Originally from Jerusalem, and now a university student in Menton, France, Hassan Abu Dalo descends from a Muslim background. He says that coming into Kids4Peace, he had little knowledge of his own religion. He grew up in a Jewish neighborhood and attended a French school with a diverse student body. He had scratched the surface of different cultures, but K4P gave him a chance to go a step further and learn more.
What attracted him to the program was the opportunity to face both sides of the conflict in a community where opinions and experiences could be shared. I wanted to learn more about his experience, and what he’s up to now. I was grateful to have the opportunity to sit down and chat over Skype, and here’s some of what I learned:
My family accepted [my participation in K4P] very well, in fact my dad is part of the steering committee in Jerusalem, my brother is a participant, and some of our neighbors signed their kids up as well. It had a good impact on our local community and was very well received.
The first time I arrived to the US, I expected for whatever I had seen on TV to be reproduced in real time. At camp, I instead saw a different side of American youth: more open, intelligent, bright, interesting, and understanding.
During those two weeks, you buld these small temporary communities where you forget what was in Jerusalem by building a new chapter where everyone is there for each other. It’s like a clean slate, and all of a sudden people want to learn about, listen to, and play with each other. The K4P leadership program is a point when the conversation gets serious, and it’s easy to listen since you’re already acquainted [with each other].
One of the first years of camp, it occurred to me that I had never seen so much food being wasted, and I voiced my concern to an advisor. During dinner, he called me to speak in front of everyone. I went up and sort of started to panic, being only 12, and thinking, “What do I say?” In the end I managed to say something, and in the days that followed, I saw a change, and I saw that what I did was good, and I felt good about it. It changed peoples’ attitudes, and I never would have done that if not for the advisor who pushed me to speak out. It’s something I’ve even used that story on my CV!
There was one friend who I became very close with, we participated in both K4P as campers, and then later in Leadership Camp. He’s Israeli, I’m Palestinian, and we managed to keep our friendship going, though lately it’s been tough since he’s started his mandatory military service. The thought of seeing him one day at a checkpoint with a gun pointed is troubling, we’re no longer on an equal level.
In France you meet people from all around the Middle East, and they are generally willing to engage in talking about the conflict. The conflict is even taught at my school, we had an Israeli ambassador come and speak about it. It’s easier to relate to a personal perspective of someone coming straight from the conflict, instead of just basing their opinions on what they hear on television.
I study social sciences at my school, which was conceived to educate future leaders of France and worldwide. Eventually I’d like to return to Jerusalem to work in the politics of the region.