by Violette, Christian participant, Jerusalem

Today was one of the best days for me at Acer Farm so far. Today’s subject that we had to work on was forgiveness. We heard a lot of stories like the one about Ruby Bridges during the Christian service in the farm’s chapel, and we had a lot of good questions that went straight to the point. After a vegetarian lunch, we went canoeing on the West River. It was so much fun and was my favorite part of the day. All of the meals we have at camp are wonderful. We ended the day with a dialogue about the movie “Heart of Jenin” that explores the concept of forgiveness by the father of a young, unarmed Palestinian boy killed by IDF troops in 2002.

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by Rachel, American Christian Faith Adviser, NC

IMG_5745This morning the 6th graders boarded a school bus to travel to Asheville, about a 45-minute drive from camp. Our first stop was at Trinity Episcopal Church where our whole group was generously welcomed and ushered to a group of seats in the front.

Lilly, American Christian camper, and Maria, Jerusalem Christian camper read passages for the service in English and Arabic respectively. The priest and the congregation extended a warm welcome to our whole group and thanked us for being there and working together towards peace.

For many of the non-Christian campers (especially from Jerusalem) it was their first time in a Christian church in America. As the service progressed I saw many eyes roaming over the large space, surveying the high ceilings, the stone archways and the stained glass windows. All four American Christian girls are Episcopal so they were able to help the others throughout the service.

After the service we gathered in the church dining hall to meet with their congregation and have lunch. Three of the Jewish campers were fasting for Tisha B’av a Jewish day of mourning for the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. The day includes a 25-hour fast and abstaining from celebratory activities such as listening to music and other forms of work.

BIMG_5740ecause they were keeping Tisha B’av, they were unable to eat the delicious meal provided by the church and were instead sitting at the tables with the other kids looking longingly on at their plates of food.

Samar, the Jerusalem Christian Faith Adviser, asked the kids if they would like to take some of the food back to camp to break their fast in the evening. Their eyes lit up. Samar spoke with the church staff and in moments the Episcopal Church provided enough bags for the kids to take whatever foods they could possibly desire with them.

They began shoving whatever food they could into their ziplocks: pita bread, chips, cake, salad, boiled eggs and fresh fruits and veggies. They happily packed the bags into Yair’s, Jerusalem Jewish Faith Adviser, backpack for later.

With tips from Adli, Jerusalem Muslim Faith Adviser, about fasting, the support of Yair and Samar and their bags of food, the kids were well-equipped to make it to the end of their fast. They were so lucky to have such thoughtful, strong, supportive advisers by their sides. Samar even fasted in solidarity with the 3 campers.

Outside on the lawn the group had a chance to ask questions of the Christians within our group about the service.

One of the questions that was asked was about the symbol of the cross.

Aida replied, “We use this symbol because Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross to erase our sins and it’s important for us to remember that.”

Another question came from American Muslim Faith Adviser, Kareem, about the representation of Jesus in Christian churches in the US versus Jerusalem.

Haya offered that the depictions are almost the same. Nazeeh added that “they are a little different because nobody knows what Jesus looked like so people just depict him like they imagine him to look.”

Together we got to learn more from one another about what we had just been a part of before heading to Lauren’s, American Jewish Faith Adviser, synagogue in Asheville.IMG_5748

Inside the building most of the campers were treated to a concert with local musician friends that Lauren is connected with. The performance was a combination of American pop music, North Carolinean fiddle music and group sing-along songs. A few of the songs we sang together as a group were even translated into all three languages.

After an exciting day on the town the group is looking forward to some swimming at Camp Bob and more faith adviser sessions tomorrow.   IMG_5750

Brian SullivanBy the Rev. Brian Sullivan, President of Kids4Peace Atlanta.

As I am walking to my car about to leave Kanuga to prepare for the children to arrive in Atlanta, I had a familiar feeling.

I feel aspiration. It is the feeling I get when the actions of others cause me to take action.

Whereas, inspiration makes me think big thoughts, aspiration is a catalyst to make those thoughts a reality.

After 13 years of being involved with Kids4Peace, aspiration is the reason for our continued existence. People from all over the world have aspired to make Kids4Peace a reality.

People like you are what make Kids4Peace possible. You know Kids4Peace is about children coming together to see one another for who they are, not what they are. Kids4Peace makes space for simple questions, to get simple answers, but it also about experiencing the complex meanings behind those answers. What could me more simple than a child asking a new friend at the dinner table, “Why can’t you eat that?” The simple answer is, “because scripture says I can’t eat it.” But at Kids4Peace we are also exploring the more complex meaning, which is “because this makes me who I am.”

In today’s society we like clear answers, and Kids4Peace is giving us those answers along with the complex meanings.

