On a recent weekend, Peace Leaders, the year-round Kids4Peace program, gathered at the Cambridge Friends School for an overnight. It was the first time that all three years of camps—2011, 2012, and 2013—had officially met each other. Some high school participants came early to help plan the leadership of games. Everyone else arrived around 6:30 and began playing these games. Once most people had arrived, different teams were created to present skits based on ethical decisions faced by teenagers that didn’t have easy resolutions.
We also had ice cream sundaes, free time for basketball and crafts, and then each faith group met separately for prayers before girls and boys settled down in separate areas of the building to sleep.
Sunday, everyone needed to pack up quickly so that a Quaker service could start on one side of the school. In the morning, the 2011 and 2012 campers met with two different speakers while the 2013 campers made a map of the Middle East that included replicas of important religious sites in Jerusalem of all 3 faiths.
The first speaker was an Israeli Jew, who told stories of his experience growing up in Jerusalem. He spoke about the deaths of friends to terrorist attacks, and, later, about his experience in a camp similar to Kids4Peace, being roommates with a Palestinian boy. What he’d realized, he said, was that, nobody has a monopoly on pain. Everybody has a different story. This discussion also led to how he had learned Israel’s history, as opposed to the ways that other people had learned the same events. In this light, the second speaker, the mother of a Kids4Peace participant, told stories about growing up in a Palestinian family. She told her parents’ stories of Israel’s beginning, how they were affected, and how that had affected her. She only recently heard about these stories from her parents. She said, “When we were growing up, I don’t think that my parents told us about what happened to them because then, if my parents forgave the Jews, we might not. That would start a cycle of hatred. They didn’t want to create that hatred.” She ended up not feeling defined by the specific categories of “Israeli” or “Palestinian,” and she spoke about the way that also affected her life and her relationships: how she and an Israeli friend watched the news of Israel’s attack on Gaza together, and she cried for the people being attacked, and he cried for the soldiers who might lose their lives.
After these discussions, there was some time to eat lunch, and then everyone went to the Museum of Science to watch the Omni Theater movie about Jerusalem. It took the viewer through the homes and histories of three families, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian, who lived there. While watching it, we thought about our Peace Pals and other friends from Kids4Peace who live in the Jerusalem area.
By Shoshana, 2011 Kids4Peace participant