The final day of the Kids4Peace tour with the group of Mormon youth from Utah that were part of the Youth Summit Jerusalem 2017, was successful and meaningful. After three days of learning, visiting sights, questioning, and playing, the group gathered in the Kids4Peace office. As another group of Birthright students were coming in to meet with some of our other educators at the same time, we overlapped with a few activities. The two groups loved meeting each other and having the office filled with people was exciting.
After lunch and a few games, we boarded the bus and were on our way to the beautiful Mormon Center on the Mount of Olives. One of the most fantastic buildings and views in Jerusalem, the group had a tour of the Center, and listened to an Organist play a few songs. Afterwards, we gathered again, with a few more Kids4Peace youth having joined us, and split up into groups to talk about interfaith projects they can work on and create when they go back home. We talked about how to create these projects using the core values Kids4Peace holds dear and presented once we came back together. The group said they really liked this activity, because for them the core value of most religions is being charitable and loving one another.
The project ideas were great. They included: being pen pals with Kids4Peace participants here in Jerusalem, giving both the opportunity to learn more about each other, hosting a refugee dinner in their area, creating a committee of teenagers from all different faiths to promote this dinner, lead discussions about their lives and religions, create a community of interfaith youth. Another project idea was to create an interfaith club, to do service activities together, celebrate each other’s holidays. Another was to host an open question evening, to gather as an interfaith group of teenagers and learn about each other more; the entrance fee would be food items that they can donate to charity, to their local food pantries.
After that activity we had a panel discussion with three of our Kids4Peace youth. This gave the group the opportunity to hear more about Kids4Peace and what it is like to grow up as an Israeli or Palestinian in Jerusalem and in this movement. They also were able to ask questions and overall it was a very interesting, engaging and learning-filled discussion.
Once we returned to the hotel and had dinner, we gathered in the meeting room to have a final session, to wrap up the last few days they had experienced together. They talked a lot about faith vs. national identity, about how pain is a constant in the conflict here, how it is hard to breach. They discussed what Kids4Peace is doing and what it means for Jerusalem, if someday we will be the majority here and how to make that happen. Omri, a K4P Muslim 10th grader said, “We must figure out how to live in harmony. People are already becoming more open-minded. I can see that there will be a big change in Jerusalem. We can all feel it. People are sick of living this way, so the silent majority is leaning towards peace.” This was so interesting to the group, they discussed all these topics for some time.
Eventually, Carmiel led them in an activity he called ‘Interactive Postcards’. They had to think of their favorite or most meaningful moment and create a picture of it with their bodies. Some of these living postcards included a scene of when they were hosted at the Muslim home, another was of borders where two people were shaking hands over the border and two people were back to back, and another one was of Carmiel and Tamer leading a dialogue at a playground.
Finally, it was time to end the evening’s session and to say goodbye. For their final task, each person went around and asked a question. The questions were not meant to be answered, but simply meant to be thrown out there, into the circle, to be held in the space they had created and thought about. Some of these questions included:
- What can we as Americans do to help the situation?
- Why is it so hard to see things from others’ perspectives?
- How are my own walls and borders limiting me?
- What now?
- When will there be peace here?
- Why is communication so difficult?
- Will these two communities ever forgive each other?
Carmiel, to close the circle, asked, “will these three days make a difference in your lives?” Everyone nodded and started clapping, and the goodbye hugs and pictures began.
Thank you so much to everyone who made this trip possible, to the amazing K4P educators and tour guides Carmiel and Tamer, and to the leaders of this learning group. We hope to see you all again and look forward to staying in touch!