Kids4Peace Iftar 2017

merk4p —  June 23, 2017 — Leave a comment

On Thursday, June 15th, Kids4Peace held our annual community Iftar event. Our entire community had the opportunity to join the Pathways for Peace (6th and 7th grade) Iftar and community service drive, funded by USAID. It was a moving, fun, inspiring, family-filled evening. With speeches from Meredith and Reeham, and two of our K4P youth, Eliana and Omri, a Ramadan coloring and lantern making station for kids, the charity drive, and two big interfaith text study sessions all happening before the meal even began, it was truly a community event.

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This time, thanks to USAID and the amount of people that came, we were able to get everyone even more involved than in previous years. For the first time at a K4P Iftar, in honor of Ramadan and our K4P values, we organized the charity drive. As people entered, we collected secondhand clothes and toys to be donated to Muslim, Jewish and Christian families in need all around Jerusalem. Each family was also asked to bring a dish to share with everyone. Also, thanks to an incredible donation by K4P father, Jared, we were able to greatly minimize our plastic use and waste production due to his generous donation of plates and silverware, which we will use at every future community event to come. At the end of the meal, there was a washing station set up which allowed us, as a community, to all clean up together.

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Omri, a Palestinian Muslim 10th grader, spoke about Ramadan and what it means to him to celebrate his holiday and traditions alongside his Kids4Peace friends. Eliana, a Jewish Israeli 9th grader, spoke of similar themes, and of the power and hope Kids4Peace gives her.

With 300 people in attendance, I heard people remark on what an amazing community Kids4Peace really is. Everyone participated in making the evening a success, and everyone left with their bellies full and their faces smiling.

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The opportunity to celebrate each other’s holidays in Kids4Peace, together, is meaningful and unique. For the Jewish and Christian youth at the Iftar event, to learn about Ramadan and to experience an Iftar meal, is a rare opportunity that helps connect the youth even more and helps them learn more about other religions and cultures.

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We are so grateful for our amazing community, and for the hope and power you give to us and we continue giving to each other. We are grateful to USAID for making this evening possible.

The final day of the Kids4Peace tour with the group of Mormon youth from Utah that were part of the Youth Summit Jerusalem 2017, was successful and meaningful. After three days of learning, visiting sights, questioning, and playing, the group gathered in the Kids4Peace office. As another group of Birthright students were coming in to meet with some of our other educators at the same time, we overlapped with a few activities. The two groups loved meeting each other and having the office filled with people was exciting.

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After lunch and a few games, we boarded the bus and were on our way to the beautiful Mormon Center on the Mount of Olives. One of the most fantastic buildings and views in Jerusalem, the group had a tour of the Center, and listened to an Organist play a few songs. Afterwards, we gathered again, with a few more Kids4Peace youth having joined us, and split up into groups to talk about interfaith projects they can work on and create when they go back home. We talked about how to create these projects using the core values Kids4Peace holds dear and presented once we came back together. The group said they really liked this activity, because for them the core value of most religions is being charitable and loving one another.

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The project ideas were great. They included: being pen pals with Kids4Peace participants here in Jerusalem, giving both the opportunity to learn more about each other, hosting a refugee dinner in their area, creating a committee of teenagers from all different faiths to promote this dinner, lead discussions about their lives and religions, create a community of interfaith youth. Another project idea was to create an interfaith club, to do service activities together, celebrate each other’s holidays. Another was to host an open question evening, to gather as an interfaith group of teenagers and learn about each other more; the entrance fee would be food items that they can donate to charity, to their local food pantries.

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After that activity we had a panel discussion with three of our Kids4Peace youth. This gave the group the opportunity to hear more about Kids4Peace and what it is like to grow up as an Israeli or Palestinian in Jerusalem and in this movement. They also were able to ask questions and overall it was a very interesting, engaging and learning-filled discussion.

Once we returned to the hotel and had dinner, we gathered in the meeting room to have a final session, to wrap up the last few days they had experienced together. They talked a lot about faith vs. national identity, about how pain is a constant in the conflict here, how it is hard to breach. They discussed what Kids4Peace is doing and what it means for Jerusalem, if someday we will be the majority here and how to make that happen. Omri, a K4P Muslim 10th grader said, “We must figure out how to live in harmony. People are already becoming more open-minded. I can see that there will be a big change in Jerusalem. We can all feel it. People are sick of living this way, so the silent majority is leaning towards peace.” This was so interesting to the group, they discussed all these topics for some time.

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Eventually, Carmiel led them in an activity he called ‘Interactive Postcards’. They had to think of their favorite or most meaningful moment and create a picture of it with their bodies. Some of these living postcards included a scene of when they were hosted at the Muslim home, another was of borders where two people were shaking hands over the border and two people were back to back, and another one was of Carmiel and Tamer leading a dialogue at a playground.

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Finally, it was time to end the evening’s session and to say goodbye. For their final task, each person went around and asked a question. The questions were not meant to be answered, but simply meant to be thrown out there, into the circle, to be held in the space they had created and thought about. Some of these questions included:

  • What can we as Americans do to help the situation?
  • Why is it so hard to see things from others’ perspectives?
  • How are my own walls and borders limiting me?
  • What now?
  • When will there be peace here?
  • Why is communication so difficult?
  • Will these two communities ever forgive each other?

