On November 15th, twelve staff members from Kids4Peace – Muslim, Christian and Jewish, Israeli and Palestinian – left for a five-day learning delegation tour in Ireland. We went for several reasons, a main one being with the intention to learn from politicians, academics, and the Irish people about the conflict they had in Northern Ireland, the peace process that was finalized just ten years ago, in 2006, and what lessons we can learn to take back with us to Jerusalem. Another purpose of the trip was to share with people the stories and lives of us in Jerusalem, our histories, our conflict, and the ways in which Kids4Peace is trying to end the conflict and create a more peaceful society in Jerusalem and beyond. With high expectations and great excitement as we embarked, the trip surpassed every expectation we held, and was an incredible experience.
When we first arrived, we had a wonderful day with our Irish host and another friend, exploring the city center of Dublin and getting to know the city and the people little by little. The streets were beautifully decorated for Christmas, and immediately we felt welcomed and comfortable there.
Day two was even better. Breakfast was wonderful and we started our day by meeting the Lord Mayor of Dublin and hearing from a few high-school students about their activist initiatives. We then climbed onto a bus and made our way to a beautiful little seaside town called Wexford. The next five hours were amazing!! With about 100 people in attendance, we rotated between Kids4Peace speakers telling their stories and Wexford students telling theirs. It was empowering, inspiring, moving and a great experience. The Wexford city council was there to meet us as well as Amnesty International members. Everyone was so kind and gracious and so happy to meet us. This made us all feel very welcomed and happy to be there. Afterwards we went to dinner with many new friends and finished the night at a wonderfully traditional Irish pub with live music and beautiful energy.
One of the most amazing things of this trip was very clearly the bond we created as a group. By day two, we already felt that this trip was incredibly exciting. We were learning about each other’s stories and identities in a deep and meaningful way, and sharing true experiences of enrichment, empowerment, and unhindered fun. We were laughing and feeling so happy to be together, in Ireland, meeting the kindest people, and learning about the hope and optimism that exists in this country because of the peace agreement and the way it has been upheld. Day two left us feeling hopeful, and eager to continue the journey together.
The next day was a full day as well. We came back to Dublin from Wexford and headed to the senate directly to meet with Senator David Norris over lunch. He was very interesting, and had many stories to tell us about the peace process. Then we met with Richard Barrett Boyd, another politician, who was impressed by the work we do. His opinions challenged us to go back home and face questions within our organization and within our own societies and also helped us to understand more about politicians perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We also visited Trinity College library and saw the Book of Kells exhibition as well as the Long Room, both very famous and very beautiful! We ended the day with a press conference at the chamber of commerce where 10 of us spoke about our own stories and experiences of growing up in Jerusalem.
On Friday, we started our day by visiting the Provost of Trinity College. We then had a tour in Chester Beatty library where we saw a beautiful exhibition on religion and ancient religious manuscripts. We spent the afternoon learning about the Northern Ireland conflict from politicians, Tim O’Connor and Pat Hynes, who had been involved with the peace process and had been present for the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. It was fascinating learning from them, and they had many important and poignant tips and advice for us to take back to Jerusalem. We have so much to learn from Ireland as a country and from the amount of patience and tolerance the people have here towards each other. We felt so inspired after this learning session. We also had the chance to watch a short documentary that had been made about one of our group-members, Ahmad. Afterwards there was a question and answer session with him and some students of Trinity College who had come for the screening. On Friday evening, we went to a beautiful Shabbat dinner and service at the Dublin Progressive Synagogue. We had the opportunity to speak a little about our work and also to mingle with people who were really interested in hearing from us and learning more about our lives.
Saturday morning we started our day with a beautiful walk from the hotel to the mosque. We were greeted at the mosque by Jamil, the Imam who showed us around and explained both about the culture of his mosque and the congregants, as well as the culture of the interfaith community leaders in Dublin. It is truly inspiring how much collaboration and communication exists between the various religious leaders here, and how much respect and trust there is. The religious tolerance there is amazing, and in fact we had nothing but positive interactions with people there who seemed impressed and interested in our group and our purpose. Everyone was so warm and open hearted to us. After the mosque we went to the beautiful St. Patrick’s Cathedral and had a tour, which the Dean of the Cathedral, William Morton, joined. It was beautiful to see the different sides of the city, and to understand the rich religious history. Everything we learned is just a small taste of the full picture, but we do feel like we gained a rich understanding of Dublin and Irish history, particularly when pertaining to the conflict in Northern Ireland and the peace process.
One of the days, we had a staff dialogue, and spoke about some of the takeaways from this trip. Many said they feel like we are truly on the right path, albeit on a long journey. As the Irish have been putting it, we are on the Long Road to peace. But after this trip, the long road doesn’t feel as long or distant as it did before we left. I know I speak for all of us when I say we are returning to Jerusalem with fresh energy and new perspectives, which will only serve to aid us in our efforts. We also will be able to better help the youth, with stronger optimism and a tighter bond among the staff, because of this meaningful, memorable experience together.
The Kids4Peace community could not be more grateful to have the supporters that we do, who made this trip and experience achievable; you are such a big part of what makes our work in Jerusalem possible. Thank you thank you thank you.
- Written by Liana, Michal and Mohammad