*This post is the personal opinion of the author, and does not necessarily reflect the views of Kids4Peace* For many living in Jerusalem, there is a simple history. A simple narrative. A simple story and simple set of opinions, things are relatively calm. For those of us at Kids4Peace, and the countless others choosing to […]Continue Reading...
The Kids4Peace Global Institute in Washington D.C. is a 10-day program where Israeli, Palestinian and American ninth graders gather for a week of learning, public advocacy and storytelling training, tours of the city and meetings on Capitol Hill. Last summer, after spending a week in D.C., the group split up to four different locations around the United States. One of these places was to a Jewish summer camp in Pennsylvania called Capital Camps. Four of the Israeli and Palestinian participants from Jerusalem joined the summer camp for two days. While there, they talked about Kids4Peace, growing up in Jerusalem, and also participated in all of the camp activities. Nervous at first, going into the middle of a summer camp with 1,000 Jewish American campers, the Kids4Peace group left two days later with 1,000 new friends and invaluable memories.
Here is a story of one of the campers that was touched by the Kids4Peace group, and that has stayed in contact with them ever since.
My name is Dara Greenwald and I go to the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, Maryland. Every summer, I go to a Jewish summer camp called Capital Camps in Wayneboro, Pennsylvania, and I have always lived in a significantly Jewish area outside of Washington D.C. For fun, I like to dance and hang out with friends. I am also one of the Co-Presidents of my grade at my school.
This summer at Capital Camps, I met Adan, among other kids in the Kids4Peace program. They spent a week with my age group and we got to know them as not just kids experiencing the Arab-Israeli conflict first-hand but also as regular teenagers with the same interests as us. The most amazing thing was that Adan was one of the first Palestinians I had ever met. Being able to meet her and the others put an authentic face to the word Palestinian. It also allowed me to understand the importance of identity and its potential to be an obstacle, or a bridge, in the conflict.
Jewish identity and a connection to Israel has always been a part of my life. Going to a pluralistic Jewish day school has allowed me to explore my identity and connection in many different ways. For me, I usually struggle with the clash between my religious connection to Israel and my personal morals. Being able to meet Adan and the other teens personally affected by the Arab-Israeli conflict allowed me to see multiple perspectives different than mine and see hope for a more peaceful future led by my generation. One thing in particular I remember the Kids4Peace group talking about was their struggles getting through the security checkpoints just to get to Kids4Peace meetings. Being able to easily get places is something I’ve always taken for granted and hearing that something so simple could be a struggle for these kids really opened my eyes to the conflict.
Through my friendship with Adan, I have gained a partial understanding of the average life of a Palestinian teenager in the conflict. I have been able to see her daily ventures and see that she struggles with a lot of the same things that I do. We’re both able to complain about school work and standardized testing even though we live very different lives. While she may struggle with much bigger obstacles being involved in the conflict, we are able to have a happy friendship and talk about everyday things.
Next year, I will graduate early and then travel with my school to Israel for three months. I hope to see Adan in person while I’m there and to get to interact with Kids4Peace again!
This week at Kids4Peace Jerusalem was a packed one! With a Counselors in Training (CIT) skill development workshop for the 10th-12th grade Youth Action Program (YAP), an overnight seminar for the 9th grade Leadership group and a sports day for the 6th and 7th grade Pathways to Peace group, our kids and staff were kept engaged and busy.
At the skill development workshop, the nine youth in attendance started out the afternoon by talking about expectations and what it means to be a counselor in Kids4Peace. “I keep coming back to Kids4Peace because of the people. From the beginning, I felt very comfortable, and the counselors helped me feel that way,” Adan said. The others in the room nodded and Charlie chimed in: “Yeah, the counselors were really fun, which helped us connect to one another more. We learned a lot from them – what it meant to be in Kids4Peace, what it meant to be a leader.”
The whole group again murmured their agreement. Guy, the YAP coordinator, asked the group to continue thinking about how the counselors affected their involvement in K4P and what it was like to be in Kids4Peace when they were younger. “The counselors treated us well, because they understood how it felt to be a youth in Kids4Peace, they could relate to our experiences. Everyone in Kids4Peace was friendly and easy to approach, because we all came with the same purpose to make friends and get to know one another,” Zeena said.
The rest of the evening was filled with learning and training activities. They talked about boundaries, about responsibilities, how to react to different scenarios. They talked about the 6th and 7th grade Pathways to Peace summer camp which they will be counselors for and went over details and plans. The whole evening was very exciting for this group, who have been waiting to be counselors and follow in the footsteps of their older friends and role models in Kids4Peace for years. They have another skill development workshop next week, and we can’t wait to see the amazing and inspiring group of counselors they are going to become!
Thank you to USAID for making this Skill Development Workshop possible.
