The mother said, “No, she’s Jewish”
“I don’t understand,” the child replied. “Why would a Jew stab another Jew?”
“No, no,” she gently explained. “The attacker wasn’t Jewish. He was an Arab.”
The boy could not comprehend this. His mother recounted that in his mind, the only violence that exists is Jews hurting Arabs. This is all he knows, and it’s all he has seen. He had no idea that the violence goes the other way, too.
When he realized his mistake, he said, ”That’s okay then.”
The woman, who is a long-time peace activist from Jerusalem who currently works in hi-tech, was also shocked by part of the conversation. And she said plainly, “I failed as a parent.” How can her son ever justify violence, she painfully wondered out loud.
Still, I don’t think she failed at all. First of all we cannot control everything our children see and experience. Second, she is trying to have compassionate conversations with her son and instill in him a deep sense of shared humanity — which is I think what many of us are trying to do. And let’s face it, considering the social and political tensions we are living through, it is a hard task. I told her, in the way so many of my female friends are constantly telling one another, to be kinder to herself. Still, she was shaken by the discovery that her son had it in him to believe that sometimes violence is okay, if it sort of “balances the scales” so to speak.
I was shocked because I could not believe how different the world looks for Arab children and Jewish children living in the same city.
For Jews, the only violence that we see or that “counts” is violence perpetrated against “us.” Against Jews. Meanwhile, for Arab children, apparently the only violence that they see is violence perpetrated against them. There is a symmetry here that would be charming if it weren’t so utterly tragic.
Jews like to deny this. When “numbers” of killed and injured on both “sides” are counted, Jewish pundits will go immediately to arguments of self-defense. Israeli news outlets frequently report only numbers of Jews dead, not Palestinians. News reports say, “There was an attack. No casualties reported; three terrorists were eliminated.” So actually, three Palestinians are dead, but their deaths don’t count as deaths if we can call them terrorists. Nobody dead means nobody Jewish dead. It is chilling that this is standard reporting in Israel.
Why are we then surprised that in the Palestinian community, they do the same thing? Why do Jews have so many media watchdogs to correct Palestinian narratives when our own narratives are just as skewed? It’s all messed up.
Plus, there is something even more chilling in this new round of violence in that so many of the terrorists are kids. I cannot conceive of a 13-year-old boy as a terrorist. I don’t know how he got to be a knife-wielding, but we cannot simply label a 7th or 8th grader as a “terrorist” without asking difficult questions about how he got to where he is. I don’t know the stories of these teenagers committing acts of violence, but I do understand that their families and friends will mourn their death regardless of their weapons. Israel may not count Palestinian dead as dead, but we should not be surprised that 8-year-old children witnessing events certainly will count their dead as dead.
One of the opinions shared by almost everyone in the group was that there is an awful lack of leadership — on both sides. When Palestinians said that Israelis need to elect better leaders, I could feel myself sinking into my post-election depression. Bibi again? What’s worse, he won precisely because of how successfully he instilled a fear and hatred of the other in Jewish Israeli minds: Run to the ballots because Arabs are voting in swarms, he effectively told voters on Election Day. And it worked! When people in the group last night said, “Elect different leaders”, all I could think was, I wish I knew how.
Significantly, it seems from our discussion that the Election Day experience has had a powerful impact on this current wave of violence. The dreadful validation that Arab Israelis — citizens and taxpayers of Israel — are still viewed by Israeli leaders as “the enemy” was a slap in the face to so many people. I totally get that. Rather than embrace Arabs who want to create a normal life for themselves in Israel, rather than look for ways to build bridges and find common ideals and passions, Bibi time and again reverts to the narrative that all non-Jews are potential enemies. Bibi created this nightmare that we are all living in.
Still, I said that I also came out hopeful. And that is because despite all of this, there are still many people (many? I don’t know exactly what many means, but enough to fill two large rooms with engaged conversation) on both sides who believe that another way is possible. There seems to be a growing number of people who are willing to think differently from friends around them, who are willing to challenge traditional narratives that we have all been fed about the “other” in society, and who are willing to consider perspectives other than their own.
This makes me hopeful because, previous elections notwithstanding, I think we are living in changing times — times when social media creates blink-of-the-eye awareness of events and at times unexpected relationships. Although researchers are mixed about whether social media makes people change their views on things or whether it creates millions of echo chambers, I think that it is impossible not to be influenced, even a little, by the volumes and volumes of ideas and perspectives that come through our personalized news feeds. It’s just not possible that we are not all changing, even a little, as we learn more about others. We are exposed to so much stuff all the time. And sociologists generally confirm that we are all becoming a little less driven by traditional communal affiliations and are instead redefining boundaries of affiliations, creating our own customized connections and communities. I think maybe this creates new opportunities – like the Kids4Peace parents meeting – for all of us to come to new understandings and new awareness.
At least I can hope. Hope itself is an idea worth hanging onto at times like this.
— Elana Maryles Sztokman, PhD is founding firector, The Center for Jewish Feminism
by Charlie, father of Maytav a Jewish 8th grader
Last night I joined about 50 families in a meeting between Muslims and Christians and Jews. The kids and parents met separately.
Among the shared stories and feelings, I heard both Jewish and Arab women speak about their fear of saying goodbye to their children in the morning not knowing if they would ever see them again. Jews are afraid of terror and Arab are afraid of terror, Jews who shoot to kill and Israeli soldiers who terrorize. The fear is shared on both sides and only escalates the cycle of misunderstanding, confusion and violence. The answer is to counter it by informing ourselves and educating ourselves through sharing and interaction with people on “the other side״
A Muslim doctor told me his son asked him “what do I do if a Jew attacks me? Do I try to run away? Do I freeze? Do I fight?” He didn’t know what to say except that he will never be alone. The father escorts his son to school out of fear.
This doctor said to him life is sacred. He will fight to save the life of any living being (he works at Wolfson hospital). He said there are so many important things to fight for, we shouldn’t be wasting our time fighting each other.
One Muslim woman told me that she came to a roadblock in Jerusalem. The soldiers had their back to her so she did not know what to do. Does she stop or go? She slowed to a crawl and the soldiers did not turn around. She drove slowly through the roadblock and a soldier slammed his hand on her car. She stopped. He said something in Hebrew that she did not understand and in fluent English told him she didn’t speak Hebrew. “Were you scared?” He said to her. “Yes,” she said. “Good!” He answered. This was not a young 18 year old boy but a reservist in his thirties.
The evening began a little scattered…at a new location for Kids4Peace youth, the Tantur Ecumenical Center. Amidst the recent violence, finding a location to gather youth from East and West Jerusalem was more difficult than ever.
Youth filed in, greeting one another with long hugs and waving goodbye to parents heading to a parent meeting on the other side of the Tantur campus.
The first program began in small groups, with each youth answering the question:
I believe that…..
I hope that……
This situation makes me feel…
Youth then participated in a “coping fair” to creatively and personally express the complex emotions everyone struggles with during these difficult days. Stations included Art, Dance, Sports, Challenging Questions, Creative Writing, and Music. The evening finished with small dialogues in small groups, including reflections on the sentences from the beginning of the meeting and setting up systems to support each other more as a community during the coming weeks.