“We all gathered there for the same reason, to make peace and still keep our own identity, while also sharing it with one another” – Alona, 9th grade K4P participant

On Sunday, Kids4Peace participated in an interfaith prayer and dialogue event called Praying Together in Jerusalem. Over 150 Jerusalem faith-based activists gathered at Tantur and spent three hours together, praying side by side, engaging in dialogue about constructive conflict in religion and sharing a meal at the end to the soft and poetic music of the Oud. The beautiful simplicity and also staggering rarity of seeing Muslims, Jews and Christians praying simultaneously, side by side, in their own groups, but in the same room, was striking, and set the stage for what was a moving, empowering, and engaging evening.

Seven Kids4Peace staff members helped facilitate a few of the dialogue groups and 30 youth, parents and community members from Kids4Peace participated in the evening. The dialogue was led by two facilitators of two different faiths with groups of 10-15 participants from all over the world. We examined sources from the three Abrahamic faiths as well as a modern conflict resolution studies text, which all discussed how to engage in conflict and how to do it in a constructive way. We mused on how to take these pieces of wisdom and bring them to our daily lives, how to be more compassionate and engaged in conflict, and how to continue working towards a more peaceful and inclusive Jerusalem.

For Adam, a Jewish 10th grader in K4P, it was an interesting evening: “It was great to have a dialogue with different people from different religions, and not only with the kids I know from K4P.”                                                                                                                                              Anton, a Christian 12th grader in K4P, was really happy to find out that “there are way more communities that support peace than I thought! I was glad to meet them, and it was nice to talk about my experience in k4p!”

The prayer part of the evening was almost indescribable in its simultaneous simplicity and courageously unique bravery. In one big room: Muslims set up their prayer mat and began praying facing Mecca. Next to them one Jewish group had a traditional prayer service, facing the Western Wall. Next to them was an egalitarian Jewish prayer circle, and next to them was the Christian prayer service, being led by the director of Tantur, Father Russ McDougall. Each group could be heard singing, chanting and praying silently, simultaneously, in a moment of awe-inspiring holiness and beauty.

“Watching the joint prayer from the side was an unforgettable experience. The hall was lit up by people filled with love and hope.” – Yael, Pathways to Peace coordinator

“It was a very special experience. There was one moment that was the most meaningful for me. The Muslim, Christian and Jewish prayers that were just right next to each other felt so strong and full of faith. We all gathered there for the same reasons, to make peace and still keep your own identity, while sharing it with each other.” – Alona

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Kids4Peace staff members had the privilege to spend time with Dr. Johnny Mack over the last two weeks, a social entrepreneur with expertise in the subject areas of peace, conflict, social change and social movements, at a conference for Israeli and Palestinian NGOs in Haifa and a panel discussion at the American Center in Jerusalem, where we learned about Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of nonviolence and social change.

The topic of nonviolence as MLK Jr. saw it is overarching and greatly studied, yet a simple explanation or definition of it still seems to elude many. We discussed nonviolence as being an evolving spectrum, which includes a framework of values, the most important to MLK Jr. being the fundamental commonality of humanity. The logic of nonviolence is rooted in our history, of the violence embedded within it and dismantling that violence. Among the panelists there seemed to be a consensus that the main takeaway from MLK Jr. was equal opportunity. If you give people equal opportunity, they will flourish. That concept really resonated with us at Kids4Peace, as that is a main goal we strive for here.

At the conference, Dr. Johnny Mack explained to us that civil society has a lot to do with the individual, the idea that I should do those things that only I can do that must be done. Nonviolence can be seen then, as a means whose end is community; It is far more than contentious politics or physical resistance. It is a means of managing conflict, of social change and human development. The logic of nonviolence is built between these principles: personhood, freedom, and community. Dr. Johnny Mack discussed how one’s personhood and freedom is only relevant with respect to community. So our question was how do we work together as a community to build a larger community and support other communities? If conflict is resolved at the neighborhood level, we need to work together to create a civil society.

We act in accordance with the truth as we perceive it or believe it to be. So, if we can change the way we think, we can change the way we act. For us at Kids4Peace, our main takeaway from the conference was think globally, act locally: building community is building a structure and culture of nonviolence, based on the shared values mentioned above: personhood, freedom and community.

