Jill Levenfeld, Kids4Peace Jerusalem staff member

#Forward Together

What a feat it was for our feet to walk together this last Friday over four kilometers around the walls of the Old City as Kids4peace Jerusalem residents sharing  our stories, our histories and herstories too.

#Forward Together indeed, our Kids4peace community of over 100 leaders gathered, clad in colored shirts wearing our hashtag proudly.  We walked the walk and talked the talk; very aware of the fear and violence around us. We customized our own unique mini –pilgrimage so that we would be visible in the public sphere while sharing  our Palestinian and Israeli narratives. Together we stepped in and out of new and unfamiliar places walking out our stories. Because stories have legs, love, loathing, laughter and lots of life to carry. 

We encircled the entire circumference of the Old City by foot which takes about six hours (!) passing under all seven gates. That’s a lot of legwork and brainpower for our youth who remained engaged and curious. We were guided by four excellent tour guides, two Palestinians — Jalal and Samer, and two Israelis Hava and Alex. Each guide was responsible for a designated section, between specific gates, delving into  the history and perspective from his/her particular point of view.

“This was a very ambitious undertaking”, said Hava as we were walking. She had never led such a tour for a community like ours; of Israeli and Palestinian young leaders living in Jerusalem. Impressive youth  who care and who dare. Dare to engage with each other despite what their school friends might say. Their parents are equally brave supporting our work, and believing in the importance of taking our voices to the streets.

Walk about Zion,
go round about her,
number her towers,
consider well her ramparts,
go through her citadels;
that you may tell the next generation that this is God,
He will be our guide for ever.
(Psalm 48:12-14)

The   Psalms has it right….This last Friday, we sure did

go round about her , considering well her ramparts ….and went through her citadels,”  as we felt the divine, learned and opened our eyes guided to new perspective.

Jalal, our first guide,  talked about the many political leaders who ruled over Jerusalem, how they entered the city, and how they left their influence. I thought to myself, if Kaiser Wilhelm is remembered today for his audacity in 1898 as he reshaped Jaffa Gate due to his height and large  helmet, then just imagine the  new gateways our creative Kids4peace young leaders will burst open.

As the light rail passed, some of our youth spoke about their  concerns riding the train. Why don’t the ticket machines get fixed in Shuafat the same way they are repaired in other parts of the city? Why isn’t there more security on the trains to make me feel safe?  How can we optimize the light rail as a space not just for travel together, but a chance for commuters to get off the train to wander into neighborhoods not familiar ?

Our K4P young leaders are doing that already. They learn and visit each other’s neighborhoods crossing the boundaries that separate us.

And the boundaries are many in our city. Samar, our second wonderful guide of the morning walked us to Damascus Gate while talking about the different neighborhoods within the walls. Approximately 36,000 residents live inside the Old City and their lives are not easy to navigate between the hordes of border police and tourists. He pointed out the Central Bus Station opposite the Gate asking the kids if they have ever been on one of the Palestinian buses? A separate transportation system where an Egged bus ticket would not get you far. Making us aware again of the complexity of  the multiple realities in Jerusalem.

Hava, our third  guide of the day, met us in the Kidron Valley as we watched Jerusalem’s diversity gather for prayer. Hundreds of Muslim men, from neighborhoods like Ras Al Amud, balanced folded prayer rugs on their shoulders as they ascend solemnly towards  Lion’s Gate, the entrance to Al Aksa for Jumu’ah Friday prayer. This is the same gate during the Six Day War that Moshe Dayan and Yitzhak Rabin came through in 1967 changing the status of Jerusalem. Below the Gate, we see Christian clergy and their pilgrims fill the Gardens of  Gethsemane in their colorful robes. Hava reminds us of the New Testament verse that as Jesus approached Jerusalem, and saw the city, He wept.

Tears blend with our histories at Lion’s Gate as our senses heighten. Each of these gates open up a chance for us to learn, see, and feel something new.

 Uncertainty awaits at the gate. Hava warned us as we approached Lion’s Gate, that we might not get permission from the Border Police to enter the Muslim Cemetery, our next stop.  But   Hashtag #Forward Together has its own momentum and power.  We enter, and learn about the Muslim burial traditions. Our dead in Jerusalem, Jewish and Arab, are separated geographically, like the living. The Kidron Valley serves as a separator between the Jewish burial on the Mount of Olives from the Muslims who are buried here under the Golden Gate. But our traditions run parallel when it comes to the afterworld. We need those parallels in THIS world, not just while we wait for the Messiah who is believed to come from the East, agreed by ALL of our traditions.

