On October 8th, 2017, 25 youth participants gathered at the University of Washington to explore some of the differences that can divide us. More importantly, participants and facilitators worked together to strategize how we can overcome difference and step out of our comfort zone to get to know others that we encounter in our daily lives.

The Foundation for International Understanding Through Students (FIUTS) and OneWorld Now! (OWN) brought activities and wisdom from their experiences working with diverse youth, joining Kids4Peace Seattle to organize this workshop, which drew youth from around the Greater Seattle area.

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As the middle and high school participants gathered they had the opportunity to engage in different activities. From exploring the different religious traditions to being introduced to the many ways to say “hello” around the world, participants began actively thinking about the things that divide us, and their own reactions to these things. The participants became conscious about differences in age, culture, gender, and more, before moving into deeper learning about languages with OWN and cultural differences with FIUTS.

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Nelson Mandela said, “If you talk to a person in a language they understand, that goes to their head. If you talk to a person in their language, that goes to their heart.” As youth began their breakout session with OWN, participants got the hang of phrases in Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, and French, learning a variety of survival phrases like “Hi, Bye, Yes, No, Thank You, Where is the Bathroom, etc”. Not only did they learn to communicate by speaking, they learned how to communicate with their actions.

This exploration of language introduced the youth to challenges they may face when meeting different people. As this session came to a close, youth reflected on the importance of language as a means of connecting with people across language barriers, and began to build empathy and deeper understanding as they encounters others in the future.

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The breakout session with FIUTS began by assigning a few people in the group a specific behavior. Because some of these behaviors were a little bit silly, this immediately broke the ice and began a deep discussion on what it is like when your actions, specifically the ones rooted in your culture, are misunderstood by those around you. Using the analogy of an iceberg, youth explored the 20 percent of culture that is visible above the surface, and the other 80 percent hidden under the water. The fact that you may only see a small part of a person requires the often difficult work of digging deeper to become aware of the things that make them unique.

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As the event came to a close, whether it meant telling a friend about what they had learned, writing a story for their school newspaper, or posting on social media some of their takeaways (#dialogueacrossdifference), all of the participants were challenged to find a way to take action in the coming week!

Just as we asked all of our youth participants, how can you be inspired to engage in conversation with someone who is different than you?

Written by: Viktorina, Kids4Peace Seattle Communications Intern

Tareq Samman

Jerusalem native and Brandeis alum joins Kids4Peace staff

Kids4Peace is excited to welcome Tareq Samman as Co-Director of the Jerusalem office.  A Palestinian Muslim originally from the Wadi Joz neighborhood of Jerusalem, Tareq will be responsible for all youth, parent, and community programs.

For 14 years, Tareq was a public school teacher in Kufr Aqab and then pursued masters degrees in Coexistence/Conflict Resolution and Sustainable International Development from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.

He has been a volunteer with the Interreligious Coordinating Council of Israel and was a facilitator and seminar leader for Auburn Seminary’s interfaith youth program Face to Face, Faith to Faith.

Tareq has taught Hebrew to Palestinians and Arabic to Israeli students. He considers language a tool of communications and bridging the gap between the two people.  Tareq lives in Shuafat and has been working with Kids4Peace this summer as part of his graduate school program.

I am very grateful for being given this opportunity to work with youth, as well as to be a member of Kids4Peace in order to achieve a positive change in our city. There is a lot of work to be done regarding support for the Palestinian community, and other communities in Jerusalem. I strive for Kids4Peace to expand, and to one day have a chance to include all Arab and Jewish children in our efforts.  – Tareq Samman

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Meredith Rothbart

Tareq will work alongside Meredith Rothbart, who will continue permanently as the other Co-Director of the Kids4Peace Jerusalem office.  Meredith is primarily responsible for external relations, communications, fundraising, and strategic development.

Meredith Rothbart moved to Jerusalem in 2007, and joined Kids4Peace as a volunteer in 2009. She holds an MA in Community Development from Hebrew University and a BA in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from University of Pittsburgh.

Meredith’s previous work includes government relations, project management and communications with NGOs, the Israeli Ministry of Defense, and other government agencies, including projects at the grassroots level as well as national and international initiatives. She lives in East Talpiyot with her husband and children.

In honor of the United Nations International Day of Peace, celebrated annually on September 21st, youth in Kids4Peace Seattle share their reflections on peace:

“Peace is the acceptance of others in all communities across the world.”

–Jacob, 10th Grade

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“Life is a constant battle for peace. Those who choose to advocate are the warriors.”

–Tallulah, 10th Grade

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“Peace is the bridge between anger and love.”