Carmiel, to close the circle, asked, “will these three days make a difference in your lives?” Everyone nodded and started clapping, and the goodbye hugs and pictures began.

Thank you so much to everyone who made this trip possible, to the amazing K4P educators and tour guides Carmiel and Tamer, and to the leaders of this learning group. We hope to see you all again and look forward to staying in touch!

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Written by Liana Rothman, community engagement coordinator

On Friday evening, June 16th, 2017 a young Israeli woman was stabbed to death in the area of Damascus Gate, Jerusalem. Hadas Malka, a 23 year old women (See article here) from Giv’at Azar.  

That morning I began a three-day tour with a group of Mormon youth from Utah, who are in Jerusalem for a couple of weeks. Kids4Peace is running a tour for them through one of our new projects, “K4P Tours: Jerusalem Through the Eyes of the Interfaith Community”. The goal of these tours is to give people an experience of Jerusalem that discusses the challenges of the city while showing the importance and the beauty of getting to know one another and learning about one another’s religions and narratives. This is through encounters with Jerusalemites of all three Abrahamic faiths (Islam, Judaism and Christianity), Israelis and Palestinians from both East and West Jerusalem.

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We began our tour on Mt. Zion, with an introduction to an interfaith Jerusalem. We heard from Carmiel, our Jewish tour educator, and Suma, our Muslim educator. Both were raised in Jerusalem, and both have a strong connection to the city from a place of faith, and an understanding that we must  learn to live together as a community, each with his or her own narrative yet open to the reality that there are other narratives as well. We walked through the Christian, Muslim and Jewish quarters, experiencing the beauty of each one.

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We then took a break for a couple of hours and regrouped at “Kol-Haneshama” a Reform synagogue in South Jerusalem. From there we continued with the group to their hotel in east Jerusalem, not far from Damascus Gate. We wanted to continue the Jewish experience of Shabbat, knowing that on Sunday we would be going to visit a Christian home in Beit-Jallah and then a Muslim home in Beit-Safafa, after the Iftar (the break-fast meal at the end of the day, during the month of Ramadan). We all gathered in a room at the hotel in East Jerusalem, and Carmiel and I led together the Shabbat rituals of blessing the grape juice, washing hands and blessing the bread.

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We then walked into the dining hall at the hotel to find a group of Muslim men who were holding their evening prayer service after the Iftar. The dining hall was filled with a majority of Muslim visitors from around the world who came to Jerusalem for this holy month of Ramadan. All of this we experienced with a Mormon group from Utah! It was a truly magical experience, a true interfaith Jerusalem evening.

That Friday evening was a first for me. Not the interfaith experience but rather the location in which it took place. This kind of religious diversity in one location was something that would not normally happen in Jerusalem, in such a divided city — divided in its religion and its nationality.

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After dinner, we wrapped up the day, all sharing how appreciative we were to be able to learn about Jerusalem through the work that we do in Kids4Peace. I felt so honored and proud to be representing something that I believe in and is so needed in Jerusalem today. After this wonderful experience, Carmiel and I gathered our stuff to start our journey home, about a half an hour walk for both of us. Carmiel observes the tradition of not driving on the Sabbath, so I joined him.  

As we were walking out of the hotel, we heard about the attack near Damascus Gate. We discussed how it would be best to raise this tragic event with the group, while also trying to navigate the best way to walk home. I was scared, but having walked through these areas so many times in my life I figured it would be ok. I also trusted Carmiel, an experienced tour guide, to take us through the best possible route. Two of the leaders from the Mormon group felt responsible and wanted to make sure we were ok; they walked us down to Damascus gate. Here we were, two Mormons and two Jews, standing at Damascus Gate at the busiest possible time of the year for this place, all very much feeling like we were minorities in this situation.

Carmiel then walked up to the Israeli border police and asked him to let us pass to the road so we would not have to walk through the crowded Muslim Quarter. He said that due to the attack, they were not letting anyone through, while looking very confused as to why a Jewish man with a kippah on his head was even standing there at all.

Carmiel simply explained that we were guiding a group that was staying at a nearby hotel, and since we observe the Sabbath, we needed to walk home. The border policeman then proceeded to tell us that we could not pass and would have to walk through the Muslim Quarter. Our Mormon friends would not leave us alone and walked us all the way through until we reached a quieter area of the Old City.

I have never felt more like a stranger in my own city — the city I grew up in, the city I love and care about, the city I fight to make better, every day of my life. Yet, this feeling segwayed straight from experiencing what I love most about this city: the multifaith and multicultural reality. I dove directly from a hopeful high, into the soup of hate, fear and tension that Jerusalem is famous for brewing — the parts that I work hard to end.