As we walk through the land of the dead, we hear clearly the Khutbah, Friday sermon at  Al Aksa  ( above our heads, as if coming from the heavens). I was walking in the Cemetery at that moment with  Mohammad (Joulani) but Mohammad the Prophet was ever present as we walked in the Yerushalayim Shel Mata (Jerusalem Below) aligned with the Yerusahalayim Shel Maal (Jerusalem Above). I asked Mohammad if he could translate  a bit of what was being said in the Khutbah.  A verse from the first chapter in the Koran was being quoted, which comingled nicely the vision of  our #ForwardTogether,

Sirat al mustaqim—Guide us (gently) to the straight path.

Along with our Muslim friends, we too at Kids4peace are in search of that straight path  and hope that we can continue to gently guide our community, even when the road is unpaved or unjust. #Forward Together


Day 3

After two awesome days at The Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati and Adath Israel Congregation we concluded our interfaith curriculum at St.Barnabas Episcopal Church. Our Kids4Peace camp group continues to impress as both campers and staff remain interested and engaged in learning about one another’s cultures. Today’s theme was “community” and it has been amazing to see our own Kids4Peace community grow together.


Rev. Nancy showing us around the Church

Our day began as one of our staff members led us in a fun activity, playfully called the “Toilet Paper Game”. This icebreaker allowed us to get to know each other a little bit better and got us all loosened up for the day. This morning’s religious education session was lead by Rev. Dr. Nancy Turner Jones. Reverend Nancy took us on a tour of the church, and went to great lengths to create a safe space that encouraged asking questions. We learned a lot about Christianity and were able to delve deeper into the culture and tradition of the Episcopalian denomination. Each of us learned about the importance of mosaics in our faith traditions, and we were able to carry on that tradition by creating our own small mosaic.

The afternoon was filled with camp games and dialogue. We worked off of our theme of community as we played team builders such as the human knot and a team tower building activity. Additionally we engaged in a fruitful conversation finding similarities within the three Abrahamic faith traditions. We learned about the importance of working together and we discussed what it means to give back to our own communities.


As we approached the end of the day some members of the Kids4Peace Cincinnati leadership team visited our camp. Some of our campers were given the opportunity to explain some of the activities we had done throughout the week, and a few leaders shared how important they felt our day camp is to the Cincinnati interfaith community.

We had a great day learning some new facts about Christianity while we engaged with activities focused on the importance of community. Our leadership modeled how much a supportive and motivated community can do when they put their minds to it. Moreover, our campers continue to amaze with their willingness to participate in deep and insightful conversation. Tomorrow we head to Barbash Vital Support Center in Clifton to work in their food pantry. After 3 days learning about the importance of listening, trust, and community I feel as though we are truly ready to serve the Cincinnati community with positivity and intention.

Day 4

Day 4 was absolutely amazing and truly demonstrated how a group of kids can come together to make a difference. Our theme today was service and while we were dropped off at the Mayerson JCC, we spent the majority of the day working on at the Barbash Family Vital Support Center’s food pantry in Clifton. The Barbash staff taught us about the communities that the food pantry serves, and the campers and staff learned about the services that food pantries and soup kitchens provide. Today we were helping the food pantry re-stock their shelves. Our Kids4Peace community spent the week collecting canned foods and non-perishable food items to donate, and after our donation was added to the pantry’s weekly food collection we got right to work!

Campers and staff organized food and spent the morning arranging the products on to the shelves of the pantry. Sandee, the food pantry’s volunteer coordinator, later lead us in a thought provoking activity where our campers were given the opportunity to role play a week as a family who shops at the pantry. We learned to value what food we do have, and we were able to see how important it is to give to those who currently face hunger within our own community.


The afternoon was jam packed with fun camp games including a fun improv game where we told some stories one sentence at a time. Back at the JCC we engaged in a powerful conversation about the dangers of stereotypes and then began our closing thoughts. We spent time sharing affirmations and gratitude, and we shared openly about what we respected about our fellow campers and staff. We each created bracelets decorated with beads that each represented some important moments during camp, and we each signed our Kids4Peace banner signifying a pledge to continue to work towards peace in the future.

Whether it be at the Church, Synagogue, Mosque, or on our day of service our Kids4Peace camp was able to work together to build bridges across different cultures, religions, and communities. We learned an incredible amount in just a few short days and we formed friendships that will surely last beyond the confines of camp. We listened to each other’s stories, we trusted that our group would support one another, we came together as a community of peace, and we worked to understand the importance of service. It was an incredible journey and I am so lucky to have gotten to know a wonderful group of campers and staff.

