On Sunday, teens from Kids4Peace Boston and from the Interfaith Youth Initiative paired up with Sustainability Guild International to help in the final transformation steps for a beautiful, once vacant, lot in the Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood of Dorchester.

The Interfaith Youth Initiative is a part of Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries which works to mobilize congregations and communities across economic, religious, racial, and ethnic boundaries so that, in partnership, we can work more effectively for a just and peaceful society and for spiritual growth and interfaith understanding. We’ve found that CMM is an incredible partner to have, and we’re eager for our communities of youth to continue to work together for lasting, peaceful change here in Boston.

We started with several invigorating ice breakers which brought our two communities together…albeit not hard work, given the teen’s shared enthusiasm for interfaith friendship and working together to make our community better!

After that we piled into the cars and headed over to the beautiful garden lot in Bowdoin-Geneva and got out the rakes, hoes, paint brushes and garden gloves!  Check us out in action below. We laughed, played, and formed new friendships while we cleared away the detritus of winter and welcomed in spring!

We ended with a delicious dinner provided by some of our parents while discussing “What’s your problem?!”  After reading the article (found here) together, we talked about the issues about which we are most passionate and the “moments of obligation” we’ve experienced which helped shape us. Some of the issues that matter most to us are: building community, anti-bullying work, youth leadership, educational access, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, increasing communication skills for conflict resolution, and gender equality.

Thank you so much to the Massachusetts Service Alliance for the funding that made this event possible as a part of National Volunteer Week…it’s still early in the week so get out there and engage in your community through volunteering!

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Adnan and Noa are co-coordinators for the Jerusalem First Year Group traveling this year to the New Hampshire/Vermont camp! They asked the parents in their group to share hopes for their youth as they embark on the Kids4Peace journey. 

Peter believes that education for peace is a way of life and we have to start early. “We should plant the seeds. Peace programs are usually a failure because they have a hidden agenda behind them. However, K4P has a good base. Everything is clear and there are no hidden agendas. Besides, K4P has a follow-up program. The alternative is oblique. We should have more of such a program. We need more voices of peace to come back.

Sonia wants to join K4P as “Mothers for Peace”. She wants a similar program for mothers even if she has to pay travel expenses herself. She wants to learn bout traditions other people, other religions, do shopping and make Tabbulah.

Karine:  “I want my son Andre to meet other people. I have a son in Leap and my elder son encouraged my younger son to join Kids4Peace.”

Wafa: “My daughter Khadijah is a special kid and loves challenges. I want her to try new things. She has never been in such a program. The others are human beings whom she wants to get to know.”

Eilon’s daughter is Ellah. He doesn’t interact with other religions on a daily basis and feels this is a chance for him to do it. “We have to live in peace with others on the basic level. K4P is such that promotes peace. We have to start right from the bottom.”

Francis’ daughter told him that she had joined Kids4Peace because of the travel to the USA. After the first meeting with the other kids, she told him that she had so much fun with the other kids that she wants to stay with them even if she doesn’t travel to the USA. “It is good to see the other side of people.”

Fayez: “My daughter’s expectation is to explore cultures, mindsets and friendship. I am supportive of such programs.”

Zahava, Liav’s mother, is Algerian. She loves the songs of Fairouz. She is part of “Women of the Wall” movement and wants to fight racism and is supportive of women’s rights.

 

On Monday the 31st of March, Kids4Peace Jerusalem’s Boston Group had its fourth session with the youth and their parents, titled “Mapping our Identities and our City, Jerusalem”. The group split into small groups; each group with an advisor and the parents went with the coordinator. While the kids had about an hour to accomplish special missions given to them by their advisors, the parents took each other to their favorite spots throughout the city sharing personal stories and memories.

Treasure Hunt!  The youth interviewed passersby in the Old City with the following questions and received interesting answers!:

-Where are the people in the streets from? (The kids stopped by several people at the entrance of Jaffa Gate and talked to them and asked where they came from, and got various answers, mostly international tourists were around. Some of the kids were at the beginning shy and hesitated to talk to “strangers” but with the assistant and encouragement of the advisors they moved on and started jumping here and there between people and talk to them in order to get answers for this question, other kids were brave from the beginning and excited and talked to people fluently.)

-What is the thing they like the most about Jerusalem? (Each kids has her/his own memories about Jerusalem and favorite spot, each kids said a sentence or two describing the thing they like the most about the Old City.)

