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by Lauren Fialkow, K4P Intern

The halls of the beautiful Brigham Young University campus, situated overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem, were bustling with families of local Christians, Muslims, and Jews.  The hundreds of people in attendance came together to honor the 15 years that Kids4Peace has been creating its community.  Each person present has been touched by the work of Kids4Peace, and watching these kids naturally playing together and parents casually laughing together demonstrated to me the power of the work being done by this community.

IMG_2928Despite the lively conversations, exciting capoeira performances, and tubs of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream consumed, the event did not ignore the stress and confusion that some of the community might have been feeling.  A typically joyous time of year surrounding Christmas, The Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, and Hanukkah, this year’s annual event came just a week after the President of the United States announced the US’s acknowledgement of Jerusalem and the capital of Israel.  At a time when many Palestinians and Israelis are processing the news and deciding how to react, many questioned why Kids4Peace would come together to celebrate at such a rough time.  

In the words of Meredith Rothbart, the Jerusalem Kids4Peace Co-Director who spoke that night, “Our work does not stop here. Not now. …It is not enough just to be together. We have to take action to influence the situation around us….It is not upon us to complete the task, or to solve all of the political turmoils of our leaders. But we cannot stop trying.”

IMG_3035The number of families in attendance was proof of the strength, mission, and unstoppable spirit of this community. When teens and parents got on stage to speak about what they’ve gained from Kids4Peace, the hope for a brighter tomorrow became very tangible.  

Many ask, what would peace look like, is it even possible?  The firsthand stories shared by students Hussam, Loure, and Nadav demonstrated an authentic relationship between friends where different backgrounds, perspectives, and opinions can’t break the trust and support they have for one another.  They spoke of getting into a heated argument regarding Jerusalem politics while having a picnic on the grass after visiting Congress in Washington DC.  They had expressed their beliefs strongly and never came to consensus, but afterwards they went “right back to being the friends that they are.”  Building a world where people come together to build relationships that look to understand the ‘other’ may seem like daunting task, but our 16-year-olds in Jerusalem are showingus that it IS possible, what it looks like, and how to do it.

I found the energy and friendships of these teens so inspiring, but I was equally blown away by the parents and their stories.  We heard from two fathers, a Muslim Palestinian, Maher, and an orthodox Jewish Israeli, Yisrael.  We often look to the younger generation to build peace because it’s perceived that the older generations have too many scars from past conflicts and are too set in their ways of being.  

DSC_9039Because of this, the genuine sensitivity, respect and care that these fathers had for each other was incredibly moving but also undeniable as they embraced–standing with their arms around each other–and told the story of how they met, initial expectations and what that relationship grew into.  Maher spoke of how touched he was by Yisrael’s thoughtfulness when he brought a gift on his first visit to Maher’s neighborhood.  You could see in their eyes and by their enthusiasm that they were speaking from the heart, that their perceptions were changed through experiences with Kids4Peace and that they felt gratitude for these new relationships and cultural discoveries.

Kids4Peace has a few catch-phrases and “hashtags” like “Together Peace is Possible” and #KeepHopeAlive.  When hundreds of members of a movement for peace come together to celebrate, share stories, and bridge gaps—despite the political volatility of the time—it’s clear that Kids4Peace’s work stands for itself and by just talking to some members it’s easy to see how together peace is indeed possible and how this community is absolutely keeping hope alive.

With summer camps coming to an end, and the August lull upon us where many are vacationing with their families and the office is busy preparing for the exciting year to come, I took a look back at some notes I jotted down throughout this year. These notes were often quotes from the youth; things they said on tours, at activities and meetings, speaking to groups, and to each other.

I thought it would be nice to post a collection of inspiring and honest quotes (and the context behind them) from our K4P youth here in Jerusalem this year. Enjoy!

At the local summer camp in the north a few weeks ago, the 6th and 7th graders did an Outdoor Training activity with ropes. This took a lot of teamwork and communication. Three of the 6th graders, Galina (Christian Palestinian), Tareq (Muslim Palestinian) and Shachar (Jewish Israeli) were working together to walk across the tight-rope. Galina, seeing Shachar harnessed and getting ready to climb the ladder, asked Shachar how she was feeling. “Be brave,” Galina said. Once she was on the rope walking nervously towards the tree Tareq was standing on waiting, Tareq looked at Shachar and said, “put your eyes on my eyes. You can do it!” and helped her until she finished the walk.