This is only the beginning. As we plan reunions and other yearly programs we will continue to work towards our dream of peace. This camp was the first of many steps that this community will take in order to make the Cincinnati interfaith community a model for the rest of the nation.


On Saturday slept late, as the kibbutz was quiet around us due to the Jewish Sabbath. All of the kids, especially the boys (!) helped  prepare our own breakfast outside. The entire group sat together at the table, we heard the Muslim blessing, and then we ate a breakfast of yogurt, tuna, cheeses, vegetables, and cornflakes. Before each meal this week, following the Kids4Peace tradition, we hear the blessing over the food from a different religion. It is always special to hear different blessings in different languages.

After the entire group helped clean up breakfast, we began our religious text study. We divided into smaller groups and read texts dealing with environmental justice from the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian faith traditions. We shared which texts we connected to most, and learned that all of the holy books include passages instructing us to take care of the world and the environment. We also discussed the concept of justice. Tarik Abu Hamed came to speak to the group about his experience. He is Palestinian and grew up in Zur Baher in Jerusalem, studied (3 degrees!) in Turkey, then returned and became Israel’s Deputy Chief Scientist. He works at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, located in Ketura. His story is incredibly inspiring, and we all learned from his story and the difficulties he overcame. He stressed the importance of cooperation over land and water, and between the different populations living here.



Then, we had lunch in the kibbutz dining hall, followed by a long rest time and time to pack for Jordan, where we traveled on Sunday. After resting and packing, we started an amazing session where we built our own Kids4Peace Neighborhood. The kids were divided into pairs and given different responsibilities in creating the neighborhood – we had mayors, religious leaders, a town song writer, and pairs who were responsible for designing the roads, shopping centers, education, community center, environmental sustainability, and more. The kids first shared their own experiences from the neighborhoods they lived in, and learned more about each other and each other’s realities. Then they got to work to design a neighborhood that would include all the religions and peoples and would be culturally sensitive to Muslims, Christians, and Jews – and Israelis and Palestinians – living together. You can see pictures of the neighborhood below and be sure to check out the Kids4Peace Jerusalem Facebook Page to watch videos of the kids explaining their vision for a shared neighborhood.


We were amazed and inspired by the kids’ vision for the future, and we hope that some day, we will lead the change to truly create a shared and tolerant neighborhood for everyone. In the meantime, we are off to Jordan to the EcoPark, to continue learning about “Our Land, Your Land, Whose Responsibility?”


We got up super early this morning for a sunrise bike ride around the date fields and solar fields of Ketura. We biked to the Jordan border, and saw that in this area, the border is a low fence. Our guide told us that before the kibbutz switched the fruit fields with solar fields, they used to give fruits to the Jordanian soldiers on the other side. The kids had lots of fun and learned a lot even before breakfast!

After breakfast, we headed to Kibbutz Lotan, which is located very close. in Lotan there is an “Eco-village,” where students live sustainably in mud houses. We learned (and felt!) that mud houses are very insulated in hot weather, so they actually stay cool. We got dirty and helped build mud houses ourselves by making mud bricks. The kids started thinking about what it means to live devoted to on lifestyle, and what small things we can do each day to minimize our impact on the environment.

Then, of course there was swim time. After swimming, we did a session where we learned about the specific environmental problems in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We talked about water, sewage, land, and air pollution and together designed solutions for each issue. We discussed how the environment doesn’t know borders  and realized that we are all dependent on each other, so environmental solutions can help solve political issues too. We all are looking for ways to make our environment better.

Later this evening, the group will do group sports outside after dinner. Tomorrow we will read and discuss environmental justice and we will have a session about the environmental problems in our different neighborhoods in Jerusalem and how to design and publicize solutions. We are looking forward!

Check out the Kids4Peace Jerusalem Facebook Page for more pictures!!


Jerusalem Roots Camp had a blast today in water sports in Eilat. All of the kids sat on the boats and had crazy rides in the sea! It was a beautiful day, and everyone had a fun time jumping and swimming in the ocean. Then, we had lunch in the (air conditioned) mall and drove back to Ketura. On our way back, Muhammed and Gayil led a fun activity, where the kids had to divide into pairs and teach each other a sentence from their favorite song in their language. We also had a singing competition – lots of songs on the bus! Each day, a pair of kids work together to prepare a 5-10 minute activity for the whole group. So far, we have been so impressed by everyone’s creativity and responsibility in creating activities together.

Once we got back to Ketura, we did a session about the environment and tradition. We started the session by talking about different inventions and how technology has affected our lives. Then, we got into smaller groups and learned about changes from the past until now in agriculture, cooking, and compost. We learned about our friends’ families by talking about how our grandparents use to cook and farm, compared to today. The kids continue to think about what problems could have environmental solutions, and how we can work together to be mindful of the environment and how we hurt or help it.


