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On Sunday, April 2nd, 130 sixth and seventh graders gathered at a movie theater in Jerusalem to watch ‘Moana.’ For those (very few) of you who have not seen this latest critically acclaimed Disney movie, ‘Moana’ is about a daring young girl who sails out to sea in order to save her people and island. It is a moving film, with a female protagonist, which passes the Bechdel test with flying colors, and allows youth to be swept off their feet by the imaginative, diverse and creative movie plot and characters. Probably one of the more diverse and empowering Disney movies I have seen, it felt very appropriate to be watching this film with a group of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian youth in Jerusalem.

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In Kids4Peace, we work on youth empowerment and development. We work on helping these youth build their own sense of identity, both group and personal, and we guide them as they become leaders and activists in their communities.

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After the film, the Pathways to Peace (6th and 7th grade) advisors led a dialogue for the youth. The youth and staff together discussed how the film showed a young girl, who despite all odds and despite the lack of belief in her, was able to go out in the world and make change. Real, lasting change. The youth liked this, and they liked to think of themselves as making change in their families, neighborhoods, and city, too. They all felt like Moana was an interesting and inspiring character who they hope to be like – brave, resilient, kind and spirited.

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During the discussion, one of the youth mentioned language as an obstacle to understanding and equality. They discussed how this made them feel, and imagined, like Moana, being able to impact their community. Another youth jumped in, saying that it felt great being in a public movie theater in Jerusalem, a place they had gone often with friends and family, but this time with their Kids4Peace friends. They were speaking Hebrew and Arabic, laughing together and enjoying a movie together, and this felt important. For the advisors, too, being in this public space together was an important step in feeling like a group of empowered youth and leaders in Jerusalem, making a difference and remaining a strong community.

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At the end of the evening, the youth left feeling encouraged, inspired and excited to change the world, just like Moana.

WhatsApp Image 2017-04-02 at 8.35.40 PM (1) Thank you to USAID for making this evening possible.

Written by Liana Rothman – community engagement coordinator

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Staff Development Seminar, Jerusalem, March 16th, 2017

This past year, Kids4Peace Jerusalem has seen exciting processes of growth and development. We have programmatic meetings/events occurring daily, whether it’s a youth meeting, parent facilitation group, community tour group, or something else. Because of this nature of growth and overlapping programming, it is far and few between that the entire Kids4Peace staff is able to gather as an entire staff. Last week, we were lucky enough to have an old friend of K4P’s, John Ungerleider, from the School of International Training in Vermont, lead an all-staff development seminar for all of us in our office. This half-day seminar consisted of training games, facilitation skill-building, shared meals, lots of laughter and songs, and deep dialogue opportunities.

After eating and spending some time outside playing ice-breakers, which helped us feel comfortable and relaxed as a group, and gave us ideas for games we could use for the youth, we went inside. We broke up into our program teams to discuss communication and what we felt was going well and what could use improvement. Afterwards, we divided into random groups where we passed around cards with personal questions and shared our own stories and lives with the rest of the group.

After drawing metaphors of youth empowerment in groups and creating sentences from them, John took these sentences and we sang them as verses to “I’ve got peace like a river.” It went something like this, each sentence getting the whole rendition of the song:

“I’ve got compassion in my backpack,” “I’ve got communication between the islands,” “I’ve got ideas in my head,” and “I’ve got creativity in my salad”

This was a silly and fun way to get us thinking about how to empower our Kids4Peace youth; what tools, games, dialogue, experiences, will help them become their best selves, trusting friends, resilient peace-supporters and future leaders both in our movement in Jerusalem and beyond.

In our final circle of the evening, each staff member said a sentence with the prompt “Because of Kids4Peace I…”. Here are some of the responses:

  • “feel hopeful for the future”
  • “can dream”
  • “have rekindled hope in this land”
  • “stay in Jerusalem”
  • “can see outside of the box”
  • “cannot be blind to our reality”
  • “give more love to the others”
  • “am part of a community that makes real impact every day”
  • “know people that share the same goals as me”

Thank you, John, for leading us in this meaningful and fun-filled seminar and for believing in us year after year.

