by Guy, Facilitator for Kids4Peace Jerusalem’s Leadership Group
We arrived at Ein Gedi on time where the weather was excellent, and the youth were at their best, cheerful and engaged. We had one workshop before the Sabbath designing and brainstorming ideas for a billboard that represents our work in Kids4Peace…. (On the last day of the leadership camp (Sunday, 2 August) we will have the opportunity to paint a large peace banner. The banner will then hang over America’s busiest highway – I-95 in Connecticut. This is all possible due to the generosity and friendship of Bruce Barrett, who works with the Combatants for Peace).
After dinner we had a dialogue about the tour of Jerusalem we had recently, the dialogue was deep and interesting. On Sabbath we started with a long hike, wow, so much fun and some insights and overcoming fears.
The following 2 dialogue sessions were then dedicated in concern to the interaction our youth had with 3 classes from Or Yehuda, a Jewish religious group that was also staying at the same hotel with us. The youth where mostly religious and haven’t meet an Arab their age or a Jewish that has Arab friends up until now.
The previous night had not been easy. Our youth had some free time with the Or Yehuda youth which seemed ok at first, but when our youth wanted to go to sleep some of the Or Yehuda youth insisted to continue talking. When our group insisted that they wanted to go to sleep, some of the youth from Or Yehuda became racist, calling under their porch and knocking at the door… Bahiah, my Palestinian colleague, and I and the hostel’s guard and one of the Or Yehuda teachers (who was not friendly and later on some of the youth from Or Yehuda told us that he hates Arabs) were up till 2:00 in the morning trying to monitor the situation.
Between our two dialogues, we had a short meeting with the Or Yehuda group to discuss what had happened. It was important to have this time to debrief so that we could feel and see our differences and our similarity’s through some dialogue.
In Kids4Peace we realize that facing communities who challenge our work is always possible. We were very impressed with the way our Leadership youth asked for help and were open to a dialogue with the group that had been rude to them. A Kids4Peace parent then suggested we get together at her home and process the incident together. We as a staff agreed and look forward to meeting with youth and parents together.
At the meeting, parents requested to draw up an official protocol that would help guide advisors and facilitators during weekend seminars. The protocol includes many suggestions such as checking which other groups will be lodging at the hostel at the same time, involving parents in the programming for weekends, and maintaining more frequent communication with parents throughout seminars, especially in the event where there is tension.
We wish to thank the youth for their mature response, as well as the parents for their careful attention to detail and desire to make the process better for all of us in Kids4Peace.