The panel discussion was also filled with resonance and interesting perspectives. Something said that was interesting was that the greatest impact we can have is on ourselves; that we should work on fine-tuning our inner intentions so they are not filled with hate. Ronit, a director from ACRI, named MLK Jr.’s main values as: equality, liberty, dignity, humanity, and justice. Someone said that tragedy presents opportunity, and in today’s tumultuous environment, both statements and those values ring truer than ever. Now is the time to make sure we are filled with love, not hate, for our fellow humans, to aim higher, to fight for justice and equality, and to keep moving forward even in these politically-charged times.

Another panelist discussed the need for a revolution of values, which MLK Jr. also grounded his work in. We have to dare to be committed to the truth; we have to view nonviolence as not only a tactic, but a principle of how to behave in the world.

Here at Kids4Peace we look forward to continuing our work with Dr. Johnny Mack and following the values and goals set forth by Martin Luther King Jr. and those that follow in his footsteps today.

Written by Liana Rothman, Community Engagement Coordinator for Kids4Peace

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JohnnyMack1.jpg Johnny J. Mack is a social entrepreneur with expertise in the subject areas of peace, conflict, social change and social movements. His professional expertise includes serving as senior executive in healthcare, mortgage banking, community development, and nonprofit organizations. Dr. Mack has traveled extensively throughout the Americas, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and Asia working in the fields of peace, development, conflict, and nonviolent social change. In addition to holding degrees in business and theology from Oakwood University, Dr. Mack is a certified public account. He is the Henry Hart Rice Fellow at the School for Conflict Analysis & Resolution at George Mason University in Virginia, where he earned both the masters and doctorate degrees in Conflict Analysis and Resolution.

This year’s annual winter event was bigger and more inspiring than ever. With a musical performance, guest speakers, and our youth leading the way with several activities, the Kids4Peace community ended the evening feeling inspired, proud, and energized. This was in big part thanks to Adan and Omri, a Christian and Jewish participant, respectively, in the Youth Action Program (grades 10-12) who got up to speak at the end about growing up in Kids4Peace, learning about advocacy and social change in DC, and the strength and power that young people today hold. Read the speech for yourself below!

Kids4Peace Winter Event ‘17

Palestinian Youth Representative Speech

By Adan

Hello,

I hope everyone is having a wonderful evening.

My name is Adan. I am 15 years old, and am currently in my 5th year in Kids4Peace. I’m Christian. I am Palestinian, and proud to identify as one. I love my people; I love our customs, traditions, language, food, strength, integrity, generosity, and most of all, I love the dignity found in everything that we do. I love my land and I love every olive tree my people have ever planted, because my land is my home.

Being in Kids4Peace doesn’t deny any part of my identity, yet in the past 5 years, I was constantly being told that it does. I have been called a traitor, liar, and coward. I was stigmatized – accused of being fake, accused of being aggressive, accused of being a terrorist. I have thought of quitting Kids4Peace multiple times, because I thought I would no longer be singled out if I did.

I am constantly told that I’m still young, I have no idea what I’m talking about, this will never work, and that my little, 15 year old voice will never bring forth any change. Last year in particular, I defied the limits those claims set for me. We travelled to Washington DC, and were up at 6:00 AM, every single day, out of the hotel at 7:00 AM (if we were lucky, 8:00), and had 3 meetings a day with the most influential leaders of today – including Shaun Casey, Dave Harden, ambassadors and diplomats of the highest positions, and the heads of the National Security of The United States of America). I gave a speech about inequality in the United States’ Institute of Peace (USIP), and was absolutely petrified of sharing it, because I feared people’s reaction. Mustering up the courage to give a speech that I wrote at 2:00 AM (practically got 3 hours of sleep because I had to stay up writing it) and managed to make one of the most controversial speeches presented in last year’s program was a defining moment for me. But, it came from my heart and touched theirs.

I shed more tears than I’d like to admit in Kids4Peace. In my second year, I regretted ever joining the organization, because the War on Gaza was taking place and I was not with my family – I was out there, at camp in Houston, Texas, the only member of the family to be guaranteed safety, while everyone back home was fighting merely to stay alive.

Understanding just how much I regretted my decision helped me realize that the young don’t rank the controversy of who’s right and who’s wrong above the significance of our emotions. I think that’s just as crucial as selflessness when resolving an issue, because we take those stories, emotions, and experiences, and turn them into personal motivation, which we later use to seek change.