–Alex, 9th Grade

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“We can find peace everywhere, we just have to look.”

–Annabelle, 8th Grade

This past spring, youth from Seattle shared about their experiences in KidsPeace. Together they shared their story about the meaning and impact of this work in their lives and in their communities. As you hear their story in the video below, we invite you to reflect on your own stories and definitions of peace.

We truly believe that together, peace is possible.

Kids4Peace Cincinnati

“It’s a revolutionary concept when you think about it which is to create tolerance at an early age and even, I would call it, passion or love for each other’s faiths and backgrounds, is huge.”
-Jacob Young, Counselor 2016

Passion for others experience flourished at the Kids4Peace Day Camp in Cincinnati, Ohio. This harmony amongst the campers was birthed from what Ryan Houston, a reporter with The Now Cincinnati who spent a day with the campers, calls a goal of showing the campers “we’re not all that different after all”. Jack, a camper, certainly found this to be true, noting that “we’re actually very similar,… and we worship one God, and actually the same God too.” Learning of these crucial similarities has helped Jack to also feel like he “has more empathy for other people of different ethnicities.” Another camper Jocelyn, a rising seventh grader from Wilmington, has had her perspective shaped since learning more about other faith tradition as well, finding she can now “see out more into the world the troubles that each religion is facing”. Upon visiting a Jewish House of Worship, the Adath Israel Synagogue, Katie, a rising seventh grader from Wyoming, discovered a significant similarity between the Jewish service and her own faith community “in that they teach you to be nice to one another and make the world a better place”.

However, being nice was put to the test as the campers formed a Human Knot- an activity in which campers stand in a circle and join hands until a monstrous lump of intertwined limbs remains. The challenge: become unraveled. As one can likely guess and as Lourdes, a rising seventh grader from Cincinnati, can confirm, everyone was “laughing all about it while they were stuck”. Lourdes found the moments of laughter to be quite meaningful- “At least we were laughing!” However, between the laughing and the “relief of finishing it and successfully getting untangled” lies quite a bit of hard work and communication. Kai, a rising eighth grader from Cincinnati, actually relished the teamwork, and seeing that “everybody was working together” was his favorite thing about the activity.

That teamwork led to the formation of trust in the community: Lourdes had to “trust that DSC_8608they care about me being stuck like they do”, Kai still had to trust that they would eventually be untangled “even though they realized they had an impossible knot.” A little trust goes a long way. Especially for Noura, to whom her fellow campers “are very important”. She trusts them, for “they treat her like family”. This being her second year in the program, returning to camp felt like “oh, we’re back home”. And for Noura, who has experienced discrimination at school, and many others, a loving community helps with facing the world each day.

Luckily, these campers seem ready to lead change in their many communities following camp. Jocelyn was inspired by learning some of Jesus’ Parables from the Christian faith. Particularly, the stories of the mustard seed and Good Samaritan have helped her to realize she “can help anybody no matter what the cause and no matter how small of an idea I have, I can grow it into a larger one.” Being the only Jewish person at her school, she seeks to “share and teach people about her own faith,” much like the mustard seed.

Isaac, a rising seventh grader from Milford, feels prepared to create change after learning more about Islam. Gaining more knowledge “makes him more aware of what they do, so that I can become a better friend to those who have been bullied”. He also seeks to bring peace by following the commandments of Judaism such as “giving tzedaka to the poor, treating your neighbor with respect, and loving all creatures”.

Wali feels empowered as a part of the Kids4Peace community, believing “it’s really great that kids do” the program, for “adults don’t always want to stray away from” the engrained intolerance passed down through generations. “But kids, they usually have a more open mind.”

These campers are already fulfilling the goal as described by Judy Chamberlain: “to build peace, one person at a time.”

Contributors: Isaac (7th grade, Milford), Jack (8th grade, Cincinnati), Jocelyn (7th grade, Wilmington), Kai (8th grade, Cincinnati), Katie (7th grade, Wyoming), Lourdes (7th grade, Cincinnati), Noura (8th grade, Cincinnati)

Written by: Emily Combs, US Media Coordinator

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With summer camps coming to an end, and the August lull upon us where many are vacationing with their families and the office is busy preparing for the exciting year to come, I took a look back at some notes I jotted down throughout this year. These notes were often quotes from the youth; things they said on tours, at activities and meetings, speaking to groups, and to each other.

I thought it would be nice to post a collection of inspiring and honest quotes (and the context behind them) from our K4P youth here in Jerusalem this year. Enjoy!