Kids4Peace is a community of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim children. We are from the United States and Palestine/Israel. We love to play soccer, draw pictures, share thoughts, paddle canoes, and hike trails. We are also surrounded with conflict, confusion and sometimes violence.

However, by coming together and respecting the complexity of who we are, Kids4Peace is making peace a daily reality.

Clearly Kids4Peace is an inspiration. But the reason you are reading this has more to do with the fact that you want to be inspired. Whether you are reading this as a leader of your own chapter, volunteer at a camp this summer, or JUST AS IMPORTANT a financial supporter; I hope that you take action to help Kids4Peace remain one of the most aspirational programs many of these children will ever experience.

Rest.

merk4p —  July 26, 2015 — Leave a comment

by Rachel, American Christian Faith Adviser for NC

20150725_162038As we continue to learn from our Jewish friends about the tradition of Shabbat, we took on the theme of “rest” today. The Jewish kids and staff here at camp each have different traditions of how they keep Shabbat. Some staff and campers abstain from listening to music or doing work that might seem simple to some (like writing), other campers and staff take on the spirit of rest and Shabbat in different ways. It has been eye-opening to learn from each of them.

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This morning we had the privilege of seeing a Torah scroll unrolled led by Rabbi Laurie, the head of the 7th grade LEAP program. All of the campers sat in two rows of benches facing each other. We laid sheets and blankets across our laps so the Torah would not touch us or fall to the floor as it rolled by.

Laurie explained that we would be unrolling and rolling the entire Torah (about the length of an American football field) from start to finish. As the Torah was unrolled Laurie and Lauren, American Jewish Faith Adviser for the 6th grade, shared with us some facts about the Torah and how a Torah is written and purchased and meant to be treated.

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Two of the Jewish girls from Jerusalem, Arielle and Maya, recited their Torah portion from their bat mitzvahs when the group had scrolled to it. Some of the most beautiful moments this week have been when kids have had the opportunities to share these important moments with their new friends. Everyone listened respectfully and watched as the intricate Hebrew letters slid across their laps.

In the 6th grade morning session with our facilitator, Jill, we were able to spend some more time sharing our stories with one another. As part of a larger exercise, Jill laid maps of the campers homes out on the benches.

Among the maps were Jerusalem, North Carolina and Georgia. Each camper then got to choose a map to bring back to the larger circle and share. The second the campers had maps of home in their hands their faces lit up and they started telling stories to one another.

“This is my street!”

“That’s the pond near where I live.”

“This is how I walk to my school in Jerusalem.”

One conversation in particular caught my ear. Nick, one of the 6th grade counselors, was talking with our campers Yona and Nur. He was talking about his 3 minute commute from his home in South Carolina to work across the border in Georgia. He pointed at the map on the floor and traced his route.

“3 minutes to cross?” Yona asked. “No police?”IMG_5717

Jill, who was listening on helped facilitate the conversation to explain that in the US there are no checkpoints or police when you cross a border into another state.

Yona, an Israeli camper, was sensitive to something that many of the Palestinians and Israelis at camp and back home may have to face daily. Hearing his questions and observation struck a chord with each of us who overheard.

It’s through these moments of sharing and awareness of each other that we really begin to form deep understandings.

In the afternoon the 6th grade took some time for much needed rest with a silent meditation together by the lake. 20150725_162740

After the meditation the kids were able to come back as a group and get together in a way that we haven’t before. Seeing the kids playing games together this afternoon was a sign of the days ahead. Tomorrow we are looking forward to learning more about Christianity at an Episcopal Church in Asheville.

~by Lamara, Christian participant, Jerusalem

Today was a really great day. We did so many interesting things, such as hiking, swimming, and eating ice-cream! We also had a lot of meaningful conversations. We had a great dialogue about conflict, violence and what it meant to each of us. We also shared a lot of deep stories and we were able to learn more about each other. What was great about this was that we were able to connect more and realize how many similarities we have. It is amazing how a few days of the camp have passed by and we are all already bonded together like one family. I am so glad to be here!

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by Rachel, American Christian Faith Adviser, North Carolina

One of the big events of today was shaping and baking the challah for shabbat this evening. In the afternoon 6th and 7th grade campers gathered in the dining hall where Jill, our facilitator, distributed challah dough to each camper to shape before placing them all in the oven.

Jill shared that in her family the 3 braided strands of challah represent where the ideas of truth, justice and mercy join together in Psalms.IMG_0696

“Mercy and truth are met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” -Psalms 85:10

Arielle, one of the Jewish 6th grade campers from Jerusalem, shared her own experience baking challah and explained the significance of a tradition she continued with the challah today.