In July, Adam (Jewish Israeli) and Charlie (Christian Palestinian) flew to Oklahoma to be the key-note speakers at the 2017 1300-person Episcopalian Youth Event. While there, they gave a few panel discussions. When asked about impact, Charlie said: “Adam came to my grandma’s house last week and we had dinner together. It took him 3 minutes to come to the house, but we never would have met each other if not for Kids4Peace. K4P gave me an important responsibility and job. I am the bridge between the two sides. I break the stereotypes and tell stories of both sides.” And Adam agreed, saying, “now I can say I know Charlie, and I can correct Israelis that have stereotypes; I have another perspective.”

At one of our overnight seminars, our 10th graders came to speak to the 9th graders about their experiences in Washington D.C. last summer, to help them prepare. Adan (Christian Palestinian) said, “turning our frustration into public speaking, we sat with American leaders, able to share our stories and show them why this conflict matters and how it’s affecting us. Public speaking is challenging, you have to be vulnerable, speak about what matters to you and help them understand and see what it is we are doing. Show them why you matter, why your story matters, why they should help this generation.” Zeena (Christian Palestinian) nodded in agreement and chimed in: “We can have an impact on the people listening to us, we have the power.”

In the fall, we walked around the entire periphery of the Old City as a community, learning about the different gates and history of each place. When asked how it felt to be walking around the Old City, together, Nina (Christian Palestinian) said, “we’re thankful to be walking together, showing the world that peace is possible and that we will continue to walk forward, together.” Omri (Jewish Israeli) said, “we are showing the world that peace is possible.” And Talia (Jewish Israeli) said, “it’s like seeing something you have always seen, but not from the other side; from a direction you can’t always see.”

Thank you for inspiring us to continue down this path of community and peace-building.

Written by Liana Rothman, community engagement coordinator




Last week, fifteen Kids4Peace Youth Action Program Counselors (10th-12th grade) and staff, along with 55 campers and staff from the Parents Circle – Families Forum, met with Tamer Nafar, a Palestinian musician and activist. The Youth Action Program has hosted several Town Hall Meetings this year, giving youth and adults the opportunity to meet with and learn from Israeli and Palestinian activists.

Before Tamer Nafar arrived, the two organizations had some time to get to know each other and spend time together. Two teenagers from each organization introduced themselves, shared a personal story and introduced their organization.


We then continued by splitting into small groups for the “Round Table” activity, where the groups took turns asking and answering questions in Hebrew and Arabic about their lives, politics and personalities. 

After dinner, Tamer Nafar arrived. The youth and staff enjoyed an evening of inspiration, as Tamer shared stories of genuine experiences with care and seriousness, connecting music videos and lyrics with his story, weaving us through his childhood and process of growing up into the successful Palestinian rapper and activist that he is today. We could feel the deep connection between his personal life and the music he makes, and the self-awareness of the publicity he has gained over the years and the impact he can make.


Our youth had the opportunity to get to know a unique individual that evening, a leader from the art world here; an activist that was born into the material he works with, an inspiration to us and our work in Jerusalem and around the world.

Sharing about our work at Kids4Peace, our personal stories, getting to know The Parents Circle – Families Forum organization and participants, meeting Tamer Nafar, and exploring Akko/Akka by night was a unique and exciting evening and opportunity for all. 


Written by Liana Rothman, community engagement coordinator

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the 6th and 7th graders (Pathways to Peace program) had the opportunity to explore Akko/Akka for the day with tour-guides and educators, Tamer and Carmiel.

Our first stop was Napoleon’s Hill, a place to see the city from above and an interesting active archaeological digging site. They learned about the city’s history and talked about what they were digging for at the site. They also began thinking about why, as a group from Jerusalem, they were going to be exploring Akko/Akka all day.


From there, the group continued to the Crusader’s Fortress, where they split into groups and explored the ancient site, acting out scenes with their groups of what the Knights would have been doing in the different rooms.


Next, we went to the beautiful and famous el-Jazzar Mosque (built in 1781), where we were able to go in and see the inside of the Mosque, and then sit in the courtyard to talk about the history of the Mosque and learn more about Islam. The youth engaged in interesting discussions about the different traditions of dress and head-coverings in the different religions, and the Muslim youth took turns explaining what some of the different things we had seen inside of the Mosque were.

