As you entered the dining hall for breakfast, you could feel the excitement radiating from the kids about today’s destination – Eilat!  We could all feel that today was going to be an incredible adventure. The bus ride there consisted of singing and laughter.

The day was filled with fun in the sun and on the water with rafting and boat rides. They hung on tight and tried not to fall off into the water. There were three rides the campers could go on- the banana boat, crazy shark, and floating seat.
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“My favorite was the Crazy Shark ride, because it’s literally like a bouncy castle on the water,” Hind, 6th grade.

The water was so pristine and the location had such biodiversity that we were able to see bizarre and colorful fish species that were unlike any we had seen before. One surprised group of kids even had a bright blue fish jump into the ride with them!

Before leaving Eilat, we had a delicious lunch of schnitzel, meatballs, potatoes, pita, and salad (and hummus, of course!). The lunch was so good that we had to fend off strangers from eating our food.

After a long day on the water, we returned to Camp Ketura for educational programming. The youth explored their identities, the values that are necessary to accomplish a goal as a team, and what the world would look like without those values. These “kids” offered wisdom and insight far beyond their years. We are blessed with such an incredible group of young hearts and minds. The advisors then led a guided meditation that helped the group self-reflect on the values they had discussed and the realities of the world we live in.

We finished the night watching Ferdinand and having small group discussions. Some of the groups began their presentations while others reflected upon the day and shared meaningful stories with one another.

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Overall, today was an excellent opportunity for bonding between the staff and 6th and 7th grade youth.  The groups were mixed both in Eilat and while watching Ferdinand and sharing popcorn.

The sixth graders rose with the sun this morning for an early morning bike ride through Ketura’s date plantation and the desert’s soft sand dunes. Each kid and staff member on the ride had a chance to jump down the dune, if they dared!

Back at Ketura, the rest of the sixth graders created gorgeous decoupage crafts while also getting to know each other better. They learned about the history of Ketura, the mission and vision of the Kibbutz and some of the “ins and outs” of kibbutz life.  

After breakfast, the kids cooled down in the pool. The boys played water games and enjoyed the pool to the max. Then afterwards, the girls played chicken and monkey in the middle. There was not a frown in sight as these water bugs splashed and laughed the hour away in the cool pool.  It was much easier to get everyone in than out.

After lunch the CIT’s led everyone in some games that enabled all of us to use our bodies and also get to know each other better through a series of speed round questions.  

The staff continued raising the energy level with more games.  A fantastic round of “Who’s afraid of the big bear?” got everyone energized for what was yet to come!

From there we split up into electives with the 7th graders. Dance, Painting and Crafts provided relaxation and fun.

We then moved into our small groups for educational sessions and everyone created a group flag to be presented on our closing night.

The 7th graders enjoyed a peaceful 10 minute walk in the desert to watch the sunset. It was a new experience to many of them and magical to all. They had a blast playing in the sand dunes. For dinner, the youths made their own pita over a fire and prepared their meals with the support of the staff. They then watched falling stars and played games with their flashlights. It was a truly beautiful experience.

After dinner, the small groups had the opportunity to reflect on the day and what Kids4Peace means to them. They discussed the opportunities and difficulties that the program brings and how this makes them feel. Some were given time to plan the creative presentations the groups will share during the closing night of camp.

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After a week of dialogue and relationship building, our International Camp participants were placed in charge of running religious services for everyone to observe. On day nine, our Muslim and Jewish participants came together and organized Jummah services, as well as Kabbalat Shabbat. Each service was designed to put students in charge of creating spaces for the different practices of each service to be celebrated. During Jummah, participants had the chance to not only observe the prayer, but learn about different sects of Islam that were represented at camp, including Shi’ism, Sunnism, Sufism. That evening, our Jewish campers came together to lead us through different songs and prayers for Kabbalat Shabbat that also represented the different sects of Judaism. Both practices were followed up by question and answers that our kids helped facilitate.

Our day was also sandwiched with daily electives, including zip-lining, intro to filmmaking, a photo walk, swimming, and much more. In our intro to filmmaking elective, participants were given the opportunity to interview one another for a Kids4Peace film about how they would like to see the world change. As camp comes to a close, International Camp is evolving to give students power to take ownership of the resources Kids4Peace seeks to give, by placing leadership in the hands of our youth who have the power to take action and make changes.

 

And we are off!! What a day it has been! Despite the the drastic change in climate and environment the campers are adjusting well and excited to be learning and playing together. To ensure they stay hydrated in the heat, we play fun drinking games (with water!).  

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The kids were divided into small, intimate groups of seven to eight, with which they will meet twice a day throughout the week. They shared personal stories and funny anecdotes to break the ice and form bonds. They learned that this circle will be a safe space for them to come with questions or concerns for the rest of the week. Together, these teams will plan special projects or performances to present to the rest of the camp.
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A highlight of the day was the Ketura tour during which the youth learned about kibbutz life and the way Kibbutz Ketura functions and sustains itself. During the tour, the guide showed the kids a beautiful olive tree that grows from a 2,000 year-old date seed.

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The culture and atmosphere of a kibbutz is a new experience for many of our campers. “This is my first time on a kibbutz. I’d never even heard of a kibbutz before this,” said Gowan, one of spirited 6th grade campers.

Later after dinner, the kids cracked codes and solved puzzles, leading them around the kibbutz in search of hidden treasure and then retired to their dorms for more bonding and a good night’s sleep.
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Stories are passed down for for several reasons – to share histories, to inspire dreams, to memorialize moments…at Kids4Peace, story telling is an important tool that allows each of us to recognize how our experiences influence our role in advocating for justice. Day seven began as with a storytelling workshop that set the foundation in place for our next two days. On this day, students began digging into their personal experiences and considering how those experiences directed their presence at International Camp.

