by Dandan, Kids4Peace Intern
After several weeks of interviews and workshops, sixty-six families from over fifteen neighborhoods gathered on Wednesday, February 25, at the Ambassador Hotel in Jerusalem to celebrate their acceptance into the K4P Pathway to Peace program. “I was very very happy!” exclaimed Husan, an 11 year old Muslim girl, when describing how she felt when she learned of her admittance.
Haya, an 11 year old Christian girl, also shared Husan’s sentiment:
“I felt really excited and was happy because I got accepted. At first I was scared about the interviews, but then I found there was nothing to be scared about because they only want to see us and know us. Now, I’m excited to meet kids from different religions, who speak different languages, and see how they act and to spend time with them.”
Upon arrival, each family found their child’s name tag lined neatly on the registration table. Each tag had a color spot to denote which of the 4 summer camps the child would attend. The banquet hall quickly filled with families greeting each other, some happy to reencounter ones they had met during the interview process.
Andre, a Christian parent, recounted why he was excited to be there with his daughter:
“To know other people’s ideas and cultures is a chance we don’t have, especially in our environment. We don’t have all the different groups, the different religions, even different cultures and minds…I hope she will learn to know how the other people think—maybe it will change her ideas about the other. By this program, she has everything in front of her own eyes, not hearing from other people and she will choose her own way. I will let her decide.”
This first-year kick-off event began with greetings and introductions from the K4P directors, staff, and summer camp counselors. Then, the K4P video was shown, as some of the counselors giggled on the side when their face came up on screen. A few were relieved from their embarrassment when Micah, the leader of the YMCA Youth Choir began his special guest performance. Micha taught everyone a Kids4Peace favorite song, ‘We can See that Peace is Coming” in English, Hebrew and Arabic. Soon, melodic shalom and salaam’s interwove a festive rhythm throughout the room.
The families broke up into their respective groups: Boston, New Hampshire-Vermont, North Carolina, and Seattle, where they got to meet their camp leaders, counselors, and fellow families all together for the first time. Each group began with a few ice-breakers, including the “Name Game,” when every person in the circle took turns saying their names, accompanying it with a movement. The whole group then had to follow, repeating the name and movement.
Parents soon found themselves jumping up and down with their kids, as if summer camp had started already. Afterwards, each family created a photo card together that listed some basic information about them, including their name, neighborhood, parents’ profession, faith, and favorite hobbies. In a circle, each child became the family representative and shared their card.
A sweet intercession took place in the hallways, where families mingled more over rugalach and cake. Before leaving, they reconvened with their groups so the advisors could share some important logistical information.
“I’m excited about everything. I really like how kids from different faiths and nationalities come together. It’s something I didn’t have as a child and I think it’s the best thing that can bring about a different future, a different reality from what we have now.
I’m also really excited to see in this meeting and in the previous meetings how kids can just not fear and just see the other kids, and that’s it. It’s beautiful to see that for kids, it’s so much easier to let go of the perception of the others as enemies.”