-What are the stores selling?  (
Here; the kids were asked to have a look around the place and notice what the stores are selling. Some of the kids decided to talk to the owners of those stores, employees, and customers)

-What is the most popular item in this store? (This question is related to the previous one; where the kids had to pick one store and notice the most popular item this store sells, some of the kids just had a look from outside the stores, other got in and talked to the employees and asked them.)

-What is the closest way to get to the Western Wall, to the Dome of the Rock and to the Holy Sepulcher?(For this part of the mission the group decided to go to the big map in front of the tourist information center and pointed on the map the closet way to get to the above places and named roads to get there. Then the advisors gave the kids different maps of Jerusalem and the Old City.)

-Find an inscription in Arabic or Hebrew, what does it say? (For the last section of the mission the kids had a fast to choose an inscription and tell what it says in the three languages; English, Arabic and Hebrew.)

The mission was ended by letting the kids express their feeling about this treasure and what experience did they gained, then all the kids were given reward certificates with their names on them in the three languages. 

All groups (including the parents!) met at Christ Church where we had a magical feast in the hidden quiet of their garden. The kids renamed us as Kids4pizza!

 

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Next session is Monday May 12…after  a full month of Pesach, Easter, vacation. Basher’s family will host and we will gather in his yard, food will be prepared by all, and we will walk around Basher’ Tantur neighborhood as our first child of the group will ‘map” together with the group his home, neighborhood, surroundings. There is a very warm and open feeling in the group and from now one we will be meeting in the familys homes….as we cross boundaries meeting each other in our homes in Jerusalem. True mapping.

On the 19th of February Sarah a Jewish advisor at K4P led an introduction to YaLa Young Leaders to the Leadership group.

She introduced the topic by asking them to talk about social media and the way they use technological tools. Facebook was the most popular tool as noted by the group. They used it to stay connected to their friends. Sarah then explained how something like Facebook can be used for so much more than that, emphasising its unique platform as a place of freedom of speech, cooperation and exchange. Sarah then spoke about how YaLa was formed; after the Arab Spring and the rising social justice protests taking place in Israel, social media, Facebook in particular became a key tool for the communication and expression of those people involved, it gave an outlet the social movements of the time. Uri Savir, founder of YaLa Young Leaders felt that peace in the Middle East rested with the youth of the region, not with the political elite. This thought was the driving force behind the setting up of a Facebook page;  https://www.facebook.com/yalaYL. Today less than 3 years later, 440,000 young people are using the page from all over the Middle East and Northern Africa. The page has become a place where youth can meet, debate, discuss and often disagree.

Another interesting thing that Sarah spoke about was its Online University. The desire for access to good education was an expressed interest of many of the youth. In 2013 YaLa launched its own Online University. Over 300 students from across the region have participated in free online classes from well-known established Universities. This in itself has shown how Facebook as a technological tool can have a far reaching social impact. The internet does not work from borders it works sharing information freely and without discrimination.

The group were then afforded the opportunity to meet one of those students. She was Tunisian, her name was Rahma and she spoke of being an active member of YaLa, She spoke though Skype, she introduced herself and fielded questions from the group. The group were very keen to know her thoughts on the revolution and the new constitution. Rahma answered all the questions the group had for her. When asked why she was interested in Israel and Palestine she responded that she is a humanist who feels concerned each time there is suffering in the world.

The second part focused on blogging. YaLa host an online blogging platform known as the YaLa Café, approximately 60 young people aged 20-30 years contribute twice a week. Sarah spoke about some of the topics the contributors would focus on; gender equality, peace, politics, check points, religion and identity. Sarah then held a discussion where the group exchanged their feelings about these blogs, these particular themes. The group was very sensitive to the particular topics that are popular amongst the bloggers.

Sarah then asked the group to write an individual ‘blog post’. Everybody wrote a piece, for now they choose not to share them publicly but they were amazing pieces. Topics included; peace, fear and gender inequality to name but a few.

The session concluded on the note that the peace community is bigger than it sometimes seems to those of us working on the ground. The internet is one tool that we can harness for our cause, encouraging new ways to communicate and cooperate.

Maybe someday our youth will want to publically share their stories or testimonies and they may choose to do that through YaLa Café.