That is why I love the fact that Kids4Peace is youth based. Kids4Peace understands that our dreams are the future’s reality. They know that our voices are the media and will later become the news. I ask every adult sitting in the audience to do the same. I ask you to acknowledge the voices of your kids, the youth. I ask you to realize what we are capable of because we are works of art. I ask you to recognize that not only can we be strong, but that we are strong. I ask you to remind us that not only are we enough, but that we are more than that. Don’t give up on us, because, at the end of the day, the leaders of tomorrow are today’s youth.

Thank you.

From Meredith Rothbart
Development Director, Jerusalem

Dear friends and supporters,

I write to you now from Jerusalem, just easing back into work after maternity leave with my newborn son Yishai.

As I reflect on the growth of my family, I feel determined to help the Kids4Peace community continue to grow at a strong, steady pace. Sometimes it seems that we face more challenges each year.

“Ima, who are the bad guys?” my 3-year old daughter, Shalva, asked me just a few days ago.

As an Israeli child, she hears the chatter around her about division and violence.

While I try to reassure her that the world is not divided into “good guys” and “bad guys”, I know these are the very same questions my Palestinian and American friends, family and colleagues are struggling to answer to their children.

As a mother and an educator, I believe that we must not merely answer our children in words. We must provide opportunities to take action–and in Kids4Peace we are doing just that.

In Kids4Peace Seattle, our community stood up against violencethis weekend at the Muslim Association of Puget Sound, a mosque recently scarred with vandalism.

Our Kids4Peace Boston youth joined together in service by cooking dinner for residents of the homeless shelter at First Church in Cambridge.

In Kids4Peace Jerusalem, 100 youth leaders marched in unity through the Old City, and will take what they’ve learned back to their schools where they’ll share their experiences.

More than 500 youth participate in Kids4Peace globally.

You have the power to help them stand up against violence, join together in service, and march together in unity.

With Hope,


Take action. Donate Now.

Donate today and every dollar will be matched.

Solidarity in Seattle

Jordan Goldwarg —  November 26, 2016 — Leave a comment

by Jordan Goldwarg, Northwest Regional Director

In my life, I don’t think I have ever had the experience of an unknown grown man hugging me while breaking down in tears. Today, it happened twice.

These have been an intense, emotional few weeks in the United States. To add to the weight of those emotions, last weekend, someone vandalized the main sign at the Muslim Association of Puget Sound, the largest mosque in the Seattle area and one of K4P’s oldest partners in the region.

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In an act of vandalism, someone took a sledgehammer to the granite sign outside MAPS (photo courtesy of MAPS)


In response to this act of hate, MAPS responded with love and hospitality by hosting an Open House for the whole community to come and learn the truth about Islam as a religion of peace.

The Kids4Peace community showed up in force for the Open House and also stayed afterward to hold up signs of support as members of the MAPS community arrived for the large Jum’ah prayer.

Standing in front of the mosque with our signs was such a simple act. It literally took only minutes to coordinate the invitation to our families and to make signs (which for some families, became a fun Thanksgiving activity!). This simple act, however, had a profound impact on the members of the MAPS community who saw it — and by extension, on all of us from K4P who were there. Countless people came over to talk to us and to thank us for standing together with them. Some brought snacks and sweets to share with us, further extending the hospitality of the Open House. Many people took photos or selfies with the group. And toward the end, a teenager approached and asked if it would be okay to take a photo of his grandfather with the group. The older gentleman had sunglasses on, so it was hard to read his expression. But when he put his arms around the shoulders of me and a K4P father as we posed for the photo, we could feel him start to sob. After the photo, without saying a word, he hugged each of us as the tears streamed down from under his sunglasses.

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Standing in front of MAPS

It is so important for Jews, Christians, and others to be strong allies for our Muslim friends and neighbors right now. A simple act of support goes such a long way toward lifting people’s spirits and making everyone feel like they belong in our communities.

In the wake of this divisive election campaign, if you are thinking about concrete things you can do to make a positive difference in the world, here is one easy solution: grab a group of friends of family (or both!), make some signs, and stand outside your local mosque during Friday prayers. You will be making a world of difference.


A MESSAGE FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

MOVING FORWARD TOGETHER

11078071_10100879549208157_1799555395257608746_nOver the last week, the deep divisions in American society have risen to the surface, and a wave of hate speech, intimidation and bullying has affected our community personally.

