by Jordan Goldwarg, Kids4Peace Northwest Regional Director
This week, a group of youth participants from Kids4Peace were privileged to be guests of Camp Solomon Schechter, near Seattle, Washington. These 13 youth, an interfaith group of Jews, Muslims, and Christians from Seattle and Jerusalem, visited Schechter as part of the Kids4Peace Global Institute, a leadership program for high school students that helps Kids4Peace youth become strong advocates for a peaceful resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
While at Schechter, Kids4Peace youth led educational programs for Schechter campers and staff. Youth shared their personal stories of what life is like growing up as Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem, including the struggles they face living in a divided city where peers and family members are often not supportive of their efforts to work together with people from the other side of the conflict. At the same time, American Kids4Peace participants shared why they also work for peace in the Middle East.
In addition to these peer-to-peer education sessions, Kids4Peace youth engaged fully in the life of the camp, learning new songs and traditions, doing activities side-by-side with Schechter campers, and seeing the rich culture of Jewish worship. Through being at camp, Kids4Peace youth saw clearly the deep love of Israel expressed by Schechter campers and staff, as well as the joy that the Schechter community takes in celebrating Judaism.
Kids4Peace youth and staff were grateful for the opportunity to spend these days at camp. At a time when conversation about Israel can be highly polarized, this visit afforded an opportunity to engage in a new kind of dialogue, one that is grounded in respect, civility, curiosity, and openness. It provided an opportunity for many American Jewish campers to meet a Palestinian for the first time, and to recognize that there are Palestinian partners who want to work–together–for peace. It provided an opportunity for Palestinian Kids4Peace participants to experience American Jewish life and to gain a deeper understanding of why a strong, stable Israel is so important for Jews the world over. And it provided an opportunity for all campers and staff to recognize that despite the deep disagreements that exist about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, a different kind of conversation is possible, one that helps move forward to new solutions and a hopeful future.
Kids4Peace thanks Camp Solomon Schechter and its director, Sam Perlin, for partnering with us in this endeavour. Judging from the comments of both Schechter campers and Kids4Peace participants, our time at camp provided a rich opportunity for exchange and forged new friendships that will carry on long past this summer. In doing so, Camp Solomon Schechter has shown itself to be a leader in creating deep, meaningful Israel education at camp.