Afterwards, we visited the Ramchal synagogue (built in the 16th century) and learned about the Rabbi of the synagogue for which it was named, as well as more about Judaism. The group spoke a lot about culture vs. religion, and how often they are closely intertwined. We also discussed what it means to build a community and how to be a part of different communities, how to become a person that can allow their different worlds to meet. They were also asked about holy things meeting, like visiting a mosque and a synagogue in the same day, and were asked to think about how to build a community that can bring such holy places together. When we asked the youth what kind of values the Kids4Peace community has, they said: friendship, tolerance, honesty, kindness, and inclusiveness.


The tour of Akko/Akka was educational, fun, inspiring, challenging and thought-provoking. The youth finished the day with many questions and new ideas, talking with their friends about what they had seen and done. Thank you to Tamer and Carmiel for leading the youth on this journey of questions, thought and self-reflection and growth.

For pictures, go to our Facebook page. More photos will be uploaded each day: Camp 2017 Photo Album

Written by Liana Rothman, community engagement coordinator

Yesterday, I embarked on my third Kids4Peace summer camp. Three years ago, I began the journey with the 8th grade Roots program at Kibbutz Ketura after spending the year as their Jewish advisor. Last summer, I went to Washington D.C. with the same group of then 9th graders, and this summer, I am joining camp as the social media coordinator/blog writer/parent updater/support advisor.

Yesterday morning, I boarded the bus with the Roots (8th grade) group which included 18 youth, three staff members, and four counselors. Plus: a medic, a bus driver, and Daniel Sherman, our guide and camping expert and founder of Yuvalim, an organization which uses nature and adventure to connect Israelis and Palestinians interested in building peace and creating a shared society.

Our first stop was a hike on Mt. Carmel. During the hike we stopped at several caves, learning about the different groups of people that had lived there over the centuries, and looking at the ocean view, noticing the Atlit island on the water, a Crusader fortress which was built in 1218. Once we stopped for lunch, the youth broke out into smaller groups and talked about their expectations for the camp, something their friends didn’t know about them, and what they were looking forward to that day. Using teamwork and communication, they built a machine, miming all the different activities they were looking forward to, and played some other team-building games.


Once we arrived at the beautiful campground on the beach, the youth set to work making camp. They began building their tents, setting up supplies for cooking dinner, laying out mats for us to sit on, and of course enjoying the water. After setting ground-rules and going over the schedule, we began with tie-dying shirts, and then cooking as a group, while watching the sun set into the ocean. The youth set up candle lanterns around our camp so we could see once it got dark, made the salad, cooked the barbecue, and after dinner, helped clean up and then enjoyed s’mores around the campfire. The group went to sleep in their tents, on the sand, hearing the waves, underneath the stars.


This morning, there were three different activities; kayaking, hiking and Budo for Peace (an organization which uses traditional martial arts to connect and bring together children and youth from diverse social, economic and cultural backgrounds). All the activities were very fun, educational, community and team-building experiences, which the youth loved. In the afternoon, after packing everything away, everyone got back onto the bus and headed to Nes Ammim, where the 6th, 7th and 8th graders will be for the next 3.5 days. In the closing the day circle this evening, the 8th graders talked about how much they loved the experience of hiking, kayaking, of being outdoors, working together as a group to cook and organize their makeshift home, of swimming in the ocean, and of course everyone was very excited for a good shower and a nice real bed tonight!

Tomorrow, I will be joining the 6th graders as they travel to Akko/Akkā (Acre) for the day to visit different religious sites, to explore the market and learn about the history.

The 7th and 8th graders will stay at camp, playing games, building friendships, engaging in educational programming, swimming, sports, and more.

For pictures, go to our Facebook page. More photos will be uploaded each day: Camp 2017 Photo Album

Written by Liana Rothman, community engagement coordinator

Last week, Kids4Peace had the unique opportunity to join around 1300 American and international youth at the 2017 Episcopal Youth Event in Oklahoma for 5 days.


Adam and Charlie, an Israeli and a Palestinian, incoming 11th graders from K4P Jerusalem, Lana, an incoming senior from K4P Vermont (born in Baghdad, Iraq), and Liana, the community engagement coordinator from K4P Jerusalem, joined executive director and Episcopal Father, Josh Thomas, at the event.