“When you bake the challah you use 1 or 1.5 kilos of dough and take a small piece out of the bread to set aside. When you finish, you can say a blessing and you can ask for wishes with the small piece you set aside (you can wish for a baby, or something for yourself, or for someone to feel better). My grandmother is sick so today I asked that she would feel better. When I made my challah today, I put the piece in foil and you can throw it in the oven with the challah. When the challah is finished you can throw that piece away.”IMG_0689

This small piece of leftover challah dough is called hafrashat challah and members of the Jewish community practice this tradition across the world.

After our 6th grade challah bake and lunch, all of the campers (6th and 7th grade) went to sit and observe as the Muslim campers, counselors and faith advisers practiced Jum’aa prayer. The whole camp was quiet and respectful through the prayers and service which was translated into English wherever possible. After the prayers, the Muslim campers and staff opened the floor for questions.

One of the questions the campers asked was, “Why do the men and women sit separately during prayers?”

A few of the Muslim staff offered answers saying that the primary purpose of prayers and service was to offer total, undivided attention to God. In their tradition, separating the genders is an effective way to limit distractions during such a reverent time.

In our faith advising session with the group, Kareem, American Muslim Faith Adviser for the 6th grade, led the activities. He asked the kids to come together in small groups to write down the stories of some of their religious traditions. The groups had time to record their stories in drawings and words before they were asked to share with one another.

“What’s something new you learned about someone?” Kareem asked the groups afterwards.

“Nazeeh told me that for Easter his family hides eggs in the garden and they search for them together and find candy inside,” Nur shared.

Today was filled with learning about each other’s religious stories and opportunities for the campers to get to know one another better. One of the fun activities today was taking the 6th grade to the lake for canoeing. The boys and girls had so much fun paddling around the lake together in the sunshine.

The day finished with a shabbat service run by the Jewish staff and campers as the rest of the Kids4Peace community sat as observers. Some of the Jewish campers spoke about the significance of shabbat to them after the service. They shared that the day of rest is reflective of God’s day of rest after he created the universe in the first book of the Torah. We got to spend time together as a camp community while we learned from our Jewish friends about some of their traditions.

IMG_5667Maya, one of the Jewish campers from Jerusalem, shared how she prepares for shabbat service at home. “Not everyone necessarily has to wear dresses or skirts,” she said, “but we want to dress respectfully for shabbat… just like you would for any other important occasion.”

As we continue to get to know one another, the kids are becoming comfortable asking questions of one another. There were lots of moments of learning throughout the day from the challah bake this afternoon to the closing shabbat service. We are looking forward to learning more about how our stories are intertwined in the coming days.

by Yazan, Muslim participant, Jerusalem

11794441_915451221844836_3137224644963309201_oToday I got up particularly early for a morning shower. For breakfast, I warmed up a couple of pieces of toast. The day was made of dialogue sessions, at least one session with a guest speaker, lunch and dinner, swimming, and outdoor activities, as well as card games and throwing around a frisbee. We began the day with a challenging teambuilding activity, where we had to hold hands in a big circle and pass two hula-hoops around. The activity required lots of communication.

One of the highlights of this camp so far, Bill Cusano and his three volunteer assistants came to work with us all the way from New York City. They spoke to us about a project called the “Elijah” project, and presented each of us campers with a video camera, provided by sponsors that have a lot of faith in what we are doing and are looking forward to seeing the videos that we will be making. The videos will be about the ‘3 Sabbaths’, referring to the holy days of Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the three Abrahamic religions.11722055_915451281844830_3713642335937427211_o

We then had a session with Jeanie, a family therapist who told us about her career, and a couple of extremely meaningful stories of how important the ‘lens’ we wear are, meaning how much a perspective of things can vary from one person to another. One’s curse may be another’s blessing.

11722419_915451251844833_496912809283893935_oAfter a small break, we had a great lunch of kosher hamburgers and hotdogs. Our camp had many guests, which was very interesting since each camper had one guest to sit with while we ate our amazing food. The other Muslims and I (including an Imam, who was also our guest), prayed the significant Friday prayer for Muslims, which is taken as a day of rest in the Muslim world.

Afterwards, I met another Palestinian man, who is a friend of Fr. Nicholas, from a city in the West Bank called Jenin, which also happens to be where my great-grandmother lives. We had a very educational and meaning session with Youssef Bashir, a man from Gaza who came to tell us his first-hand account of his childhood and his very forgiving, peaceful father, who had forgiven the Israeli soldiers who nearly killed him, used his home as a military base, and in fact shot him in the back. We were all puzzled. How could one forgive someone after going through all that? This was something Youssef himself had to learn and understand over a long time.