I know a Muslim girl who had a rock thrown through her window, a rabbi whose daughter had swastikas painted on her dorm, and an Episcopal church defaced by racist vandalism.

But we know that love is stronger than hate. I’ve seen an outpouring of love from our Kids4Peace youth, who came together in Boston, Seattle, Vermont and New Hampshire – to reaffirm their friendships, support each other, and prepare for what’s next.

As an interfaith peace organization, our work is more important than ever – and for us, dialogue and action go hand in hand.

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In the coming months, Kids4Peace will equip all our youth with skills to stand up against hate, educate peers about other religions, and facilitate hard conversations across difference.

We will work with community partners on campaigns to combat Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, and we’ll help congregations and community organizations develop capacity to address deep conflict among youth and engage them with campaigns for justice.

I know we can rise to this challenge, because I see our inspiring young peace leaders – now more than a thousand strong – who are lighting the way to a better future.

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Kids4Peace’s mission has suddenly become more urgent, and dozens of new communities want to start local chapters. To make this happen, we will need your help.

Would you consider a special gift this year, to help expand our work in the USA? We’ll need to train local youth leaders and educators, hire community organizers, and design cutting-edge curriculum to most effectively engage youth.

And if you know congregations, universities, organizations, denominations, foundations or donors who might want to partner with Kids4Peace, please introduce us!

Let’s make interfaith cooperation, respect and understanding the norms in our society. And let’s partner with inspiring young leaders to create a more just and peaceful world.

Fr. Josh Thomas
(josh@k4p.org)

PS – If you donate between now and #GivingTuesday (Nov 29), your gift will be doubled!  And check out the inspiring video from Kids4Peace Jerusalem youth, talking about what your gift means to then.

On November 15th, twelve staff members from Kids4Peace – Muslim, Christian and Jewish, Israeli and Palestinian – left for a five-day learning delegation tour in Ireland. We went for several reasons, a main one being with the intention to learn from politicians, academics, and the Irish people about the conflict they had in Northern Ireland, the peace process that was finalized just ten years ago, in 2006, and what lessons we can learn to take back with us to Jerusalem. Another purpose of the trip was to share with people the stories and lives of us in Jerusalem, our histories, our conflict, and the ways in which Kids4Peace is trying to end the conflict and create a more peaceful society in Jerusalem and beyond. With high expectations and great excitement as we embarked, the trip surpassed every expectation we held, and was an incredible experience.

When we first arrived, we had a wonderful day with our Irish host and another friend, exploring the city center of Dublin and getting to know the city and the people little by little. The streets were beautifully decorated for Christmas, and immediately we felt welcomed and comfortable there.

Day two was even better. Breakfast was wonderful and we started our day by meeting the Lord Mayor of Dublin and hearing from a few high-school students about their activist initiatives. We then climbed onto a bus and made our way to a beautiful little seaside town called Wexford. The next five hours were amazing!! With about 100 people in attendance, we rotated between Kids4Peace speakers telling their stories and Wexford students telling theirs. It was empowering, inspiring, moving and a great experience. The Wexford city council was there to meet us as well as Amnesty International members. Everyone was so kind and gracious and so happy to meet us. This made us all feel very welcomed and happy to be there. Afterwards we went to dinner with many new friends and finished the night at a wonderfully traditional Irish pub with live music and beautiful energy.

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One of the most amazing things of this trip was very clearly the bond we created as a group. By day two, we already felt that this trip was incredibly exciting. We were learning about each other’s stories and identities in a deep and meaningful way, and sharing true experiences of enrichment, empowerment, and unhindered fun. We were laughing and feeling so happy to be together, in Ireland, meeting the kindest people, and learning about the hope and optimism that exists in this country because of the peace agreement and the way it has been upheld. Day two left us feeling hopeful, and eager to continue the journey together.

The next day was a full day as well. We came back to Dublin from Wexford and headed to the senate directly to meet with Senator David Norris over lunch. He was very interesting, and had many stories to tell us about the peace process. Then we met with Richard Barrett Boyd, another politician, who was impressed by the work we do. His opinions challenged us to go back home and face questions within our organization and within our own societies and also helped us to understand more about politicians perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We also visited Trinity College library and saw the Book of Kells exhibition as well as the Long Room, both very famous and very beautiful! We ended the day with a press conference at the chamber of commerce where 10 of us spoke about our own stories and experiences of growing up in Jerusalem.