All of the interesting and fun activities during the week lead up to the final plenary event (keynote speeches) on Thursday morning, delivered by Adam, Charlie and Lana, with an introduction by Fr. Thomas in front of the entire convention.

After arriving late Monday night, Adam and Charlie jumped right into the swing of things on Tuesday, telling their stories, talking about Jerusalem and Kids4Peace and answering questions during a break-out session with about 40 people.


We were able to watch the opening prayer service and welcome program, which included a live band, lots of standing and singing, a beautiful procession of the Bishops, a speech by the presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States, Michael B. Curry, and the communion service. For Charlie, a Christian Lutheran Palestinian and Adam, a Jewish Israeli, this kind of service, with singing, dancing, live instruments, impassioned speeches and 1300 people crowded into one University gym, watching and participating in this was a unique and special experience.


Wednesday, we revised and practiced the speeches all morning, working hard and focusing on the speeches they were to give the next day. Being in the U.S., we also of course took a quick asian-fusion restaurant lunch break and Target run.

That afternoon, we went into Oklahoma City to join the rest of the group to participate in the food truck festival and street fair put on by the Episcopal Church of Oklahoma City. We enjoyed various fried American delicacies (including safe-to-eat raw cookie dough for dessert), watched different street performers, tried to stay out of the heat and mingled with the group. In the evening, we went to the site of the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing to have the closing evening service at the beautiful memorial site built there. There were several speakers, survivors that told their stories, and the Bishop from the Diocese of Oklahoma, and reflective singing and quiet meditation as the day came to an end.

On Thursday morning, Charlie, Adam and Lana got on stage as the entire convention gathered once again into the gym. With courage and focus, they gave their speeches, one by one, telling their stories, talking about growing up in Kids4Peace, and their future goals and aspirations, for themselves, in Kids4Peace, and for Jerusalem and the United States. At the end of each speech, they received standing ovations from the audience, and at the end of all of them, once again.


Here is an except of the end of their speeches and pictures of them practicing them, so you can get a taste of these inspiring stories and leaders. For the full speeches, click here (starts at 40:00):


“If each one of us will make the effort to meet the “other,” and find their own pathway to peace, like we do in Kids4Peace, If we can see the humanity on both sides, If we can know their pain, their fear, their hopes and their stories… Then achieving peace will be possible.

I would like to end with a prayer for peace from my Jewish tradition

First in English and then in Hebrew:

G-d, who makes peace in the heavens, Make peace on us, and on all Israel – and I add, on all the world, and let us say, Amen:

“.עושה שלום במרומיו, הוא יעשה שלום עלינו ועל כל ישראל ואימרו אמן



“In my opinion, finding inner peace is the first and most crucial step of achieving a path to peace. Once inner peace is achieved, peace can prosper among us humans.

I believe Kids4Peace will be like a spark. A spark for change. A spark to a much larger movement, where thousands more families can meet people on the opposite side of conflicts – just like I did.

K4P is different and special due to the unimaginable spirit and devotion to peace, and I KNOW we can be the start of something great.

I want to close with a prayer for peace, from my Christian faith, first in English and then in my native language, Arabic:

Gracious and holy God, lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth. Lead us from despair to hope, from fear to trust. Lead us from hate to love, from war to peace. Let peace fill our hearts, our world, our universe; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen

الله الكريم والقدس، قودنا من الموت إلى الحياة، من الباطل إلى الحقيقة. قودنا من اليأس إلى الأمل، من الخوف إلى الثقة. قودنا من الكراهية إلى الحب، من الحرب إلى السلام. دع السلام يملأ قلوبنا وعالمنا وكوننا. من خلال يسوع المسيح، مخلصنا وربنا. آمين



“I am so thankful that Kids4Peace has given me the chance to help the people that are around me. I challenge you to take that risk and give someone in your life a second chance, and be the difference that you want to see in the world.                                               I would like to leave you with a final prayer from my Muslim faith.  It’s a kind of prayer that we call a dua in Arabic:                                                                                                                O heart be patient. Prayer and patience heals all pain. Nothing lasts forever. Your pain will also come to an end. In Sha Allah”


After the speeches, everyone surrounded them, taking pictures, thanking them, saying how impressed and moved they were by them and their stories. It was a beautiful moment, one that Kids4Peace will forever hold dear, watching these once young K4P youth, become the strong and motivated leaders our movement is helping to build.

