by Jill Levenfeld, K4P Jerusalem and Global Institute
That’s what Kids4peace is doing: making noise, a lot of noise, in hopes of making change.
Our Jerusalem young leaders this week took to the streets of Beit Safafa, during this holy month of Ramadan, to share Iftar and their neighborhood with our wider community. Charlie and Omri, two of our Kids4peace Palestinian residents shared their personal stories and perspective on growing up in the neighborhood as they led us through their streets. They spoke out on the issues that matter to them as they described the history and landscape of their ancient village pointing out local landmarks of the mosque, cemetery and original water source. Not often enough do Jerusalemites cross boundaries with a curiosity to learn and visit each other’s neighborhoods. At Kids4peace, we plan to traverse many more Jerusalem communities, of and led by our kids.
“Big visions is what you kids teach us” said Dave Harden, Mission Director of USAID West Bank/Gaza who attended our Iftar. We are grateful to their continued support and belief in the work we do. Harden encouraged our kids “not just to teach each other, but to teach your brothers, sisters, parents and grandparents.” We believe at Kids4peace that it “takes a village” to bring change. And it starts with the family unit.
Countless families, passionate participants in our various programs over the last 15 years, filled the Beit Safafa Elementary school who graciously hosted our event last night. Over 200 people from our community joined together to share the Iftar meal,- Muslims, Christians and Jews. Our fasting Muslim friends waited to hear the cannon blast at7:51 PM, the precise time which indicates that the festive meal can begin with the traditional madjul date. The non-violent association of the Ramadan cannon is a pleasant irony in a city overly polluted with frequent noise of helicopters and ambulance sirens.
Charlie and Omri ,honed their public speaking skills developed in our Leadership program, inviting us to think beyond our given narratives. Next month, they will travel to Washington, DC to join the Global Institute, a new program designed for thirty K4P young leaders, actively involved over the last three years in chapters around the globe.
As evolving young leaders, they will be invited to speak and share their stories as Israeli, Palestinian and American youth committed to faith -based social change. They will learn more about US civic engagement as they meet the powerful centers of influence in Washington and in the Government. They will meet staff from legislative offices, the State Department, United States Institute of Peace, advocacy groups connected to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and ALLMEP, The Alliance for Middle East Peace, supporting our shared commitment in strengthening civil society. Together we believe that bringing our young leaders to Washington , eenshallah, will help groom tomorrow’s leaders bringing about a secure, just, and sustainable peace. The role of religion in conflict transformation is also a key element of our program as our youth will meet DC’s local leaders and their communities exploring faith in social change movements.
“You’ve got to get out there, stand up, and make some noise”, quoted Congressman John Lewis at the Newseum exhibit on student advocacy and the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. Next month, we will take our K4P youth to Newseum stressing the importance of telling story, and to the MLK Monument to learn more about what it takes to “stand up on your feet and speak out”. Just like Charlie and Omri demonstrated this last week in Beit Safafa.
We will journey back to our communities at the end of the summer with a shared commitment to make more noise as our young leaders take to the streets with their new skills. Advocacy projects of community mapping is just one outcome that we hope from our young leaders once back in Jerusalem. They will continue to map and share together Jerusalem’s complex maze of neighborhoods “spinning round and round” from the Old to the New.
Yehuda Amichai, an Israeli poet, wroteSpinning Carousel, “Jerusalem is a carousel spinning round and round from the Old City through every neighborhood and back to the Old.”
Mahmoud Darwish, Palestinian poet wrote, In Jerusalem, “where the prophets over there are sharing the history of the holy”.
We plan to spin “round and round”, here and “over there” inspired by the writings of our national poets. We will engage with our youth in “the history of the holy” and how it matters to each of them.
Recently, I have been asking our young leaders “here” in Jerusalem, and “there” in our American chapters, “Why does Kids4peace matter?” Inevitably, the answers resonate hope and safety. As Darwish said about Jerusalem, “if you don’t believe, you won’t be safe”.
We are a community of believers, and recognize that the impossible might take awhile. But it is well worth the fight to make our children safe. We hold space at Kids4peace tolerating and accepting difference, united in standing up and speaking out.
Get ready to hear us. We plan on making a lot of noise.