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It cannot be easily expressed how life changing that morning was alone. ‘Seeing things in another perspective’ is indeed transformational. I’m not sure how many of us can develop as people without discussing the things we did today at camp
Our daily leadership skills program focused on Dignity. We talked about what Dignity is, the difference between Dignity and Respect, what are the essential elements of dignity, and what can violate one’s dignity. We then went up to swim in the pond, had our Jewish Shabbat prayers and ceremony with Rabbi Michael. After dinner, we had a very deep and meaningful dialogue session, where we talked about personal experiences when our own dignity was violated. We heard and shared many emotional, sad, and moving experiences that we had experienced.

by Eyal, Jewish participant, Jerusalem

11218235_914865081903450_3131900374876691632_oWe woke up at 6:30 AM in the morning, so we had some time to talk until breakfast. At 7:30 AM we had a great breakfast: bagels, cereal, yogurt and fruit.

After breakfast, we did some icebreaker activities, to get to know each other better. We then established group norms and rules, so we will be able to communicate with each other without being offensive.

11722151_914864338570191_2656729864667605535_oThen we looked at slides with pictures of different places and incidents in Jerusalem, and we had to write about 3 things:

1. Why are we at this camp?
2. What’s holding us back?
3. What are the roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

For lunch we had a delicious home-cooked kosher meal. After we fed our appetites, we worked on our identity, morals and self-leadership skills. Then we went swimming in t  he pond. It was very fun just hanging out in the cool water with everyone after a hot day. We had a great dinner of ziti pasta with mozzarella, garlic bread and cucumber-tomato salad. In the evening, we paired up and made masks. I feel it connected us in a special way. 1782391_914864998570125_2306066087139913255_o
Then we went on a nighttime scavenger hunt. It was intense looking for the clues to find a secret campfire spot, in which we burnt the pieces of paper with the things that hold us back. We also got bracelets with leadership qualities written on them that we will wear throughout camp. One participant said “I will cherish this my whole life!” And now, its time to go to sleep and prepare for another awesome day.

by Rachel, Christian Adviser for 6th grade, NC

IMG_5620The campers woke up bright and early this morning in their cabins and got ready for their first full day spent together as a group. At breakfast we learned the morning routine from the incredible Camp Bob staff. Many of the campers and counselors from Jerusalem headed straight for the Cheerios cereal.

Carla, one of the counselors from Jerusalem, explained to me that many of the Jerusalem campers would add sugar to the cereal. She said there is a similar cereal in Jerusalem that is much sweeter to taste. Already many of the campers, from the US and Jerusalem, are seeking the familiarities of home in this new place and with this new group.

This morning the group had some time to get to know one another a little better with a session led by our facilitator Jill. Jill prompted the group to be accommodating and hospitable to one another.

“We have to begin to tune our ears to each other’s languages,” Jill explained.

Next to Jill one of the campers sneezed.

“This is a great place to start!” she said. And as a group we learned how to excuse a sneeze in all three languages.

English: “God bless you”

Hebrew: “La’briut”

Arabic: “Alhamdulillah”

IMG_0589Throughout the morning we took time learning how to pronounce each other’s names. Each camper received a journal for their use this week. On the cover they wrote their names in all three languages (with the help of their new friends). The morning activities wrapped up with the campers creating a recipe for success for use during their morning “Discovery” times this week. Some of the ingredients they named were: fun, respect, trust, community, listening and curiousity. They are excited about using these new ingredients to promote fruitful and multi-faceted discussions in the days to come.

The day was sprinkled with outdoor activities like swimming at the pond and playing games outside with Camp Bob staff.

In the Faith Adviser’s afternoon session the campers got some time to speak one-on-one with a new friend about the origins and meaning of their names. Next the campers discussed their intentions for this week and wrote them on a sheet of paper in all three languages. From these intentions, they got to pick a special camp name for themselves from their favorite intention and an element of nature that reminds them of themselves. They created necklaces with their camp names written on them and shared with one another.IMG_0666
The day ended in reflection. David Rowan, Director of the NC 6th Grade Camp, asked the campers to reflect on their new beginnings.

“I fell asleep in a new place and woke up in a new place,” one camper remarked. And tomorrow is a new day.

by Lana, Muslim, USA participant

11792054_914311178625507_8077718300748392694_o Another beautiful day in Brattleboro started off with a discussion about the land, and history of Israel and Palestine with maps illustrating the changing countries. Then, it was time for teamwork! We built a bridge together for Acer Farm. It took a lot of patience from everyone but ended up working great.

After all of the focus on working on the bridge, we were thankful for our great lunch. It was then time to go on a nature walk with our bellies full, and it ended up being magnificent and very peaceful. We had a discussion with Bishop Tom Ely about dignity and the role it plays in peacemaking. After the discussion, we watched “A Bottle in the Gaza Sea.” Afterwards, the sun came out, and we all were glad to jump straight into the pond. After another delicious meal, we waited anxiously for the arrival of our Israeli-Palestinian friends!
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