After the speeches, at another break-off session, this time the attendance wasn’t 40 but 400, as people crowded in, wanting to hear more, wanting to learn more, and wanting to spend more time with these fearless young leaders.


Thank you to the Episcopal Church for inviting us, thank you for giving us the opportunity to share our stories with the world, and especially thank you to Charlie, Adam, and Lana, for your commitment, your strength and your grit.  

Written by Liana Rothman, community engagement coordinator        

Kids4Peace Iftar 2017

merk4p —  June 23, 2017 — Leave a comment

On Thursday, June 15th, Kids4Peace held our annual community Iftar event. Our entire community had the opportunity to join the Pathways for Peace (6th and 7th grade) Iftar and community service drive, funded by USAID. It was a moving, fun, inspiring, family-filled evening. With speeches from Meredith and Reeham, and two of our K4P youth, Eliana and Omri, a Ramadan coloring and lantern making station for kids, the charity drive, and two big interfaith text study sessions all happening before the meal even began, it was truly a community event.


This time, thanks to USAID and the amount of people that came, we were able to get everyone even more involved than in previous years. For the first time at a K4P Iftar, in honor of Ramadan and our K4P values, we organized the charity drive. As people entered, we collected secondhand clothes and toys to be donated to Muslim, Jewish and Christian families in need all around Jerusalem. Each family was also asked to bring a dish to share with everyone. Also, thanks to an incredible donation by K4P father, Jared, we were able to greatly minimize our plastic use and waste production due to his generous donation of plates and silverware, which we will use at every future community event to come. At the end of the meal, there was a washing station set up which allowed us, as a community, to all clean up together.


Omri, a Palestinian Muslim 10th grader, spoke about Ramadan and what it means to him to celebrate his holiday and traditions alongside his Kids4Peace friends. Eliana, a Jewish Israeli 9th grader, spoke of similar themes, and of the power and hope Kids4Peace gives her.

With 300 people in attendance, I heard people remark on what an amazing community Kids4Peace really is. Everyone participated in making the evening a success, and everyone left with their bellies full and their faces smiling.


The opportunity to celebrate each other’s holidays in Kids4Peace, together, is meaningful and unique. For the Jewish and Christian youth at the Iftar event, to learn about Ramadan and to experience an Iftar meal, is a rare opportunity that helps connect the youth even more and helps them learn more about other religions and cultures.


We are so grateful for our amazing community, and for the hope and power you give to us and we continue giving to each other. We are grateful to USAID for making this evening possible.

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!


Written by Liana Rothman, community engagement coordinator

On Friday evening, June 16th, 2017 a young Israeli woman was stabbed to death in the area of Damascus Gate, Jerusalem. Hadas Malka, a 23 year old women (See article here) from Giv’at Azar.  

That morning I began a three-day tour with a group of Mormon youth from Utah, who are in Jerusalem for a couple of weeks. Kids4Peace is running a tour for them through one of our new projects, “K4P Tours: Jerusalem Through the Eyes of the Interfaith Community”. The goal of these tours is to give people an experience of Jerusalem that discusses the challenges of the city while showing the importance and the beauty of getting to know one another and learning about one another’s religions and narratives. This is through encounters with Jerusalemites of all three Abrahamic faiths (Islam, Judaism and Christianity), Israelis and Palestinians from both East and West Jerusalem.


We began our tour on Mt. Zion, with an introduction to an interfaith Jerusalem. We heard from Carmiel, our Jewish tour educator, and Suma, our Muslim educator. Both were raised in Jerusalem, and both have a strong connection to the city from a place of faith, and an understanding that we must  learn to live together as a community, each with his or her own narrative yet open to the reality that there are other narratives as well. We walked through the Christian, Muslim and Jewish quarters, experiencing the beauty of each one.


We then took a break for a couple of hours and regrouped at “Kol-Haneshama” a Reform synagogue in South Jerusalem. From there we continued with the group to their hotel in east Jerusalem, not far from Damascus Gate. We wanted to continue the Jewish experience of Shabbat, knowing that on Sunday we would be going to visit a Christian home in Beit-Jallah and then a Muslim home in Beit-Safafa, after the Iftar (the break-fast meal at the end of the day, during the month of Ramadan). We all gathered in a room at the hotel in East Jerusalem, and Carmiel and I led together the Shabbat rituals of blessing the grape juice, washing hands and blessing the bread.