Next stop that same evening was the 9th grade Leadership overnight seminar. Upon arrival, the group excitedly hugged each other and caught up. First on the agenda was filling out a questionnaire that they had also filled out over a year ago. This questionnaire will serve as an impact report and internal Kids4Peace review, as we study our impact over the years and how opinions and values change or stay the same depending on time and programmatic schema.
After filling out the questionnaire, the group gathered together to begin talking about their expectations for the next year, as they get ready to join the 10th-12th grade Youth Action Program. They talked about ideas for action they can take in their neighborhoods and Jerusalem as a whole. They brainstormed in groups, discussing what it means to be leaders of change in their communities, in Jerusalem, and what skills they hope to gain in the next few months which will allow them to become those leaders.
After dinner, the group sat in a circle inside and began talking about their most exciting program yet: the 2017 Summer Washington D.C. Global Institute. In D.C., this group will meet politicians, academics and activists. They will tell their stories and learn more about public advocacy and storytelling. They will volunteer, explore the monuments, learn about U.S. History and activism, learn what it really means to be a leader for, and within, their generation. To end the first night of activities, two of the YAP participants, Adan and Zeena, came to speak to the group about their experiences in D.C. last summer, and the staff watched as they already put their counselor in training skills to work, leading and facilitating the discussion.
Adan talked about what it meant to her to speak to politicians in Washington: “We were able to turn our frustrations into public speaking. We sat with American leaders and were able to share our stories and tell them why this conflict matters, and how it is affecting us. Public speaking is challenging, you have to be vulnerable, to speak about what matters to you and help them understand what it is we are doing. Show them why you matter, why your story matters, why they should help this generation.” Zeena nodded in agreement and said, “It’s an amazing opportunity. Take it. They are meeting with you and want to hear your story. The Global Institute helped me understand that we can have an impact on the people listening, we actually have that power.”
Adan and Zeena are pictured below, in the top right corner speaking to the group.
The next morning was the 6th and 7th grade Pathways to Peace Sports Day! The day consisted of different teams going from station to station, which included Lacrosse, Tennis, Baseball, Art and Relay Race. Thanks to Israel Lacrosse, Baseball leKulam, Freddie Krivine – Tennis for volunteering your time and energy to join us and teach our youth these sports!
Thank you to USAID for making Sports Day possible.
Written by Liana Rothman, Community Engagement Coordinator
On Sunday, April 2nd, 130 sixth and seventh graders gathered at a movie theater in Jerusalem to watch ‘Moana.’ For those (very few) of you who have not seen this latest critically acclaimed Disney movie, ‘Moana’ is about a daring young girl who sails out to sea in order to save her people and island. It is a moving film, with a female protagonist, which passes the Bechdel test with flying colors, and allows youth to be swept off their feet by the imaginative, diverse and creative movie plot and characters. Probably one of the more diverse and empowering Disney movies I have seen, it felt very appropriate to be watching this film with a group of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian youth in Jerusalem.
In Kids4Peace, we work on youth empowerment and development. We work on helping these youth build their own sense of identity, both group and personal, and we guide them as they become leaders and activists in their communities.
After the film, the Pathways to Peace (6th and 7th grade) advisors led a dialogue for the youth. The youth and staff together discussed how the film showed a young girl, who despite all odds and despite the lack of belief in her, was able to go out in the world and make change. Real, lasting change. The youth liked this, and they liked to think of themselves as making change in their families, neighborhoods, and city, too. They all felt like Moana was an interesting and inspiring character who they hope to be like – brave, resilient, kind and spirited.
During the discussion, one of the youth mentioned language as an obstacle to understanding and equality. They discussed how this made them feel, and imagined, like Moana, being able to impact their community. Another youth jumped in, saying that it felt great being in a public movie theater in Jerusalem, a place they had gone often with friends and family, but this time with their Kids4Peace friends. They were speaking Hebrew and Arabic, laughing together and enjoying a movie together, and this felt important. For the advisors, too, being in this public space together was an important step in feeling like a group of empowered youth and leaders in Jerusalem, making a difference and remaining a strong community.
At the end of the evening, the youth left feeling encouraged, inspired and excited to change the world, just like Moana.
Thank you to USAID for making this evening possible.
Written by Liana Rothman – community engagement coordinator
Staff Development Seminar, Jerusalem, March 16th, 2017
This past year, Kids4Peace Jerusalem has seen exciting processes of growth and development. We have programmatic meetings/events occurring daily, whether it’s a youth meeting, parent facilitation group, community tour group, or something else. Because of this nature of growth and overlapping programming, it is far and few between that the entire Kids4Peace staff is able to gather as an entire staff. Last week, we were lucky enough to have an old friend of K4P’s, John Ungerleider, from the School of International Training in Vermont, lead an all-staff development seminar for all of us in our office. This half-day seminar consisted of training games, facilitation skill-building, shared meals, lots of laughter and songs, and deep dialogue opportunities.