Carmiel and I walked home together at 11 o’clock at night and discussed the current status of the city. We shared strong feelings of feeling compelled to continue the work of trying to make this city a place that embraces rather than pushes away diversity. I saw images of members of our community in my head, faces of the people I spend hours with every week, working together to achieve this dream:

Ismat, a 40-year-old man from Beit-Safafa who left a lifelong career of carpentry to commit his life to Kids4Peace; Reeham, a 42-year-old religious Muslim woman, a committed educator who believes that the youth we are educating are the ones who will make a real difference in Jerusalem; Meredith, a young mother of two, a religious Zionist Jew who moved to Israel from the U.S., and a strong believer in community as a force of change; Montaser, a Muslim Palestinian who grew up deep in the heart of the West Bank who often has to wait at Qalandia Checkpoint for two hours just to cross over to Jerusalem so he can do this holy work; Sarah, an American born Jewish young women who gave up her life in the U.S. to move to Jerusalem, serve in the IDF and through that came to truly believe in working together to create equal opportunity and shared community in Jerusalem. These faces and so many more come to mind when thinking about the kind of Jerusalem I wish to see in the future.

On Thursday night, June 15th, Kids4Peace celebrated Ramadan together with over 350 members of the community. Together we shared a potluck Iftar meal. This is the reality I want to continue to build–not the reality I was reminded of on my walk home on Friday night.  We need to educate our children to learn, love and respect, those who are different, not dehumanize and hate. Only together can we make this world a better place.

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My heart goes out to Hadas’s family, and it also goes out to the families of the three young Palestinian men who attacked her. If we all commit to educating towards mutual understanding and respect, maybe they would all still be with us today.

May we spend the final days of Ramadan and the holiday of Id Al Fider, as we segway into the Jewish fast of the 17th of Tamuz commemorating the fall of Jerusalem prior to the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem, in remembrance and peace.

Written by Michal Ner-David, tour group and grants coordinator

 

Last week, eight members of the Kids4Peace staff and youth had the unique opportunity to meet influential leaders at St. George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem.The youth in attendance were three ninth grade Leadership youth: Omar, Jessica, and Mira. We met and spoke with the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Brendan Carr, The Most Reverend Michael Jackson, Archbishop of Dublin and Glendalough, and The Most Reverend Suheil Dawani, Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem and one of the founders of Kids4Peace in 2002.

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All three said how much they admired the work Kids4Peace is engaged in, and expressed their gratitude and hope for our youth. The Lord Mayor asked about what it is like to be in a group with Israelis and Palestinians together from such a young age, growing up together. He wondered what the challenges and the opportunities are.

“When you’re in Kids4Peace, it is empowering to see Israeli and Palestinian youth together. We find the will to bring solutions to whatever is happening here,” Omar began, “There’s plenty of opposition to what we do. You’ll always receive criticism. My Jewish friends receive criticism from their Israeli friends and we receive it from our friends, from those who think what we are doing is not a good idea. But you know – every single leader who sparked a change had a lot of opposition, people might not have agreed with what they said or did. But you need the strength to be able to stand against that. To do your share in the political situation. Kids4Peace helps give us that strength.”

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Mira watched intently as Omar spoke, nodding her head in agreement. Once he was finished speaking, she chimed in. “Yes, it’s very hard at first. The situation we live in is not easy. Interacting with another side, another person, is not so easy. And it’s not so easy to explain it to friends. It takes a lot of effort to convince them that this is a good thing. But we aim for peace, and Kids4Peace proves to us that peace is possible.”

“It was really amazing when we started, when we were 12 years old. We were Christians and Muslims on one side of the room, Jews on the other. It was hard to say hello. But now, four years later, we do so many things together in the city and we’re just one family, together,” Jessica said. The Lord Mayor said noticed that even among the staff when the Kids4Peace delegation came to visit in the fall. He said how moved and inspired he was to meet a group like us, that more people need to know about what we are doing. He looked at two of the advisors, Ibraheem and Ahlam, and asked them what they think makes Kids4Peace so special. Ibraheem smiled, having grown up in this youth movement and continuing as a counselor and advisor into his twenties, his answer was seamless and to the point: “What makes Kids4Peace special is that we are all in this together, standing tall together, in the middle of this chaos, empowering each other.”

Ahlam spoke of how Kids4Peace has been growing and shifting. “This year, more than ever before, we feel like a big community and family. We focus on Jerusalem, on our connection to this place and to each other. We have more families joining, and are focusing on the big goal of Kids4Peace.”

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Strength in numbers is not just a Golden State Warriors tagline, but a truth for us here in Jerusalem at Kids4Peace. We are growing, we are strong, we are committed to one another and to our mission of creating a more peaceful and inclusive Jerusalem.

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Thank you to the Lord Mayor and Archbishops for taking the time to meet with us.

Written by Liana Rothman, community engagement coordinator

Jerusalem

merk4p —  May 25, 2017 — Leave a comment

*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 […]

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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!

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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At the end of the evening, the youth left feeling encouraged, inspired and excited to change the world, just like Moana.

WhatsApp Image 2017-04-02 at 8.35.40 PM (1) Thank you to USAID for making this evening possible.

Written by Liana Rothman – community engagement coordinator

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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!

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Written by Liana Rothman – community engagement coordinator

 

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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.

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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.”

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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