by Lara, Christian Advisor

We started the first program with full attendance as over 50 Leap participants arrived. As it was their first time altogether in one group, we did big one circle and each one introduced their names and religion. Due to the incredible turnout, we divided the kids into 2 groups who did the same activities separately.

As the first meeting of the year, we decided that games to help the kids get to know each other would be the best. The first activity was that each one must say his/her name with his/her favourite food or with a dance. The second activity was played through the string, each one must say his/her own expectation from k4p for this year and throwing the string to another person and saying his/her name. The third game was a balloon game. Each one had to write one word that he/she expects to achieve in this year and put it inside the balloon, then they mix all the balloons and each one must take a balloon and read it out loud what’s written inside the balloon he took in the circle. Then for the end, each one got small piece of wood, they wrote their names on it and helped each other write in English, Arabic, and Hebrew.

The games were a tool to help the kids in remembering each other’s names and knowing more about each other and their goals for this year. In the third game many kids shared the same expectation like peace, friendship, love and being together as one family.

After the meeting we did a small staff meeting where we discussed how the meeting was for each one, and how did we see ourselves through the meeting. The kids were rambunctious but they interacted well and participated in the games. We realized that with such a large number of kids, it would be preferable in the future to do activities in smaller groups. Additionally we need to emphasize for the kids the importance of listening to other and respecting the person who speaks. We think the kids continued because they were happy with their experience during the first year program and there was something that touched them that made them continue with Kids4Peace.

For the next event, we asked to bring a small gift and think of what does friendship means to them. They will present the gift and thought to a new friend that they will make at the Friendship Seminar in just a few weeks.

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by Liana, Jewish Advisor

In Roots this past Thursday, we divided the group into two because they were a very big and rambunctious pack. We began with telling stories about our names – funny stories, the meaning, etc. – to help the advisors learn the participant’s names. Afterwards, we played a game where we wrote our name on six pieces of paper and mixed them up, and then had to go around the room finding the people who had your name. If they had your name, you had to answer the question they had in order to get the piece of paper. This helped with getting to know people better – names, interests, and personalities – and kept everyone laughing. The counselors were great in assisting the advisors with activities and keeping the kids engaged and focused.

At the end of the meeting, all of Roots came together and we handed out contact cards and candy, telling them about the weekend seminar in November and telling them we had a great time and were so excited to get to know them this year! Overall, the advisors thought the meeting went well and that the kids were happy to be together again. We realized that the activities should be more catered towards their age and interests next meeting, but we were so happy to meet the kids and everyone is looking forward to what is sure to be a great seminar in just a few weeks!

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by Nadine, Christian advisor, Jerusalem

The first meeting of the new Video Newsletter program with Kids4Peace Jerusalem’s Young Adults went amazing. The youth were so happy to see each other. The program dealt with the psychology behind the three elements of communication in a performance: content, sound (voice) and show (body language). We analyzed each separately, understanding the concept through a game or exercise and then discussed how it might be implemented in their videos. Then, we had two participants “present” to the group and then analyzed their performance through the elements we had learned. Finally, our guest speaker Myra shared with us her amazing experience when she had to do a video of her sister. The kids started to look at the video from a professional side. They paid attention to the camera’s angle, lighting, body language of the presenter, sound, and content. In this way, they implemented what they learnt in the first part of the meeting. They left with very positive feeling about the program and they were all looking forward for the next meeting.

Some of the youth’s reactions:

“Most of our communication is through body language, so we have to use the right body posture in order to give out the intended information.” -Carla

“Voice can change the meaning of a sentence. Putting the emphasis on different words can change the whole meaning.” -George

“When you work hard on a piece of art, and you invest a lot of effort, you automatically become related to it.” -Adan

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A cup of tea with Mohammad

merk4p —  October 26, 2014 — Leave a comment

by Mohammad Joulany, K4P Jerusalem Co-Director

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Having a cup of tea on my veranda is the best after a long workday especially when the shades are closed. As I sip my tea, I do not want to look at the road that the Jerusalem municipality built by confiscating land from my village to serve the nearby settlement, Rekhes Shufat. It is a tough reality especially when I compare any of the nearby roads with those poorly maintained ones in my village. The municipality collects housing tax “Arnona” yet until today they did not fix the traffic lights in my neighborhood that angry youth destroyed three months ago following the burning of Mohammad AbuKhdeir alive by Israeli settlers.