After eating and spending some time outside playing ice-breakers, which helped us feel comfortable and relaxed as a group, and gave us ideas for games we could use for the youth, we went inside. We broke up into our program teams to discuss communication and what we felt was going well and what could use improvement. Afterwards, we divided into random groups where we passed around cards with personal questions and shared our own stories and lives with the rest of the group.
After drawing metaphors of youth empowerment in groups and creating sentences from them, John took these sentences and we sang them as verses to “I’ve got peace like a river.” It went something like this, each sentence getting the whole rendition of the song:
“I’ve got compassion in my backpack,” “I’ve got communication between the islands,” “I’ve got ideas in my head,” and “I’ve got creativity in my salad”
This was a silly and fun way to get us thinking about how to empower our Kids4Peace youth; what tools, games, dialogue, experiences, will help them become their best selves, trusting friends, resilient peace-supporters and future leaders both in our movement in Jerusalem and beyond.
In our final circle of the evening, each staff member said a sentence with the prompt “Because of Kids4Peace I…”. Here are some of the responses:
- “feel hopeful for the future”
- “can dream”
- “have rekindled hope in this land”
- “stay in Jerusalem”
- “can see outside of the box”
- “cannot be blind to our reality”
- “give more love to the others”
- “am part of a community that makes real impact every day”
- “know people that share the same goals as me”
Thank you, John, for leading us in this meaningful and fun-filled seminar and for believing in us year after year.
Stay tuned as we continue to bring more news, updates and stories from our daily lives in Kids4Peace Jerusalem!
Written by Liana Rothman – community engagement coordinator
Thanks to the support of USAID – Kids4Peace launched a three-fold tour where we explored the fabric of the Old City through guided tours and personal stories from Kids4Peace youth and staff. This was an exciting initiative that we believe in deeply. Taking a step further from our usual meeting places and set events with our youth and community, Kids4Peace wants to bring our message and community to the streets of Jerusalem, exploring our city together and weaving through our intricate and complicated histories, identities and neighborhoods, as a community of Israelis and Palestinians.
“I usually come to the Old City with my father to pray. I feel good being here right now. It is empowering being here with Jews, Muslims and Christians together. Despite things seeming hopeless, we are a community that still believes in peace and hope.”- Omar, K4P 9th grade participant, Jerusalem.
On March 15th, we took our third and final tour of the Muslim and Christian Quarters. Here we explored the various streets, markets and religious places.
Moving away from the traditional holy sites and stories one is used to seeing and hearing in the Old City, our tour guide, K4P educator Nir, took us on a walk of education systems and residents of the Old City. We wanted to meet the residents of the Old City and learn about their relationships to this place and each other within the walls. Nir told us about the different schools and education systems as we passed them, and told us anecdotes of local residents as we saw school children running by on their way home, shouting and laughing and falling. One interesting fact Nir explained, after we saw a boy fall who was running with his friends, that surprised all of us, was that the Old City sees more injuries than most other places. He explained it is because the children of the Old City do not have parks or grassy areas to play in. Their play areas are the ancient Jerusalem stone, bumpy and uneven.
As we stood on a street called ‘Cotton Street’ where they used to make cotton and peered over the steps to get a glimpse of the holy and sacred Dome of the Rock, two young Muslim women passed by. Nir happened to know them and they stopped to speak to us. They were on their way to pray. When asked about the Dome of the Rock, one of the women responded, “It’s more than a mosque. I go there to the library to study, it’s so quiet.” The other woman chimed in, nodding, “Yes, it’s very cool to go relax and meditate. We remember all the Muslims that have prayed there before us, and we pray for the future.”
As we walked through the streets, we thought about how religious symbols and places inform our understanding and connection to space and cultures. About our K4P tour guide/educator Nir, Shelagh, a woman who joined two of our tours, was raving. “Both tours were presented in very human ways. As we walk through the Old City, the thread throughout is the common humanity. It is just beautifully presented in a flowing, gentle way. Nir leaves you with the emotion of the history and people living here.” Thank you, Nir!
Stay tuned as we write more about being a group of Jews, Muslims and Christians together, wandering the streets of the Old City and learning the history of the people that live within the walls, taking on public spaces, together, next week!
ًWritten by Liana Rothman – community engagement coordinator
Kids4Peace continues to bring people to explore the 4 quarters of the Old City. One of the interesting things we discovered was that the quarters were not designed to be separate quarters but rather just different neighborhoods with different communities living in each neighborhood.