At the local summer camp in the north a few weeks ago, the 6th and 7th graders did an Outdoor Training activity with ropes. This took a lot of teamwork and communication. Three of the 6th graders, Galina (Christian Palestinian), Tareq (Muslim Palestinian) and Shachar (Jewish Israeli) were working together to walk across the tight-rope. Galina, seeing Shachar harnessed and getting ready to climb the ladder, asked Shachar how she was feeling. “Be brave,” Galina said. Once she was on the rope walking nervously towards the tree Tareq was standing on waiting, Tareq looked at Shachar and said, “put your eyes on my eyes. You can do it!” and helped her until she finished the walk.

In July, Adam (Jewish Israeli) and Charlie (Christian Palestinian) flew to Oklahoma to be the key-note speakers at the 2017 1300-person Episcopalian Youth Event. While there, they gave a few panel discussions. When asked about impact, Charlie said: “Adam came to my grandma’s house last week and we had dinner together. It took him 3 minutes to come to the house, but we never would have met each other if not for Kids4Peace. K4P gave me an important responsibility and job. I am the bridge between the two sides. I break the stereotypes and tell stories of both sides.” And Adam agreed, saying, “now I can say I know Charlie, and I can correct Israelis that have stereotypes; I have another perspective.”

At one of our overnight seminars, our 10th graders came to speak to the 9th graders about their experiences in Washington D.C. last summer, to help them prepare. Adan (Christian Palestinian) said, “turning our frustration into public speaking, we sat with American leaders, able to share our stories and show them why this conflict matters and how it’s affecting us. Public speaking is challenging, you have to be vulnerable, speak about what matters to you and help them understand and see what it is we are doing. Show them why you matter, why your story matters, why they should help this generation.” Zeena (Christian Palestinian) nodded in agreement and chimed in: “We can have an impact on the people listening to us, we have the power.”

In the fall, we walked around the entire periphery of the Old City as a community, learning about the different gates and history of each place. When asked how it felt to be walking around the Old City, together, Nina (Christian Palestinian) said, “we’re thankful to be walking together, showing the world that peace is possible and that we will continue to walk forward, together.” Omri (Jewish Israeli) said, “we are showing the world that peace is possible.” And Talia (Jewish Israeli) said, “it’s like seeing something you have always seen, but not from the other side; from a direction you can’t always see.”

Thank you for inspiring us to continue down this path of community and peace-building.

Written by Liana Rothman, community engagement coordinator

 

 

 

Kids4Peace responds to controversy about Palestinian flag at camp

“These are the partners for peace – the new generation of leaders – that so many on both sides have been hoping for.”

Fr. Josh Thomas
Executive Director, Kids4Peace International

Earlier this week, a group of Kids4Peace youth was privileged to visit Camp Solomon Schechter near Seattle, Washington.

They included Jewish, Christian and Muslim, Israeli, Palestinian, and American teens from Jerusalem and our local Seattle chapter.  They came to share the stories of their lives, and their work together for peace.  It was a powerful few days of learning and dialogue, which my colleague Jordan Goldwarg describes on the Kids4Peace blog.

During the visit, the camp raised the Palestinian flag alongside the American and Israeli flags, as a gesture of welcome to all of our visiting youth.  Since then, many have loudly criticized that decision, while others have supported it as a step toward peace.

To some, the Palestinian flag evokes the failure of past negotiations, continued hostility toward Israel, and a feeling that there is no partner for peace.  At the same time, the Palestinian youth who came to camp are precisely those peace leaders who are reaching out to work with Israelis, to counter incitement, and build a new future on a foundation of mutual respect and understanding.  These Muslim and Christian youth are also part of the Palestinian people, and they deserve only admiration and support.

Many say the two societies are not ready for peace.  In Kids4Peace we are working to change that.

We do not engage in superficial conversations that avoid hard issues. We are not naive about the challenges. Instead, we honestly address the histories and narratives of each side, the connection of both peoples to the land, and the daily realities they face because of the conflict.  We don’t do one-off workshops or feel-good encounters.  Ours is a long-term, year-round program of dialogue, leadership and action.  We speak about occupation and terror, about Zionism and the Nakba.  And we are committed to nonviolence.

In Kids4Peace, we work to empower the pro-peace voices in both societies.  In today’s Times of Israel, my colleague Meredith Rothbart, our Israeli Co-Director in Jerusalem, shares her own story as a religious Zionist working for peace alongside Palestinians who seek security, equality, dignity, and freedom for their people.  The young leaders of Kids4Peace, including those who visited Camp Solomon Schechter, are courageous activists.  Instead of blaming the other side for past failures, or giving in to the deadly cynicism that says nothing will ever change, these Israeli and Palestinian youth are taking responsibility for their future.