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On Friday, we started our day by visiting the Provost of Trinity College. We then had a tour in Chester Beatty library where we saw a beautiful exhibition on religion and ancient religious manuscripts. We spent the afternoon learning about the Northern Ireland conflict from politicians, Tim O’Connor and Pat Hynes, who had been involved with the peace process and had been present for the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. It was fascinating learning from them, and they had many important and poignant tips and advice for us to take back to Jerusalem. We have so much to learn from Ireland as a country and from the amount of patience and tolerance the people have here towards each other. We felt so inspired after this learning session. We also had the chance to watch a short documentary that had been made about one of our group-members, Ahmad. Afterwards there was a question and answer session with him and some students of Trinity College who had come for the screening. On Friday evening, we went to a beautiful Shabbat dinner and service at the Dublin Progressive Synagogue. We had the opportunity to speak a little about our work and also to mingle with people who were really interested in hearing from us and learning more about our lives.

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Saturday morning we started our day with a beautiful walk from the hotel to the mosque. We were greeted at the mosque by Jamil, the Imam who showed us around and explained both about the culture of his mosque and the congregants, as well as the culture of the interfaith community leaders in Dublin. It is truly inspiring how much collaboration and communication exists between the various religious leaders here, and how much respect and trust there is. The religious tolerance there is amazing, and in fact we had nothing but positive interactions with people there who seemed impressed and interested in our group and our purpose. Everyone was so warm and open hearted to us. After the mosque we went to the beautiful St. Patrick’s Cathedral and had a tour, which the Dean of the Cathedral, William Morton, joined. It was beautiful to see the different sides of the city, and to understand the rich religious history. Everything we learned is just a small taste of the full picture, but we do feel like we gained a rich understanding of Dublin and Irish history, particularly when pertaining to the conflict in Northern Ireland and the peace process.

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One of the days, we had a staff dialogue, and spoke about some of the takeaways from this trip. Many said they feel like we are truly on the right path, albeit on a long journey. As the Irish have been putting it, we are on the Long Road to peace. But after this trip, the long road doesn’t feel as long or distant as it did before we left. I know I speak for all of us when I say we are returning to Jerusalem with fresh energy and new perspectives, which will only serve to aid us in our efforts. We also will be able to better help the youth, with stronger optimism and a tighter bond among the staff, because of this meaningful, memorable experience together.

The Kids4Peace community could not be more grateful to have the supporters that we do, who made this trip and experience achievable; you are such a big part of what makes our work in Jerusalem possible. Thank you thank you thank you.

  • Written by Liana, Michal and Mohammad

by Rebecca Sullum, Jerusalem Co-Director

“You know, I actually voted in these elections. I am registered in a swing state, so I felt that I had to vote,” I yelled on top of the noise at the US Embassy Election Celebration in Tel Aviv. I was speaking to Mohammad, my colleague of 5 years, and his wife.

I hadn’t told most people that I cast my vote this year for the first time in U.S. elections at the age of 35. I always held the belief that I should only be voting where I was living, and although I hold dual citizenship in Israel and the USA, I have only lived in Israel since the age of 14 and therefore had only ever voted in Israel.

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With Trump versus Hillary, this election seemed different, more polarizing, more important to vote. So I did. I have now taken part in the democratic process in Israel and the US, something that I should be proud of, something that should be a basic right to all people.

A moment after confiding in Mohammad, I started to feel that sick feeling at the bottom of my stomach, that feeling when you realize that you have asked the wrong question or said the wrong thing, and I suddenly remembered that Mohammad and his wife have never voted.

As residents of Jerusalem, by Israeli law they can’t vote in the Israeli national elections. They also had never been able to vote in the Palestinian presidential elections. During the previous PA presidential election in 2005 there were voting booths in East Jerusalem for Jerusalem residents, but there were many obstacles in the way including inadequate numbers of workers and a general feeling of fear at the polls. Therefore Mohammad and his wife had never voted for their leadership.

So here I was in the middle of the US Embassy Celebration in Tel Aviv celebrating American democracy while my colleagues and friends can only celebrate others’ right to vote.

This seems a bit ironic, to celebrate others’ democracy and freedom while you can’t celebrate your own.

My evening started with a lot of enthusiasm and excitement but took an unexpected turn, and now at midnight I sit here writing this blog, feeling torn and wondering what I can do tomorrow for the freedom of all in Jerusalem.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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