The Kids4Peace Global Institute in Washington D.C. is a 10-day program where Israeli, Palestinian and American ninth graders gather for a week of learning, public advocacy and storytelling training, tours of the city and meetings on Capitol Hill. Last summer, after spending a week in D.C., the group split up to four different locations around the United States. One of these places was to a Jewish summer camp in Pennsylvania called Capital Camps. Four of the Israeli and Palestinian participants from Jerusalem joined the summer camp for two days. While there, they talked about Kids4Peace, growing up in Jerusalem, and also participated in all of the camp activities. Nervous at first, going into the middle of a summer camp with 1,000 Jewish American campers, the Kids4Peace group left two days later with 1,000 new friends and invaluable memories.
Here is a story of one of the campers that was touched by the Kids4Peace group, and that has stayed in contact with them ever since.
My name is Dara Greenwald and I go to the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, Maryland. Every summer, I go to a Jewish summer camp called Capital Camps in Wayneboro, Pennsylvania, and I have always lived in a significantly Jewish area outside of Washington D.C. For fun, I like to dance and hang out with friends. I am also one of the Co-Presidents of my grade at my school.
This summer at Capital Camps, I met Adan, among other kids in the Kids4Peace program. They spent a week with my age group and we got to know them as not just kids experiencing the Arab-Israeli conflict first-hand but also as regular teenagers with the same interests as us. The most amazing thing was that Adan was one of the first Palestinians I had ever met. Being able to meet her and the others put an authentic face to the word Palestinian. It also allowed me to understand the importance of identity and its potential to be an obstacle, or a bridge, in the conflict.
Jewish identity and a connection to Israel has always been a part of my life. Going to a pluralistic Jewish day school has allowed me to explore my identity and connection in many different ways. For me, I usually struggle with the clash between my religious connection to Israel and my personal morals. Being able to meet Adan and the other teens personally affected by the Arab-Israeli conflict allowed me to see multiple perspectives different than mine and see hope for a more peaceful future led by my generation. One thing in particular I remember the Kids4Peace group talking about was their struggles getting through the security checkpoints just to get to Kids4Peace meetings. Being able to easily get places is something I’ve always taken for granted and hearing that something so simple could be a struggle for these kids really opened my eyes to the conflict.
Through my friendship with Adan, I have gained a partial understanding of the average life of a Palestinian teenager in the conflict. I have been able to see her daily ventures and see that she struggles with a lot of the same things that I do. We’re both able to complain about school work and standardized testing even though we live very different lives. While she may struggle with much bigger obstacles being involved in the conflict, we are able to have a happy friendship and talk about everyday things.
Next year, I will graduate early and then travel with my school to Israel for three months. I hope to see Adan in person while I’m there and to get to interact with Kids4Peace again!