As we look ahead to our summer camps this year, we do not forget the violence, the losses, and the challenges of last summer. #violencestopswithme
(Vatican Radio) One year ago, Israel launched a military offensive on targets in the Gaza Strip, in response to stepped up rocket attacks by Palestinian militants into Israeli border towns. Over the following weeks of air and ground offensives, more than 2.000 Palestinians were killed, mainly civilians, while over 70 Israelis also died, nearly all of them soldiers. After a series of failed ceasefires, an Egyptian-sponsored truce finally marked an end to the fighting on August 26th 2014.
Throughout the conflict, one organisation that continued the uphill struggle for peace among Palestinians and Israelis was the Jerusalem based interfaith youth community, Kids4Peace. Founded in 2002, the group works with Christian, Jewish and Muslim families, providing education, peace-building and leadership training through a network of local chapters and international youth camps.
Amirit works as a facilitator with Kids4Peace and talked to Philippa Hitchen about the huge challenge of sustaining hopes for peace among young people in the region…..
Amirit says that Kids4Peace has so many Muslim and Jewish families wanting to join than the organisation, meaning that so many Israeli and Palestinian families in Jerusalem hope for a different future.
She talks about the way group members see themselves as witnesses to a different way of life but notes that it’s very hard for a young person to be involved in peace work because they’re seen as betraying their own cause….
Last summer during the Gaza conflict, Amirit says Jerusalem was strongly affected by racist acts but despite that Kids4Peace held a demonstration in an area between East and West Jerusalem under the banner ‘Peace begins with me, violence stops with me’.
She says the group was still able to hold an interfaith summer camp in the U.S., helping Israeli and Palestinian kids to get away from the trauma of violence and also to see how other people were surprised to watch them together at the airport, speaking Arabic and Hebrew and wearing their peace T-shirts…..”they were seen by people as a sign of hope”, Amirit says.