After dinner, we continued a conversation about the different neighborhoods we live in Jerusalem and how the differences can affect how we act in the group. We learned from each other’s experiences, thoughts, and feelings, and everyone is curious to continue learning from each other, about each other, and about the environment.

We finished the day, of course, with free time on the playing fields. It was another wonderful day down here in Kibbutz Ketura!

Our second day of Roots Camp began with a tour of Kibbutz Ketura. We talked about the shared lifestyle of the kibbutz and toured the algea factory and solar field. Ketura’s most valuable natural asset is its sunlight, so we learned about solar energy and sustainability. The group worked in pairs to answer as many questions as they could about the kibbutz and the its environment.

Then, we moved inside to start our opening session on the theme of environment, and started to talk about how we affect the environment and how it affects us. The kids started to think about how they use water and other resources, and did a lot of games related to learning about the science of the environment.

We shared about our own neighborhoods in Jerusalem, and what we shared and is different between the different neighborhoods. It was interesting to hear about all the different environments within Jerusalem and how we feel about them.

After the sessions inside, we headed to the sand dunes to do an activity and to make our own dinner. We then star-gazed and went to bed!

Roots Camp started its first day with a visit to the Qaser el Yehud Baptism site on the Jordan River. We met Malik from EcoPeace, who spoke to us about the national and religious importance of the Jordan River to all of the communities in the region. A lot of the water from the Jordan River is diverged for domestic use in Israel and Jordan and the countries even discharge their wastewater into the River, so there is not much clean water left in the Southern part of it. We learned about the quality of the water in the Jordan River and the religious importance of the baptism site in Christianity. Then, we divided into three groups, each representing a different village with different water sources, to discuss water usage. You can see some of our ideas in the pictures below.

Then, we drove close by to the site of the old Lido Inn, which has a beautiful view of the Dead Sea. We discussed the drainage of the Dead Sea, and the political and environmental issues caused by the factories that take minerals from the Dead Sea. We took a whole group picture that you can see below.


Finally, we arrived at Kibbutz Ketura. We got settled in our rooms and had a pool party with a group of American high-schoolers were were visiting as well. Omar and Meytav shared their experiences at Kids4Peace and explained the program to the American kids. After the BBQ and swimming, the kids went to bed to get ready for your next day!




Day #7

Today we experienced a new kind of NVC, we split up into two different groups according to language, Arabic and Hebrew, each group put on a play in their own groups language. It was interesting to see the cultural differences between the groups and the patience the kids had to work in both languages.

At our last NVC session the kids were asked about their personal experience in the program, Qais, was one of the first kids to answer “With these new tools of solving conflicts we can solve any conflict! including the Israeli Palestinian one”. Gessila added “If we try to approach the other and understand their needs we will find a solution that satisfies everyone”

After all these amazing experiences with the kids it was time to have some fun! The kids decided to put on a talent show! We were amazed by how many talents there are amongst our group. Starting with Meital and Leen who played piano together with a priceless harmony and ending with Sevan who amazed us with his Dj mixing skills.

It was a great day and an even better night!

Day #8

OMG! We cannot believe it is our last day at camp. 

We learnt how to make kites and waited for our parents to arrive. they finally arrived and we all hugged and told stories about camp!

At the end-of-camp party we enjoyed Ben&Jerry’s ice cream, donated to Kids4Peace, and Taboon pizza made by our Druze neighbors near Nes Ammim. 

We taught our parents how to make kites and brought them over to the beach in Acre to fly them. After a wonderful day we all headed back onto the bus to go back to Jerusalem-back home. 

While feeling emotional about leaving camp, one of the campers, Lior,  shared “I will miss you all so much, the camp was amazing and we had lot of fun”
Another camper, Karl, added:”It was a great experience and I made lots of friends during the camp and I wish we had time to stay here longer”!

We were all sad to leave, but all excited to come home to our families and friends!

It was truly a meaningful and fun week at camp!

If you missed the recap of day 1, click here!  and follow us on Facebook for even more photos and updates.

By Rob Gleisser, K4P Cincinnati Day Camp Director

On a foggy Tuesday morning our Kids4Peace campers and staff gathered at Adath Israel Congregation for an amazing day of learning and growth. Where day one was filled with opportunities to get to know one another, on day two, our Kids4Peace community began to truly forge the bonds of lasting friendship. Working off our day’s theme of Trust, our staff and campers jumped in to the activities with an inspiring confidence, and thirst for knowledge.