Living in Jerusalem is getting tougher day after day. It is hard to predict what will happen next. I no longer hang out at the Western part of the city and my wife’s driving route is work and home. “Settlers are everywhere and I do not want my son to be the next victim,” she says. The daily storming of Al Aqsa mosque by settlers is adding salt to the injury. I have not been able to reach it for the past month or so because of the police policy of barring males under the age of fifty to enter the mosque on Fridays. My right to practice my belief is on hold while settlers are gaining more and more presence in Jerusalem by buying and confiscating lands and houses in and around especially in Silwan.

Last Wednesday was no exception, this time it is a Palestinian youth from Silwan running over a number of Israelis resulting in the killing of the three months baby Chaya Zissel and the injury of many others. The horrible events I mentioned and many others prove repeatedly that the cycle of violence will never stop unless we ourselves work on ending incitement. Incitement happens mainly at educational institutes and media against a certain ethnicity, religion, nation, color, etc.

As the co-director of Kids4Peace movement in Jerusalem, I have the honor to meet Palestinian and Israeli families who meet on a regular basis in order to inspire hope and work together toward ending the current situation and tension. It is difficult to stay optimistic in Jerusalem yet kids4Peace makes it possible. Understanding the other is an important step towards finding a peaceful solution for the conflict. Jerusalem is a dear city to all of us and it should remain open to all religions and nationalities; the chosen people by God are the kindest and most considerate.

Last Thursday was a very powerful evening as eighty Kids4Peace families came together. We gathered with the belief that we can make a difference and we will. We are a growing community that want to see the other as a friend and colleague rather than as an enemy. It takes a lot of effort and courage to make a leap for the sake of our beloved city. The question is if we really will be able to change the situation. In my opinion, there is a growing community in Jerusalem tired of hate speech despite the many powerful factors that are dictating the situation. We continue to fail to achieve peace in Jerusalem because we continue to use the same language of “them” instead of using that of “us”. We will continue to fail as long as we do not recognize the right of everyone to live peacefully in dignity and respect. As a community, we are truly dedicated to change the status quo. We are, in my opinion, a non-violent resistance movement that is not against the States rather against incitement from any side. We do not have to change our belief system in order to succeed; we have to start learning how to celebrate our differences. I want to end with a verse from the noble Quran that sums it all:

 “O mankind, we have created you from a male and a female, and made you into races and tribes, so that you may identify one another. Surely the noblest of you, in Allah‘s sight, is the one who is most pious of you. Surely Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware. (49:13)

“It feels like a huge relief to take everything we’ve been doing for the last 5 years and finally the world will know about it. The program isn’t just about video, it’s giving us so many lessons and skills that we can use to spread the message.” – Emmamuel, age 15

As part of our mission to “Empower a movement for change“, Kids4Peace Jerusalem has launched a new social action project for its high school youth, titled “My Jerusalem”. This project, sponsored by the US Consul General of Jerusalem, will facilitate creating cross-border video newsletter, and will equip a core group of our Palestinian and Israeli youth to actively engage in promoting peace and mutual understanding. This project will provide a forum for sharing stories from people and places normally inaccessible to young people from different religious backgrounds. It will place a special focus on youth voices and their personal and religious connection to Jerusalem.

“I feel that the biggest challenge is being truthful about what I really feel and think without hurting my Israeli friends. In the Leadership Camp this summer, they taught us how to have a proper dialogue so that we can say what we mean and trust that we can be ourselves.” -Adan, age 15

A main goal in this program is for the newsletter team to show the reality of each other’s lives to the other side: both the positive elements and the challenges of injustice, fear, violence, and poverty. These local stories will honestly address the historical, political, cultural and religious dimensions of Jerusalem through the perspective of hopeful committed youth leaders who are working together for peace.