Together, they are educating their own societies toward peace.  These are the partners for peace – the new generation of leaders – that so many on both sides have been hoping for.

Unfortunately, most Americans and Israelis never encounter any pro-peace Palestinian voices.  Instead, their perspectives are shaped by painful past experiences, and media portrayals that reinforce negative views. But it is wrong to view all Palestinians as enemies of Israel or the Jewish people.  That’s why Kids4Peace came to camp in the first place.

We are grateful for leaders in the American Jewish community who are partnering with us to present a more balanced, mature, and honest picture of Israeli and Palestinian life today.  We are especially grateful for those who invite Palestinians to speak in their own words about their life, their struggles, and their personal and national aspirations.

Today, Kids4Peace in Jerusalem is a community of more than 500 families, from every part of the city.  With greater support, we can grow Kids4Peace to reach thousands more Jerusalem youth, and build a movement powerful enough to turn the tide of this conflict.

Fr. Josh Thomas
Executive Director, Kids4Peace International
@frjoshthomas | @kids4peace

Contact: info@k4p.org

by Jordan Goldwarg, Kids4Peace Northwest Regional Director

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Kids4Peace youth at Camp Solomon Schechter

 

This week, a group of youth participants from Kids4Peace were privileged to be guests of Camp Solomon Schechter, near Seattle, Washington. These 13 youth, an interfaith group of Jews, Muslims, and Christians from Seattle and Jerusalem, visited Schechter as part of the Kids4Peace Global Institute, a leadership program for high school students that helps Kids4Peace youth become strong advocates for a peaceful resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

While at Schechter, Kids4Peace youth led educational programs for Schechter campers and staff. Youth shared their personal stories of what life is like growing up as Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem, including the struggles they face living in a divided city where peers and family members are often not supportive of their efforts to work together with people from the other side of the conflict. At the same time, American Kids4Peace participants shared why they also work for peace in the Middle East.

In addition to these peer-to-peer education sessions, Kids4Peace youth engaged fully in the life of the camp, learning new songs and traditions, doing activities side-by-side with Schechter campers, and seeing the rich culture of Jewish worship. Through being at camp, Kids4Peace youth saw clearly the deep love of Israel expressed by Schechter campers and staff, as well as the joy that the Schechter community takes in celebrating Judaism.

Kids4Peace youth and staff were grateful for the opportunity to spend these days at camp. At a time when conversation about Israel can be highly polarized, this visit afforded an opportunity to engage in a new kind of dialogue, one that is grounded in respect, civility, curiosity, and openness. It provided an opportunity for many American Jewish campers to meet a Palestinian for the first time, and to recognize that there are Palestinian partners who want to work–together–for peace. It provided an opportunity for Palestinian Kids4Peace participants to experience American Jewish life and to gain a deeper understanding of why a strong, stable Israel is so important for Jews the world over. And it provided an opportunity for all campers and staff to recognize that despite the deep disagreements that exist about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, a different kind of conversation is possible, one that helps move forward to new solutions and a hopeful future.

Kids4Peace thanks Camp Solomon Schechter and its director, Sam Perlin, for partnering with us in this endeavour. Judging from the comments of both Schechter campers and Kids4Peace participants, our time at camp provided a rich opportunity for exchange and forged new friendships that will carry on long past this summer. In doing so, Camp Solomon Schechter has shown itself to be a leader in creating deep, meaningful Israel education at camp.

Last week, fifteen Kids4Peace Youth Action Program Counselors (10th-12th grade) and staff, along with 55 campers and staff from the Parents Circle – Families Forum, met with Tamer Nafar, a Palestinian musician and activist. The Youth Action Program has hosted several Town Hall Meetings this year, giving youth and adults the opportunity to meet with and learn from Israeli and Palestinian activists.

Before Tamer Nafar arrived, the two organizations had some time to get to know each other and spend time together. Two teenagers from each organization introduced themselves, shared a personal story and introduced their organization.

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We then continued by splitting into small groups for the “Round Table” activity, where the groups took turns asking and answering questions in Hebrew and Arabic about their lives, politics and personalities. 

After dinner, Tamer Nafar arrived. The youth and staff enjoyed an evening of inspiration, as Tamer shared stories of genuine experiences with care and seriousness, connecting music videos and lyrics with his story, weaving us through his childhood and process of growing up into the successful Palestinian rapper and activist that he is today. We could feel the deep connection between his personal life and the music he makes, and the self-awareness of the publicity he has gained over the years and the impact he can make.

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Our youth had the opportunity to get to know a unique individual that evening, a leader from the art world here; an activist that was born into the material he works with, an inspiration to us and our work in Jerusalem and around the world.