We then walked into the dining hall at the hotel to find a group of Muslim men who were holding their evening prayer service after the Iftar. The dining hall was filled with a majority of Muslim visitors from around the world who came to Jerusalem for this holy month of Ramadan. All of this we experienced with a Mormon group from Utah! It was a truly magical experience, a true interfaith Jerusalem evening.

That Friday evening was a first for me. Not the interfaith experience but rather the location in which it took place. This kind of religious diversity in one location was something that would not normally happen in Jerusalem, in such a divided city — divided in its religion and its nationality.


After dinner, we wrapped up the day, all sharing how appreciative we were to be able to learn about Jerusalem through the work that we do in Kids4Peace. I felt so honored and proud to be representing something that I believe in and is so needed in Jerusalem today. After this wonderful experience, Carmiel and I gathered our stuff to start our journey home, about a half an hour walk for both of us. Carmiel observes the tradition of not driving on the Sabbath, so I joined him.  

As we were walking out of the hotel, we heard about the attack near Damascus Gate. We discussed how it would be best to raise this tragic event with the group, while also trying to navigate the best way to walk home. I was scared, but having walked through these areas so many times in my life I figured it would be ok. I also trusted Carmiel, an experienced tour guide, to take us through the best possible route. Two of the leaders from the Mormon group felt responsible and wanted to make sure we were ok; they walked us down to Damascus gate. Here we were, two Mormons and two Jews, standing at Damascus Gate at the busiest possible time of the year for this place, all very much feeling like we were minorities in this situation.

Carmiel then walked up to the Israeli border police and asked him to let us pass to the road so we would not have to walk through the crowded Muslim Quarter. He said that due to the attack, they were not letting anyone through, while looking very confused as to why a Jewish man with a kippah on his head was even standing there at all.

Carmiel simply explained that we were guiding a group that was staying at a nearby hotel, and since we observe the Sabbath, we needed to walk home. The border policeman then proceeded to tell us that we could not pass and would have to walk through the Muslim Quarter. Our Mormon friends would not leave us alone and walked us all the way through until we reached a quieter area of the Old City.

I have never felt more like a stranger in my own city — the city I grew up in, the city I love and care about, the city I fight to make better, every day of my life. Yet, this feeling segwayed straight from experiencing what I love most about this city: the multifaith and multicultural reality. I dove directly from a hopeful high, into the soup of hate, fear and tension that Jerusalem is famous for brewing — the parts that I work hard to end.

Carmiel and I walked home together at 11 o’clock at night and discussed the current status of the city. We shared strong feelings of feeling compelled to continue the work of trying to make this city a place that embraces rather than pushes away diversity. I saw images of members of our community in my head, faces of the people I spend hours with every week, working together to achieve this dream:

Ismat, a 40-year-old man from Beit-Safafa who left a lifelong career of carpentry to commit his life to Kids4Peace; Reeham, a 42-year-old religious Muslim woman, a committed educator who believes that the youth we are educating are the ones who will make a real difference in Jerusalem; Meredith, a young mother of two, a religious Zionist Jew who moved to Israel from the U.S., and a strong believer in community as a force of change; Montaser, a Muslim Palestinian who grew up deep in the heart of the West Bank who often has to wait at Qalandia Checkpoint for two hours just to cross over to Jerusalem so he can do this holy work; Sarah, an American born Jewish young women who gave up her life in the U.S. to move to Jerusalem, serve in the IDF and through that came to truly believe in working together to create equal opportunity and shared community in Jerusalem. These faces and so many more come to mind when thinking about the kind of Jerusalem I wish to see in the future.

On Thursday night, June 15th, Kids4Peace celebrated Ramadan together with over 350 members of the community. Together we shared a potluck Iftar meal. This is the reality I want to continue to build–not the reality I was reminded of on my walk home on Friday night.  We need to educate our children to learn, love and respect, those who are different, not dehumanize and hate. Only together can we make this world a better place.


My heart goes out to Hadas’s family, and it also goes out to the families of the three young Palestinian men who attacked her. If we all commit to educating towards mutual understanding and respect, maybe they would all still be with us today.

May we spend the final days of Ramadan and the holiday of Id Al Fider, as we segway into the Jewish fast of the 17th of Tamuz commemorating the fall of Jerusalem prior to the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem, in remembrance and peace.

Written by Michal Ner-David, tour group and grants coordinator