I learned so much about other faith traditions and myself. I learned about self-

reliance, patience, kindness, acceptance, love, and friendship

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Magda attended Kids4Peace Atlanta in the Summer of 2013. She is pictured with artwork created for a gallery display at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History, in conjunction with National Geographic’s Jerusalem IMAX movie.  

A little more than one week can mean many things. It can mean how long you have to wait for a package, how long you have to finish a project, or how long it took you to read an incredible book. I’ve done many things in a little more than one week, such as planting a garden and baking cookies. Although, some of the things I’ve done in a little over a week stand out.

One of the main things that stand out is Kids4Peace.  In Early July this year, I sat in the back seat of a large, shiny, black Subaru weaving through old country roads to Camp Mikell in Toccoa, Georgia. I had made this trip many times before, but the butterflies in my stomach were especially colorful. “Alright”, my mom reminds, “You should get your stuff together. We’re almost there.” I remember my gut tightening, and taking the turn off for the Camp Mikell conference center. In hindsight, this fear could not even compare to the fun, love and knowledge I was going to receive in the next couple of days.

Slowly, our group began to become more cohesive – like wood glue, slow to set, but extremely stable when dry. We learned each other’s cultures through group chats, expeditions, and activities. We talked about the world around us and inside of us. We observed and honored beliefs, and we tried out each other’s traditions. Some things were not as serious as others, like our pizza dinner on Jewish Shabbat, countless bedroom pillow fights, or the visit to Target. During long car rides, we would sing/scream along to music, talk, and play games such as “who can irritate the counselor first”, “are we there yet”, and “I’m hungry/thirsty/bored”.

Although we had a tremendous amount of fun, we learned a lot, too. In fact, I would not give up what I learned for almost anything. I learned so much about other faith traditions and myself. I learned about self-reliance, patience, kindness, acceptance, love, and friendship. Of course it was hard and exhausting, but I had people to hold me up, and to help me. In such a short time, I grew so much.

After a little more than one week, filled to the brim with so many experiences and friendship, it was time to say goodbye. After my mom picked me up, it took me a while to realize camp was over. I simply couldn’t accept the fact. Months afterward, I know camp is over, but Kids4Peace is not. I am still in contact with the kids in my group and I get to see them sometimes (the Atlanta kids, that is).

Right now, I am debating what to get my peace pal (pen pal), Mais, for Christmas. It’s a toss-up between a large collection of Maybelline makeup or Cover girl makeup. She’s very particular about it. Although I know the package is going to take long to get there, our friendship has already arrived.

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Kids4Peace is looking for some amazing 12 year-olds (current 6th graders) to join our community!

It all starts with a two-week summer camp this August, with other Jewish, Christian & Muslim youth from Jerusalem and across North America.

Learn about other religions and cultures, develop skills to be a peacemaker, meet Israeli & Palestinian youth and be part of a movement for lasting change

Contact the Camp Directors to learn more:

Applicants from New Hampshire & Vermont:

  • New Hampshire Camp (Apply Now)
  • Director Jeff Mandell (jeff@k4p.org)

Applicants from Seattle, Toronto & Houston:

  • Seattle Camp (Apply Now)
  • Director Jordan Goldwarg (jordan@k4p.org)

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On January 11th, 14 youth and adults represented Kids4Peace Atlanta in a service project to celebrate Martin Luther King Day. One of our newest board members, Khadeejah from the Roswell Community Masjid (RCM), planned the service project for the group.

K4P families gathered gently used coats, gloves, hats, scarves, blankets, clothing, non-perishable food items and personal hygiene products. On that Saturday, we met at the Clarkston Community Center to meet the people who work in this refugee community of Atlanta. We joined with families from RCM.

Zane from Jewish Family Services and Safiya from RISSA (Refugee Resettlement and Immigration Services of Atlanta) talked about the process of receiving the refugee families in Atlanta. Usually, they have 2 weeks prior notice, but have had as little as 36 hours prior notice before a family arrived. They told us that many of the families come with 1-2 bags with them and sometimes they bring nothing.

We had lunch at the Clarkston Community Center with another one of our hosts, Saimia of the Clarkston Interfaith Group. She led an ice breaker where we introduced ourselves by first name and how we came to live where we currently live. There were people in our group from all over the world and it was interesting to hear how they ended up in the Atlanta area.