With the Support of USAID Kids4Peace continues on this journey, this time taking a deeper look into the Armenian and Jewish quarters.
On March 8th, we were led through the multi narrative fabric of these two quarters by Kids4Peace educator Nir Amit, with the help of youth participants of the leadership program, Nadav, Karin and Eliana.
Group Photo, on the seam of the Jewish and Armenian quarter.
Moving away from the traditional holy sites and stories one is used to seeing and hearing in these two quarters, Nir took us to the Armenian church, talked about the history of the Armenian people and how they ended up in Jerusalem. We took a step closer into the Armenian community – most of us had never been there before. Nir spoke of ‘Jacob the holy and Jacob our father’ leading us through churches and synagogues’, between cultures and communities. We were able to meet the joy and pain of each community, the past, present and future of these communities.
From right to left: Karin (Christian from Beit Hanina), Eliana (Jewish from Bakka) and Nadav (Jewish from Beit Hakerem), and Nir, standing in front of an Old City map describing how it was originally designed.
Karin shared her experience of the Old City with the group “This is my first time in the Jewish quarter: the Quarters are very different, different infrastructure and buildings, this is more modern. I come a lot to the Christian quarter for the holidays. It’s very different here, it’s weird, but it’s nice and I like it. It surprised me.”
Join us tomorrow for our final Old City tour! We will be exploring the Christian and Muslim Quarters with Nir. Meeting at the Jaffa Gate at 16:00.
Written by Michal Ner David – USAID Grants Coordinator and Tour Group Coordinator
Thanks to the support of USAID – Kids4Peace has launched a three-fold tour where we will explore the fabric of the Old City through guided tours and personal stories from Kids4Peace youth and staff. This is an exciting initiative that we believe in deeply. Taking a step further from our usual meeting places and set events with our youth and community, Kids4Peace wants to bring our message and community to the streets of Jerusalem, exploring our city together and weaving through our intricate and complicated histories, identities and neighborhoods, as a community of Israelis and Palestinians.
“We live together, Muslims, Christians and Jews. It’s normal, and I like to walk around with everyone in my home.”- Yusuf, a K4P 8th grade participant, lives in the Old City.
Yesterday, March 5th, Kids4Peace toured the four quarters of the Old City with professional tour guide and K4P Father, Jared Goldfarb. Moving away from the traditional holy sites and stories one is used to seeing and hearing in the Old City, Jared took us through the tapestries of the people and homes within the walls. We wanted to meet the residents of the Old City and learn about their relationships to this place and each other within the walls. Besides the millions of visitors from around the globe that come each year to connect to the holy sites, we wanted to ask: who are the locals that get to live so close to the center of the monotheistic world? What defines their various identities, where have they succeeded as communities, and what challenges do they face dwelling in such an intense place?
“I enjoy being here with everyone together. The Old City is like my second home, I wish it was my first. It feels special and good to be here with everyone. It’s Jerusalem, it’s a city for peace.” -Ghadeer, mother to 6th grade K4P participant, lives in Shuafat.
As we walked through the ancient Jerusalem stoned streets, we discussed population breakdown and percentages, and how interesting it is that a Muslim or a Jew for example who comes to visit the Old City and their holy sites, might not know that Christians are the majority in the Old City and that they own a vast amount of the real estate within the walls. Jill, the parents program coordinator and a facilitator, spoke about religious symbols and monuments as informing our understanding and connection to space and location.
Being a group of Jews, Muslims and Christians together, wandering the streets of the Old City and learning the history of the people that live within the walls was a unique and gratifying experience, and we look forward to the tours to come!
Written by Liana Rothman, community engagement coordinator
Today in Jerusalem, another generation is growing up in an uncertain and sometimes violent reality. Despite this, our community is growing and strengthening daily, and we are building a better future together.
With support from USAID, Kids4Peace welcomed 140 new families in January. They are the most diverse group of new participants ever – from every part of East and West Jerusalem and neighboring West Bank cities, especially those most prone to racism and violence. These sixth and seventh-grade youth will meet eleven times this year in the Pathways to Peace program, while their parents have parallel workshops and facilitated dialogues.
“Kids4Peace understands that our dreams are the future’s reality.” -Adan, 10th grade
They will explore their Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions and customs, share the realities of their daily lives, and work to break down the stereotypes and fears that they have of the ‘other’.
“During the first meeting with the new 6th graders, there was already a culture that formulated into one united group, bonded together, despite their differences. They felt connected as a group of young Israelis and Palestinians starting this journey together.” -Ismat, coordinator
Leading the program are Ismat Othman, Montaser Amro and Sarah Stone – and their team of 24 interfaith advisors.
Written by Liana Rothman, community engagement coordinator
“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
Kids4Peace facilitators, staff and high-schoolers