“When we do talk about the conflict and we say the really hard things, we have to learn how to put it aside after. I’m always worrying, is this going to affect the way we see each other after the dialogue? But so far it hasn’t.  I didn’t only have to learn the skill of how to listen, but also to trust that everyone else is learning it too and they’ll be able to set things aside when the dialogue is over.” -Emmanuel

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Areej is a woman whose passion for peace comes from personal experiences of violence and hatred in her own life. She lived a very nice life in Iraq within a highly educated family for some time, however with the war of 2003, Areej and her family’s identification as Shiite Muslim put them in danger. Areej described to me the feelings she experienced during that time.

“There was no security, no safety, and you don’t know if you would live to tomorrow. It was very Areej Pic 5hard to find your way between the troops.”

Recognizing the danger of the situation, Areej and her family left Iraq for Jordan and eventually moved to Vermont. Though Areej has degrees in computer science and electrical power engineering, she became involved in different places as an interpreter, first as a medical interpreter and eventually working with refugees and in the school district helping newly arriving families. In working with a teacher who had a connection with Kids4Peace, Areej became aware that they were looking for a Muslim advisor for the Vermont Chapter of Kids4Peace and she was eager to help.

“When you already have a real experience where you have no hope for tomorrow you really love to help and work in a peace field to help the honest people who deserve to live a good life. I lived and had this real experience.”

Not only does Areej have a passion for peace, but she has a passion for children also. She described to me that “I love them because I feel that there is a lovely connection between my soul and theirs.” The kids seem to share this connection because Areej shared with me that at one camp; they chose her as “camp mom.”

“If I could, I wish I could put them all inside my heart and save them from the world. I wish for a very bright and colorful future for our kids.”

Areej and her sister have been board members on the Vermont Chapter of Kids4Peace since 2009, and in 2010, she participated in her first camp. Areej explained to me that “each camp has a unique spirit.” Similarly, each child has a story and sitting around in a circle, the kids each tell their story. Areej told me of one story where a boy said it took him two and a half hours to get to school and a girl spoke up and said “I am sorry my friend, I only need ten minutes.” In these telling of real stories, the kids learn to live the experiences together. Areej presented this as an example of what the real world should be like. “We need to think in a good way and listen to each other instead of killing each other.”

I additionally asked Areej about her experience at camps and she responded with a good story.

Areej Pic 2“One man came up to our group who was a part of the church we were visiting. He said that we were giving the church a good example of how we can live all together. The kids could live together having fun, doing good things and selling the message then we can do it too. He said he was hesitant to talk to a Muslim, wondering if he is going to accept him or not. I told him to go talk to him and tell your feelings. Don’t worry, just talk. Nobody can refuse nice words and a positive attitude. We are all human beings.”

Even though  the mission for peace is easy in theory, Areej described to me some of the difficulties of being a part of an organization which works to change societal ideals.Areej Pic 1

“Our mission is not easy. It is a very hard type of work. I told my friends that we are carving in the stone and the stone is very hard and harsh. We need to find a way to carve to mark in the stone so it will stay a thousand years or more. It is also like learning a new language. It looks easy but when you practice it and apply it, you can’t see your fruit easily.”

Areej additionally talked to me about her hope for the future. “I want to have a soldier checking during a check point and that soldier was a Kids4Peace camper. This is the story I want.”

“I do believe we are changing the world and I have best friends from all around the world from Kids4Peace. I didn’t have any Jewish friends before, now I have Jewish, Christian and Serbian friends. I hadn’t visited a synagogue or talked to a rabbi. Now Kids4Peace is in my blood. I feel so proud of myself that I am doing this job.”  Areej Pic 3 Areej Pic 4

Kate Atkinson was brought up in the Episcopal Church with her time divided between England and Connecticut and is now an Episcopal Priest at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Kate described to me a childhood where her family regularly hosted students from other countries.

 “I grew up knowing people of different countries, nationalities and religions. It was a natural part of my life to include different people. We didn’t view it as strange or unusual, it was just a part of our lives. The idea of encouraging children to break down the barriers of ideology and nationality was very appealing to me.”

Kate got involved with Kids4Peace through her Interfaith Council and is working with the New Hampshire Chapter, who just had their first camp this past summer. The kids came to Church the first Sunday of camp and Kate described this as a “wonderful experience.”