We distributed the collected items to families from Ethiopia, Uganda and Somalia. They were so grateful and friendly. The children were a delight to watch as they “shopped” for themselves among all of the goodies. Special appearances were made by the Clarkston Mayor and a new Clarkston city councilman.

We left with a feeling of satisfaction, knowing that we helped newcomers to our country and our area. We talked about how we would handle moving to a new country with so few possessions and having to integrate into a new society, culture and language. It was then that we realized what a wonderful gift we had given these families.

K4P Atlanta hopes to make this an annual service project and possibly interact with the children and families more in the future.

– Jennifer Combs, Program Coordinator, Kids4Peace Atlanta

On Thursday the 20th of February K4P Jerusalem had the pleasure to welcome actress and activist Natalie Portman to our offices. She took a break from filming her directorial debut here in Jerusalem to visit, an adaption of Israeli novelist Amos Oz’s acclaimed memoir A Tale of Love and Darkness.  3D4A6874

With people arriving early the anticipation and excitement was palpable. Staff, alumni, volunteers, members of the steering committee and young people from the culminating groups awaited her arrival with baited breath. This excitement was not just that we were about to meet one of most prolific female actresses in Hollywood but that this was a woman born in Jerusalem, well known throughout the world who speaks with hope that, “someday [we] use our unique human assets of language and empathy rather than military technology or propaganda to resolve this conflict” A ideal that K4P endorses and works through. Having just gained NGO statues we are working towards developing and delivering a programme that will do just that. By extending the hand of friendship we are surmounting mountains that politics in the region has failed to deliver on. This visit is a testament to all the young people that have participated and a reminder to the staff that the work we do is of importance in shaping the worlds understanding of life in the Middle East.

Co-director Mohammad Joulany introduced Natalie Portman noting her work as an actress but choosing to focus on the many campaigns which she has led and or been a part of. The list was extensive and imparted on all those present the keen humanitarian spirit with which Natalie has used her star statues. Three young people from The Leadership Programme representing the three faiths presented a bouquet of flowers and then addressed Natalie directly focusing in what K4P means to them and what they have gained from their participation in the programme as well as acknowledging the challenges they face as young people living in Jerusalem. She then addressed the crowd with great humility and compassion speaking of the hope that young people brought to the region and the support she had for the ongoing work of the organisation. The floor was then open to ask Natalie direct questions, she spoke of cooperation and the human spirit, her love for Jerusalem and her intention to continue to visit the region. Co-director Rebecca Sullum then presented her with a Kids4Peace gift bag, including t-shirts for her husband and her son as a thank you and a momentum of her visit.

We wish to acknowledge and thank Rana Khatib who sits on the K4P steering committee for arranging this visit. Natalie Portman studied Arabic with her father Omar Othman when she studied at The Hebrew University, thus furnishing a close relationship that led to her hearing about the work of Kids4Peace Jerusalem.

2010-10-31 17.06.13 copyKids4Peace mourns the loss of Ahmad Amara, who died last week at age 87.  Ahmad was the Muslim advisor for Kids4Peace North Carolina and served as an activist for peace and interfaith understanding until his last days.

Ahmad was born in Jaffa, Palestine in 1927 to a devout Muslim family. He studied in Edinburgh, Beirut, Madrid and London and had a global career as a scientist and business leader, before settling in Asheville, North Carolina.

Most recently, he was a teacher in the community on topics like Islam: Religion and Politics, Myths and Realities; History of Medieval Spain; Islam: Faith & Way of Life; Middle East Contemporary Affairs; History of the Middle East; and History of the Arab People.

Ahmad was a wise and generous peacemaker, and Kids4Peace will miss him deeply.

Amid rising political tension accompanying a trying peace process and the most comprehensive health care strike in decades, Israeli and Palestinian youth from the Kids4Peace youth movement push it all aside and roll up their sleeves. Counselors-in-training in the local youth movement, Kids4Peace, took a break from their regular programming and training to visit the sick. An important part of the religions of all participating youth, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim participants spent an evening cheering up the youth in the pediatric ward at Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus. “It is important to us not only to make a difference within our own program participants, but to practice the values we teach on the broader Jerusalem community,” explained Kids4Peace co-director Mohammad Joulany. “The hospital is one place where Israeli and Palestinian, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim kids are coexisting but for the worst reasons. We hope that our partnership with the hospital will not only bring cheer to the kids, but assist in the inter cultural interactions and provide a safe space for the children to play and get healthy together.”

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