The day began with excitement as a channel 5 WLWT news team visited our camp! Members of the Cincinnati community have embraced our mission of peace and understanding. It was a pleasure to be featured by our local news and it is nice to know that other people in our community support our message.  A local correspondent interviewed two of our campers and the videographer got some great shots of us doing a fun icebreaker called “talent search”. During  “talent search” each camper described a talent or interest of theirs, and the other members of their small group created a fun nickname. It was great hearing our camper’s special talents, and to get to know each other a little better!

After a quick review of our discussion guidelines we transitioned into our morning session at the synagogue where we learned about Judaism. Rabbis Karen Kriger Bogard and Daniel Bogard worked together to lead an incredible lesson on the ins and outs of Judaism. We took a tour of the synagogue, learned about some important Jewish practices, and were taught some awesome Jewish songs! Additionally, each camper made a small tzedakah box. Our group learned that Tzedakah, the Hebrew word for charity, is a main tenant of each of the Abrahamic religions. Our campers were encouraged to put a small amount of money aside, as they are able, and put it in their own tzedakah box to be donated to a charity.


Our afternoon was filled with awesome camp games and powerful dialogue. We laughed together as we played a few rounds of classic camp games like “bippity boppity boo” and “the meatball game”, and we raced to the finish during a kids4peace relay race. Our community’s ability to learn freely and safely about each other’s religions was on full display, as we held an impromptu conversation on daily prayer after some our Muslim participants stepped out to pray the mid-day prayer of Zuhr.  Our dialogue session was filled with activities that surrounded the theme of trust, helping us to discuss risk taking and how we build trust with others. We were able to have wonderful conversations after activities like the “trust fall” and the “risk poem”. Hearing our campers describe how they want to be a part of trusting and supportive interfaith communities was a special moment for all of us.


Day two was fantastic. We learned about Judaism, were featured on the news, played a ton of games, and had some amazing conversations about trust and support. As we move to our last house of worship tomorrow I look forward to deepening our understanding of each other’s faith traditions and continuing the journey toward a strong and collaborative interfaith community in Cincinnati!

Check out the Channel 5 news interview here!

Kids4Peace is so excited that our newest chapter has launched its very first youth program.  Rising 6th and 7th graders, Muslim, Jewish, and Christian, came together today for an interfaith day camp.  The whole K4P family sends lots of love to this newest chapter, and we can’t wait to see what these newest peace makers accomplish!  Stay tuned to hear more about their week, and check out more photos and updates on Facebook.

By Rob Gleisser, K4P Cincinnati Day Camp Director

Wow, What an amazing day!  Coming to camp this morning I did not know what to expect. I can honestly say that the kids and our wonderful staff blew me away.  The enthusiasm in the room was apparent from the very beginning, and our camper’s willingness to participate established a camp community in which we were all able to succeed.

Our day began by getting to know one another. We played a variety of “get to know you” icebreakers that allowed us to loosen up a little bit as we prepared for  our day of learning and dialogue. The theme for Day 1 was listening and we worked hard Monday morning figuring out how to become a more active and effective listener. We created a community contract, where we envisioned how we wanted to act within our Kids4Peace community, and how we wanted our Kids4Peace conversations to sound and feel.


After formulating some discussion guidelines and framing the day surrounding our theme of listening we spent some time with members of the amazing educational staff from the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati. Our teachers, Nina and Fatimah, led us in an interactive program about Islam, where we went on a tour of the prayer space, learned some Arabic words, and created a painting using Arabic script. Our final products each read “alhamdulillah” meaning “Praise to God,” a phrase that is consistently represented throughout each of the Abrahamic religions. We were treated to a lovely meal of schwarma, pita, and hummus, and we spent some time during lunch talking about how each of our faith traditions approaches prayer before and after a meal.


Following lunch we played a few rounds of what was surely a favorite camp game called Mafia. It was great to see the campers working and playing together, and it was clear that the work we had done on community building in the morning allowed our campers to interact with each other comfortably.  After our game we jumped into a truly remarkable dialogue session.  We learned about the importance of effective vocabulary. The Kids4Peace counselors and staff led activities, discussing how harmful stereotypes can be, and they were given an opportunity to discuss how they interact with stereotypes throughout their everyday life. As our campers began to open up about the challenges that they each face as members of different identity groups, it was easy to sense that we were building a group dynamic that promotes openness, understanding, and support.

We finished the day by learning some camp songs and the Kids4Peace cheer. It was an incredible day where we created the foundation on which we will build our camp. We established some safe space guidelines, we learned a ton, we had a lot of fun, and we began to truly get to know one another. I can’t wait for tomorrow, and I look forward to seeing what the rest of this week will bring!