“The kids took part in the service, did readings, read prayers and sang a beautiful son in Arabic, Hebrew and English.”

In addition to working with the summer camp, Kate is a part of the steering committee for the New Hampshire Chapter. She and others work in “galvanizing support of different people. I would raise the topic of Kis4Peace at Episcopal diesis meetings. Financial support is important but prayer support is very important also.” They also create promotional materials and assist with Honor Card donations for when people want to contribute financially in someone’s name. Further, Kate’s daughter Georgia was at the camp in New Hampshire last summer!

I asked Kate about what she thought of the organization as a whole and she responded with thoughtful words and a good story.

“What works really well is the strong desire for living together in harmony. We all are different and there are fundamental differences between us but we don’t want to change one another. We can all model peaceful behavior.”Kate Pic 2

Kate told me that while attending the Kids4Peace summit several weeks ago, the audience heard from a boy who had been a part of the Boston camp. He spoke to the group about what they learned at Kids4Peace and he said he became a more peaceful person. His mother, who was in the crowd, stood up and asked if that was why he didn’t fight with his sister so much anymore. For Kate, this story reveals a fundamental part of Kids4Peace.

“We are not just learning about global peace but learning about individual peace. How we deal with one another on a human and individual level.”

I further asked Kate about what she would like to see for the future. She expressed that she would love to see the New Hampshire chapter moving forward to continue to offer a successful camp every summer and establishing more year round programming so that kids can take what they learned a few steps further, keep relationships alive and keep growing together. She also voiced that she would like to take Kids4Peace kids to Jerusalem.

“It is important to see the place that features so strongly in conversations and peacemaking exercises and it is important for young people to know more than just their corner of the world. The moment we step out of what’s familiar, we become more committed to making a difference.”

Kate also shared thoughts on what aspects of Kids4Peace are so important and why it is really making a difference.

“The most important thing that I have learned is that we can learn from our children. Since the entire camp came to visit St. Paul’s, we have had campers visit and they visit other places as well. Everywhere they go, they are helping to make a difference. Children can teach adults, adults can learn from children and sometimes that’s the way it has to be. In bringing peace to the world, that is a very important thing to remember, that our children have something to teach us.”Kate Pic 1

Dick Dutton is currently co-chair of the New Hampshire/ Vermont Chapter of Kids4Peace with Rabbi Robin Nafshi, and as a part of this role he “gets people, organizations and communities together” in the cause for peace. Though the New Hampshire Kids4Peace is brand new, Dick’s personal experience with peacebuilding is extensive and frankly, impressive.

Dick started off our conversation by describing himself as having “always been a bridge builder.” He grew up in New York State and St. Louis, Missouri and his father was a Baptist Minister who had people from different ethnicities, religions and cultures in their home all the time. Thus, Dick “grew up with excitement about the rest of the world” and told me that his room was filled with maps on the ceiling and walls.Richard Pic

After receiving an undergraduate degree from Baylor University in Texas, Dick went to a then very progressive Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. He described to me always having “imagination to bring together people of different cultures.” At his first church in Virginia during the American civil rights movement, he encouraged black and white dialogue and was almost kicked out. Captured by his vision for peace, Dick was gradually able to understand the sentiments against him and his cause at the time.

Dick’s quest for peace did not end there however. He moved up the east coast from Baltimore to New York State and eventually New England and created local interfaith groups with Jews, Christians and even Buddhists. Building bridges all along the way, Dick worked with a local Catholic Priest in New England to bring twelve kids from Ireland, some Catholic and some Protestant, to the US to interact with American children in a ten day camp much like Kids4Peace.

Two years ago, Dick became involved in Kids4Peace and helped most recently with the first New Hampshire camp this summer, which he described as a “thrilling success.” I asked him to give me his thoughts on Kids4Peace as a whole.

“They had such a good time playing but every morning had serious discussion where they broke into groups and talked about conflict resolution. Everyone was able to get involved and participate in discussion. We would like to think that this isn’t a ten day thing. All the kids have made a commitment to spend some of the next year doing social service with different groups. Kids are continuing to talk to their peers and their parents and having on going conversations about some ways that they avoided conflict, negotiated and conversed with each other at camp.”