In continuation of the storytelling workshops that framed our previous day, day eight was a continuation of the power of story telling and the different ways that you can tell and share stories. Two of our camp counselors brought their expertise in sharing expression through spoken word and theatre of the oppressed.

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We have been lucky to shape the participation of our kids at camp with the skills and talents of our staff who are experienced in respective backgrounds. As Kiren led her workshop on spoken word, she shared some performances that she had done with a youth slam poetry group that she started with a group of friends, Muslim Girls Making Change. During this session, participants had the opportunity to listen, practice, and create their own pieces.

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Our Theatre of the Oppressed workshop was led by Emily, who is getting ready to take her acting skills from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts to London at the Royal Academy of the Arts. During her session, Emily led campers through exercises and discussions on power. The techniques that she shared are part of an international movement that uses theatre as a means of promoting social and political change.

DSC02776When we consider the number of conflicts that have resolved over time throughout history, community is has its focus. When communities come together, they form inexplicable bonds that allow issues to reach incredible resolutions. That’s exactly what we were exploring on day six of International Camp.

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As we reached our mid-way point during our 12-day camp, participants returned to their community agreements to reflect on the rules that they created for themselves early in the week. We moved through the day having conversations about what community means and how community stays and spent more time learning about the what makes community for us.

And as with any community gathering, the day ended with a party! Campers broke out into a small group dance competition to rival over the best dance.

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We continued our journey at International Camp on day five by taking some time to think about what space do we take up in this world. Our day was split into two parts: traveling down two paths at Hooker Falls in DuPont State Forest and sharing stories and experiences at spaces that structure our daily lives at home (i.e. favorite restaurants, schools, etc.). While the hike allowed participants to step away from camp life, it was an opportunity to take a moment to marvel in the world around us. This flowed effortlessly into our group conversations, as our campers added to dialogue about the similarities and differences that they shared in spaces that surrounded them. These two activities helped build up to a larger question that we are exploring throughout the week: where do we create justice?

“Can you bring your whole self to a place? [This activity helped build] an understanding that we will show up differently in different places.” – Kelly (K4P Adviser), Christian, Seattle

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Our identities are complex and, for many of us, they allow us to manifest different versions of our self based off those environments. This also allows us to think about the larger questions that influence the role that we play in our homes, our communities, and those spaces that frame our daily lives. As we continue to move through this week, we are working up to understanding what justice means to us in our daily lives and how we can be advocates.

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“There is a conflict happening everywhere. This is about how you can make a difference in your own community” – Stephanny (K4P counselor), Bogota

Conflict comes in many different shapes, sizes, and colors. It takes up different spaces in different rooms. Especially in a room of middle schoolers who experience conflict in so many different ways through their lived experiences. Yesterday, our participants spent time defining conflict and hearing about different conflicts that impact their lives and different communities around the world. Participants heard stories about what how conflict has disrupted different societies in Bosnia, Rwanda, South Sudan and Columbia.

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“Knowledge is power…and learning about things really gives you power to make a difference about it.” – Arwen, Unitarian Universalist, Seattle

While most of those our campers hadn’t had an opportunity to live and see the conflicts that had or have divided these countries, youth recognized that there is an importance in learning about different conflicts. After learning about the Bosnia conflict, one camper shared that it was “good to hear about a conflict” aside from the one she lived in Jerusalem and that it was “important to learn about other sides.”

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The day ended in a celebration of music and dancing as a reminder that even in moments and discussions of conflict, there is power in hope, light, and unity.

DSC02510Once International Camp participants had a day to get acclimated to the new camp, we started off the second day by framing conversations and action in faith. Our 72 youth are coming from a range of backgrounds from Israel, Palestine and America, and with them they are bringing different practices, beliefs, and experiences that shape their religious and spiritual identities.

“[My faith is] something I can trust, that will give me a hand when I need it, that will support me in a time of need.” -Tuvia, Jewish, Jerusalem

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Because Friday is a religious day for people of many different faiths, participants were able to take part in the weekly prayer that Muslims take part in together in the afternoon, known as Jummah, and the celebration of Kabbalat Shabbat through a service that prepared us for the day of rest. At the end of each service, youth had the opportunity to engage in discussion to ask questions and gain a better understanding about the intentions and reasoning behind the practices that were observed.

IMG-20180803-WA0001These spaces grant our young minds an opportunity to gain clarity and bridge gaps that allow us to live and share the world around us in harmony. As we are moving through our days, youth are creating spaces to actively listen and share their identities with one another, while also forming community through the outdoor elective sessions that engage excitement, friendly competition and laughter.

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Global Institute may have just ended, but our work doesn’t end there. As our 50 Global Institute alums returned home to put their learned skills and experiences to the test, Kids4Peace was busy getting ready for our batch of 72 Israeli, Palestinian, and American youth for our first ever International Camp at Blue Star in North Carolina!

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International Camp aims to begin shaping the minds of 8th grade students by driving them to consider the space they hold in this world and how they can learn to build community with others. While gathering today, they spent time getting to know one another by leaning into discomfort, leaning into vulnerability – in order to gain trust and build community.

“To create a bond, [it’s important] to not create distrust in a community. It helps to build beyond surface level conversations.” Owen, Christian, Atlanta. 

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As participants acclimated to their new home for the next 10 days, they had a chance to explore the camp and see more of attractions that the site has to offer — like canoeing! Along with our introspective education sessions, our kids have been spending time getting to know their peers, counselors, and advisers by taking part in different outdoor activities together.