by Liana, Jewish Advisor, Roots
This Roots seminar was a weekend of love, inspiration, thoughtfulness, solidarity; all shared by justice-seeking peace builders. Before the weekend began, with the recent escalation of violence and fear-mongering attacks and threats, I was unsure how the weekend would go. I wasn’t sure if parents would send their kids, I wasn’t sure if we would be able to fight against the isolation and separation our two societies live in day after day, and I wasn’t sure what anyone would even say if we all did come together. Despite all these reservations, after spending the weekend with 25 Roots teenagers, three advisors, two counselors, and countless others, I am re-inspired, re-energized, and reminded that peace is possible.
After a smooth arrival to the beautiful and quiet oasis that is Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, we all gathered in our tent, where Rebecca went over guidelines and expectations for the weekend. Then we lead the group in a process of setting intentions for the weekend. Many said they hoped to make better friends and to get closer to people they weren’t yet close with. Some said they hoped to spend this time learning and growing together, to create peace, and to strengthen their group identity. After this activity and a short break for Kabbalat Shabbat and candle lighting for whoever wanted to participate, we all gathered in the tent again. Samach, our dialogue facilitator for the weekend, led the group in an activity focused on eye contact, listening and hearing, and personal connections. After this powerful and poignant activity, the Jewish participants led prayers over the bread and grape juice, and we all sat down for a delicious dinner.
Once dinner ended, Roots had a costume party led by our amazing counselors, Eden and Yuval! The costume party was a lot of fun, and included creating skits and competition for best dressed.
In the morning, following breakfast where we heard the Christian blessing for the food, Samach led the group in another activity. This time, the boys and girls separated, and each group had to think about their own roots: where they came from, who they came from, what was going on in their family’s lives when they were born, and how did they get to where they are today. Each group created a play that was supposed to show their reflections to these questions, and then they performed for each other.
We then finished that activity and went to lunch, where we heard the Muslim blessing for food. Afterwards, we played sports, got to know each other better, and enjoyed some well-deserved downtime! As our last facilitated activity, Samach led the groups in an identity-focused session. Roots members talked about their identity, how they identify themselves and why. We also discussed current events and were able to have a respectful, honest dialogue, where everyone had the chance to express their feelings, and process together on the recent escalations of violence.
Once this was over, the Jewish group did Havdalah, everyone packed, and we all climbed back on the buses to go home.
Overall, it was a very successful, fun, meaningful seminar, and we all can’t wait to continue fostering honest and important conversations, relationships, and experiences together.
Despite these hard times, it is things like this, and people like this Roots group, that inspire and motivate everyone around them to work towards a better future for all of us.