Dick further described his favorite experience from last year’s camp as being the Abrahamic Tent. A show put on by the kids on the last night of camp to show case and parody  the different religions. He describes one funny scene of two kids dressed up as Jesus and John the Baptist where John baptizes Jesus and they come out of the water to take a selfie. Another scene however struck to the heart of the matter. The scene depicted children in sheets symbolizing Muslims making the pilgrimage to Mecca. For Dick this showed an important truth. “I realized that all the religions are on a journey and are in transition. No one has arrived yet.” Overall Dick said the first camp experience was for everyone a helpful one.

“Now people are aware of Kids4Peace and the camping program so this second time around we will learn from the last time, improving and building on what happened last year and making it even better next year.”

Additionally Dick expressed a humble appreciation for the many people involved in the camps.

“The willingness and cooperation between those who were helping to organize this was phenomenal. The volunteers who helped out with meals, transportation and those, who did 100 tasks, all the volunteers were just fantastic and so willing to give time to do this. A tent or booth was present at two multi-cultural festivals and we had volunteers for that. So the volunteers at all levels were just spectacular. And then the Director, the Faith Leaders, the counselors, other adults, parents and the Kids, the Kids…we had a real family, and all were committed to what we were doing.”

I think being in K4P shows that just because we have different identities doesn’t mean we can’t be and live together and have lots of fun. And it is important to prove that to other people so they see that it is possible and actually not difficult at all! –Elianna

To be in K4P is a great opportunity to meet new people from all countries and nations and it’s a way to start peace and also end war and is special for me that I am in K4P that I get a chance to express my thoughts, feelings and myself and also to not use violence or curse people. I want to get from K4P to is peace and no violence. – Lutfi

It means to me that I can make a peace around the world. I am going to bring home the no ort rule. That will help bring peace because less people will waste food and the world will be a better place. – Mahmoud

What I will take from MV to home is the feeling that no matter which religion you are that everyone is equal, no matter how you look or what is your height. To do a friendship bracelet for a Muslim girl, talk and laugh with her while at home people fight and die. To watch a Sunday service of a Muslim prayer, ask questions and learn. – Ayala

To be a peacemaker is to hold our hands together, and to help each other not killing each other, to treat each other as humans. Peace making is when you share your love of the difference between religion, ethnicity, race for the world and try to make them similar so that they would join in their love. Being part of Kids4Peace is something I am very grateful for, thinking that I could be part of something big in the future and make a difference what would affect the whole world. I am going to take every little memory of the fun, amazing camp and all the things that I learned that would help me be a peace maker I would always keep all these things in my heart to remember – Salma

I will take home all of the things I’ve learned over the past 10 days, all of the memories, and friendships I have made here. I come to Kids4Peace because the life better and more peace. And who make this peace is us. Then they will call us peace maker. What I will take from K4P back home is the feeling that everyone is equal, no matter how you look or which religion you come from. I came to Kids4Peace to try and understand the difference viewpoints that each kid has. Some people don’t understand that someone with a different opinion then you can be right without making you wrong and also to teach people that you won’t be able to make peace with others unless you can make peace with yourself. When I say make peace with yourself I mean if you are constantly putting yourself down because of the way you look, act, or how you feel, it will hurt to be yourself, and if you can’t who you are, how can you help others know the real them? –Elianna

Being a peacemaker at K4P means to me that I can make a difference, that we kids can change the world and one little movement can make a huge difference. I want to bring home my peacemaking skills because if you can’t be/make/have peace in your own home, you can’t be peaceful/a peacemaker in the world. – Thea

It means to be a part of K4P is amazing and an awesome opportunity because we learn other people’s religions and difference beliefs getting along. – Abdul

Peace maker means to me beautiful life, a lot of fun and happiness! – Bashar

To be part of Kids4Peace means being the start of something big, the start of a real change. But being part of Kids4Peace also means that you are willing to fight, peacefully, for the things you need to start the change. I believe that Kids4Peace is one of the many sparks that will hopefully, in time, become a peaceful fire that spreads like in the song. What I want to take home from Kids4Peace is the hope that peace is coming and some ways that our hop can become a reality. – Nellie