Sharing about our work at Kids4Peace, our personal stories, getting to know The Parents Circle – Families Forum organization and participants, meeting Tamer Nafar, and exploring Akko/Akka by night was a unique and exciting evening and opportunity for all. 

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Written by Liana Rothman, community engagement coordinator
Written by: Jordan Goldwarg, Global Institute Director and NW Regional Director
On Thursday, July 20, fifty participants in the Kids4Peace Global Institute made their way to Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. After days of preparation–which included training in legislative advocacy and public narrative storytelling–the day had arrived to lobby for H.R.1221, a bill in the House of Representatives that would create an international fund for Israeli-Palestinian grassroots peacebuilding efforts.
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Ready for their meetings with US Congressional Representatives.

In meetings with Senator Bernie Sanders, Rep. Keith Ellison, and over 20 other congressional offices, our youth spoke passionately about their lives in Jerusalem and about the urgency they feel–as Palestinians, Israelis, and Americans–to create a better future for themselves.
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Kids4Peace Youth and Staff met with Senator Bernie Sanders.

When the meetings were over, I asked the group that I had accompanied how they felt about the experience. Given that one Congressman had pledged to sign on as a co-sponsor of the bill and another had expressed strong support for the bill, they were unanimously positive about the power they had exercised in these meetings. When I asked whether, when they arrived at the Institute a week earlier, they thought they would be able to do what they had done, one person responded, “I didn’t think I would be able to do this two hours ago!”
Time and again over the past 10 days in DC, our youth took things that they thought they could NOT do, and showed themselves and their peers that, with the help of a supportive community, almost anything is possible.
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Jordan Goldwarg, Global Institute Director, with youth from Kids4Peace Seattle.

Other highlights of the week included:
  • Briefing State Department officials on the importance of engaging religious communities in peacebuilding efforts in Israel/Palestine
  • Briefing officials from the US Institute of Peace on the harsh realities of life on the ground in Jerusalem
  • Learning about identity, privilege, and power
  • Volunteering with DC Central Kitchen and learning about gentrification and displacement from ONE DC
  • Using social entrepreneurship to solve problems in our communities
  • Attending worship services at a mosque, synagogue, and church
  • Peer-to-peer learning sessions on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and social issues in the US
  • Exploring media bias at the Newseum
  • Visits to Smithsonian museums, the National Mall, and more!

 

 

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Learning from past negotiators for Israeli-Palestinian Peace at USIP.

 

We are so proud of our Global Institute graduates, who proved that they are not only the leaders of tomorrow, but are already the leaders of today. We can’t wait to see the impressive things they will continue to do!
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Kids4Peace Youth met with the Office of Religion and Global Affairs at the US State Department.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the 6th and 7th graders (Pathways to Peace program) had the opportunity to explore Akko/Akka for the day with tour-guides and educators, Tamer and Carmiel.

Our first stop was Napoleon’s Hill, a place to see the city from above and an interesting active archaeological digging site. They learned about the city’s history and talked about what they were digging for at the site. They also began thinking about why, as a group from Jerusalem, they were going to be exploring Akko/Akka all day.

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From there, the group continued to the Crusader’s Fortress, where they split into groups and explored the ancient site, acting out scenes with their groups of what the Knights would have been doing in the different rooms.

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Next, we went to the beautiful and famous el-Jazzar Mosque (built in 1781), where we were able to go in and see the inside of the Mosque, and then sit in the courtyard to talk about the history of the Mosque and learn more about Islam. The youth engaged in interesting discussions about the different traditions of dress and head-coverings in the different religions, and the Muslim youth took turns explaining what some of the different things we had seen inside of the Mosque were.

Afterwards, we visited the Ramchal synagogue (built in the 16th century) and learned about the Rabbi of the synagogue for which it was named, as well as more about Judaism. The group spoke a lot about culture vs. religion, and how often they are closely intertwined. We also discussed what it means to build a community and how to be a part of different communities, how to become a person that can allow their different worlds to meet. They were also asked about holy things meeting, like visiting a mosque and a synagogue in the same day, and were asked to think about how to build a community that can bring such holy places together. When we asked the youth what kind of values the Kids4Peace community has, they said: friendship, tolerance, honesty, kindness, and inclusiveness.

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The tour of Akko/Akka was educational, fun, inspiring, challenging and thought-provoking. The youth finished the day with many questions and new ideas, talking with their friends about what they had seen and done. Thank you to Tamer and Carmiel for leading the youth on this journey of questions, thought and self-reflection and growth.

For pictures, go to our Facebook page. More photos will be uploaded each day: Camp 2017 Photo Album

Written by Liana Rothman, community engagement coordinator