Thanks to the support of USAID – Kids4Peace launched a three-fold tour where we explored the fabric of the Old City through guided tours and personal stories from Kids4Peace youth and staff. This was an exciting initiative that we believe in deeply. Taking a step further from our usual meeting places and set events with our youth and community, Kids4Peace wants to bring our message and community to the streets of Jerusalem, exploring our city together and weaving through our intricate and complicated histories, identities and neighborhoods, as a community of Israelis and Palestinians.
“I usually come to the Old City with my father to pray. I feel good being here right now. It is empowering being here with Jews, Muslims and Christians together. Despite things seeming hopeless, we are a community that still believes in peace and hope.”- Omar, K4P 9th grade participant, Jerusalem.
On March 15th, we took our third and final tour of the Muslim and Christian Quarters. Here we explored the various streets, markets and religious places.
Moving away from the traditional holy sites and stories one is used to seeing and hearing in the Old City, our tour guide, K4P educator Nir, took us on a walk of education systems and residents of the Old City. We wanted to meet the residents of the Old City and learn about their relationships to this place and each other within the walls. Nir told us about the different schools and education systems as we passed them, and told us anecdotes of local residents as we saw school children running by on their way home, shouting and laughing and falling. One interesting fact Nir explained, after we saw a boy fall who was running with his friends, that surprised all of us, was that the Old City sees more injuries than most other places. He explained it is because the children of the Old City do not have parks or grassy areas to play in. Their play areas are the ancient Jerusalem stone, bumpy and uneven.
As we stood on a street called ‘Cotton Street’ where they used to make cotton and peered over the steps to get a glimpse of the holy and sacred Dome of the Rock, two young Muslim women passed by. Nir happened to know them and they stopped to speak to us. They were on their way to pray. When asked about the Dome of the Rock, one of the women responded, “It’s more than a mosque. I go there to the library to study, it’s so quiet.” The other woman chimed in, nodding, “Yes, it’s very cool to go relax and meditate. We remember all the Muslims that have prayed there before us, and we pray for the future.”
As we walked through the streets, we thought about how religious symbols and places inform our understanding and connection to space and cultures. About our K4P tour guide/educator Nir, Shelagh, a woman who joined two of our tours, was raving. “Both tours were presented in very human ways. As we walk through the Old City, the thread throughout is the common humanity. It is just beautifully presented in a flowing, gentle way. Nir leaves you with the emotion of the history and people living here.” Thank you, Nir!
Stay tuned as we write more about being a group of Jews, Muslims and Christians together, wandering the streets of the Old City and learning the history of the people that live within the walls, taking on public spaces, together, next week!