To be a peace-maker, for me, is to solve my problems and arguments without force or violence (verbal or physical) and with no judgment and a positive attitude and to pass this idea on to others. What I want to take from Kids4Peace is the ability to see other perspectives and viewpoints. I learned how to connect with others that are different from me and how to accept these differences. – Becca

Being a part of K4P means to me that we are going to come here to make friends outside of our respective bubbles and take that out to the world. We also take the lessons we learned on into the world. Not only will I remember the people I met in K4P but also the people at Merrowvista. These people all have something I don’t so I will learn from them and take it with me so that I can become a better person. – Buyya

K4P means to be peaceful and a peacemaker, but sometimes it feels like to me separating because you always separate us into groups. The same groups every time, and I don’t get the chance to meet more people! But when I told them about it, it got much better. I want to take the love, dancing, singing and doing activities together to Jerusalem. And I want to bring the fun and the talking from Jerusalem. –Mira

by Meredith Rothbart, K4P Director of Development

Every now and then, those of us living in Jerusalem are reminded of our similarities and not just our differences. Just recently we commemorated the miracle of when Abraham went to sacrifice his son and sacrificed a (ram/lamb) instead. While the religions may differ on the interpretations (Isaac or Ishmael) and on the method of commemorating (Shofar or Sacrifice), one important point stands out: we share a history together. Sitting in synagogue with my family on Rosh Hashana listening to the Torah portion about Isaac’s sacrifice, I couldn’t help but think about all of my Muslim friends preparing for Eid al-Adha, commemorating their interpretation of the same event in their religious tradition. This past week in synagogue again, it warmed my heart thinking of my Muslim neighbors on their holy day in the exact same moments that we were pouring out our hearts to G-d for our holy day.

After a summer full of racism and clashes, many Jerusalem NGOs and even government bodies and police forces were concerned that this religious overlap would lead to violence. Campaigns went viral on social media, public street posts, and even on a few public busses. The message was simple: let’s not take our differences in commemorating this important story and turn it to violence. This overlap in religion, tradition, and culture can be seen as a call for us to recognize our similarities and respect the shared aspects of our dual narrative.

This image (posted by New Israel Fund) shows a Muslim man praying on the left and a Jewish man praying on the right, highlighting the similarities of the two men’s dress and prayer. The note in Hebrew and Arabic reads:
“Yom Kippur and Eid al-Adha: Give Respect, Practice Tolerance.” 

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While peace doesn’t always make the news, I wanted to take a minute to acknowledge that despite all of the concern, no violence broke out. In fact, youth from both sides shared in the real Israeli tradition of turning Yom Kippur into national biking day because all of the streets are closed to cars.

Personally, while walking my baby home from synagogue for her mid-afternoon nap, I saw a swarm of about 30 young Palestinian teenage boys riding their bikes through the bus lane. My immediate instinct, as opposed to this past summer when I was constantly filled with fear, was to rush ahead and make sure to pass by in the middle of them and take a good look at their faces. I was hoping to see some Kids4Peacers among the crowd, because they were headed toward a village where we have many families. Though I didn’t recognize any of these particular youth–it did bring out an intense realization for me. I wasn’t scared of the other. After all of the horrible violence and clashes and racism this summer, somehow things died down for real. Just over two months ago, I was terrified to even go into the Kids4Peace office, as Rebecca mentioned in an earlier blog. Now my gut is to join together.

Something about the holiness of the day brought us a all a bit of peace. What young mother dives with her baby into a group of teenage boys of her so called “enemy”? A young mother who knows that those that those boys are not her enemy. One who refuses to be enemies. One who knows the other, recognizes dozens of families from their village, one who hopes in the midst of her holiest day of the year for the opportunity to wish them a friendly greeting on one of theirs.

Sometimes it is nice to report on peace. We in Jerusalem, at least on this one day, experienced a sense of mutual respect and shared holiness. May we all learn from this that it is possible. Together, peace is possible.

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My baby has no idea that on her left is a Jewish Israeli and on her right is a Muslim Palestinian. To her, they’re just her friends.