Stay tuned as we continue to bring more news, updates and stories from our daily lives in Kids4Peace Jerusalem!

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Written by Liana Rothman – community engagement coordinator

 

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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.

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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.”

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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!

ًWritten by Liana Rothman – community engagement coordinator

usaidk4p_new_logo_color_pngKids4Peace continues to bring people to explore the 4 quarters of the Old City. One of the interesting things we discovered was that the quarters were not designed to be separate quarters but rather just different neighborhoods with different communities living in each neighborhood.

With the Support of USAID Kids4Peace continues on this journey, this time taking a deeper look into the Armenian and Jewish quarters.

On March 8th, we were led through the multi narrative fabric of these two quarters by Kids4Peace educator Nir Amit, with the help of youth participants of the leadership program, Nadav, Karin and Eliana.

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Moving away from the traditional holy sites and stories one is used to seeing and hearing in these two quarters, Nir took us to the Armenian church, talked about the history of the Armenian people and how they ended up in Jerusalem. We took a step closer into the Armenian community – most of us had never been there before. Nir spoke of ‘Jacob the holy and Jacob our father’ leading us through churches and synagogues’, between cultures and communities. We were able to meet the joy and pain of each community, the past, present and future of these communities.

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From right to left: Karin (Christian from Beit Hanina), Eliana (Jewish from Bakka) and Nadav (Jewish from Beit Hakerem), and Nir, standing in front of an Old City map describing how it was originally designed.

Karin shared her experience of the Old City with the group “This is my first time in the Jewish quarter: the Quarters are very different, different infrastructure and buildings, this is more modern. I come a lot to the Christian quarter for the holidays. It’s very different here, it’s weird, but it’s nice and I like it. It surprised me.”

Join us tomorrow for our final Old City tour! We will be exploring the Christian and Muslim Quarters with Nir. Meeting at the Jaffa Gate at 16:00.

Written by Michal Ner David – USAID Grants Coordinator and Tour Group Coordinator

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Thanks to the support of USAID – Kids4Peace has launched a three-fold tour where we will explore the fabric of the Old City through guided tours and personal stories from Kids4Peace youth and staff. This is 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. 

“We live together, Muslims, Christians and Jews. It’s normal, and I like to walk around with everyone in my home.”- Yusuf, a K4P 8th grade participant, lives in the Old City.

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Yesterday, March 5th, Kids4Peace toured the four quarters of the Old City with professional tour guide and K4P Father, Jared Goldfarb. Moving away from the traditional holy sites and stories one is used to seeing and hearing in the Old City, Jared took us through the tapestries of the people and homes within the walls. We wanted to meet the residents of the Old City and learn about their relationships to this place and each other within the walls. Besides the millions of visitors from around the globe that come each year to connect to the holy sites, we wanted to ask: who are the locals that get to live so close to the center of the monotheistic world? What defines their various identities, where have they succeeded as communities, and what challenges do they face dwelling in such an intense place?

“I enjoy being here with everyone together. The Old City is like my second home, I wish it was my first. It feels special and good to be here with everyone. It’s Jerusalem, it’s a city for peace.” -Ghadeer, mother to 6th grade K4P participant, lives in Shuafat.

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As we walked through the ancient Jerusalem stoned streets, we discussed population breakdown and percentages, and how interesting it is that a Muslim or a Jew for example who comes to visit the Old City and their holy sites, might not know that Christians are the majority in the Old City and that they own a vast amount of the real estate within the walls. Jill, the parents program coordinator and a facilitator, spoke about religious symbols and monuments as informing our understanding and connection to space and location.

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 was a unique and gratifying experience, and we look forward to the tours to come!

