by Dandan, K4P Jerusalem Intern
For many kids, the wait was finally over. On Wednesday, January 28, fifty-six 6th graders came into the K4P office with their parents for interviews, hoping to gain acceptance into the six-year Pathway to Peace program. Kids, such as an 11 year old Muslim girl, had been waiting since the third grade to express why she wanted to join the K4P family. This was the third date for interviews, the second stage of the application process, with well over 100 potential applicants.
Moving through the K4P office building was like moving through the Machane Yehuda Market on Fridays, as kids, parents, and faith advisors shuffled from the crowded waiting room to the two interview rooms. In the waiting room, parents and their children could ask K4P veterans about their experience through the program and mingle amongst each other over tea.
I spoke with Lauren, a Jewish mother of a K4P graduate:
“My 19 year old daughter was here when she was in sixth grade. It was one of the best events of her life. I remember she came from camp where she met one of her best friends, an American Muslim, and it basically changed her life. Now she went to the army, and she will be a spokesperson for the army. All her political views changed through K4P, because it gave her a real perspective about the process, about kids, about kids’ role in the conflict, and I think it’s a wonderful program.”
Now, Lauren was looking forward to enrolling her youngest daughter Noa in the program. When asked why she believes in the K4P program, Lauren replied:
“It’s very important. Those [kids] are the next leaders and they need to understand and learn more about other religions, which is very basic. We know nothing about it. Lately Noa told me she read a book about Iran and all she heard about Muslims was from this book. It was very radical so I told her ‘Listen, you’re going to learn beautiful things about this religion.’ So she’s looking forward to start K4P.”
Each interview was conducted by two faith advisors, one of whom belonged to the faith of the interviewed student. Among the advisors, Hebrew and Arabic were spoken, so kids who didn’t feel comfortable answering in English could speak in their native tongue. After brief introductions, the first round of questions were directed towards the parents. Parents were asked to explain what they understood about the program, so faith advisors could evaluate whether their conceptions aligned with the program’s objectives. The faith advisors also stressed how important parental engagement, which included attending mandatory K4P parent meetings, was crucial for the program’s impact.
Afterwards, the parents were asked to leave, so the faith advisors could focus on the students. Students were asked questions about their hobbies, their own faith, and why they wanted to make friends with kids of other faiths. “What are your favorite traditions in your religion?” “Have you ever met a Jew, Christian, or Muslim before and what was it like?” “Can you tell us about a challenge you had in your life and how you dealt with it?” were some of the questions asked.
The fifteen minute interviews ended when students were asked to draw a picture of something important to them. An eleven year-old Muslim girl, Natalia, drew three students, a Christian, Muslim, and Jew, posing in front of a neighborhood. On the top, she wrote: “We are friends, and we have to be friends. Be happy.”
When asked why she wanted to join the K4P program, Natalia said:
“I want to say to people that when they have that feeling that they don’t want to talk to people because he’s Christian, or Muslim, or Jewish, I want to fix that feeling so there is peace in them, in their hearts…I think K4P will make me feel that peace I can share it with other people, not just in Palestine, but also in other countries. Now there are wars that are happening in this country, and we have to stop this thing. And that comes from understanding.”