Written by Liana Rothman, community engagement coordinator

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Today in Jerusalem, another generation is growing up in an uncertain and sometimes violent reality. Despite this, our community is growing and strengthening daily, and we are building a better future together.

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With support from USAID, Kids4Peace welcomed 140 new families in January. They are the most diverse group of new participants ever – from every part of East and West Jerusalem and neighboring West Bank cities, especially those most prone to racism and violence. These sixth and seventh-grade youth will meet eleven times this year in the Pathways to Peace program, while their parents have parallel workshops and facilitated dialogues.

“Kids4Peace understands that our dreams are the future’s reality.” -Adan, 10th grade

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They will explore their Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions and customs, share the realities of their daily lives, and work to break down the stereotypes and fears that they have of the ‘other’.

“During the first meeting with the new 6th graders, there was already a culture that formulated into one united group, bonded together, despite their differences. They felt connected as a group of young Israelis and Palestinians starting this journey together.” -Ismat, coordinator

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Leading the program are Ismat Othman, Montaser Amro and Sarah Stone – and their team of 24 interfaith advisors.

Written by Liana Rothman, community engagement coordinator

“We all gathered there for the same reason, to make peace and still keep our own identity, while also sharing it with one another” – Alona, 9th grade K4P participant

On Sunday, Kids4Peace participated in an interfaith prayer and dialogue event called Praying Together in Jerusalem. Over 150 Jerusalem faith-based activists gathered at Tantur and spent three hours together, praying side by side, engaging in dialogue about constructive conflict in religion and sharing a meal at the end to the soft and poetic music of the Oud. The beautiful simplicity and also staggering rarity of seeing Muslims, Jews and Christians praying simultaneously, side by side, in their own groups, but in the same room, was striking, and set the stage for what was a moving, empowering, and engaging evening.

Seven Kids4Peace staff members helped facilitate a few of the dialogue groups and 30 youth, parents and community members from Kids4Peace participated in the evening. The dialogue was led by two facilitators of two different faiths with groups of 10-15 participants from all over the world. We examined sources from the three Abrahamic faiths as well as a modern conflict resolution studies text, which all discussed how to engage in conflict and how to do it in a constructive way. We mused on how to take these pieces of wisdom and bring them to our daily lives, how to be more compassionate and engaged in conflict, and how to continue working towards a more peaceful and inclusive Jerusalem.

For Adam, a Jewish 10th grader in K4P, it was an interesting evening: “It was great to have a dialogue with different people from different religions, and not only with the kids I know from K4P.”                                                                                                                                              Anton, a Christian 12th grader in K4P, was really happy to find out that “there are way more communities that support peace than I thought! I was glad to meet them, and it was nice to talk about my experience in k4p!”

The prayer part of the evening was almost indescribable in its simultaneous simplicity and courageously unique bravery. In one big room: Muslims set up their prayer mat and began praying facing Mecca. Next to them one Jewish group had a traditional prayer service, facing the Western Wall. Next to them was an egalitarian Jewish prayer circle, and next to them was the Christian prayer service, being led by the director of Tantur, Father Russ McDougall. Each group could be heard singing, chanting and praying silently, simultaneously, in a moment of awe-inspiring holiness and beauty.

“Watching the joint prayer from the side was an unforgettable experience. The hall was lit up by people filled with love and hope.” – Yael, Pathways to Peace coordinator

“It was a very special experience. There was one moment that was the most meaningful for me. The Muslim, Christian and Jewish prayers that were just right next to each other felt so strong and full of faith. We all gathered there for the same reasons, to make peace and still keep your own identity, while sharing it with each other.” – Alona

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Kids4Peace staff members had the privilege to spend time with Dr. Johnny Mack over the last two weeks, a social entrepreneur with expertise in the subject areas of peace, conflict, social change and social movements, at a conference for Israeli and Palestinian NGOs in Haifa and a panel discussion at the American Center in Jerusalem, where we learned about Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of nonviolence and social change.

The topic of nonviolence as MLK Jr. saw it is overarching and greatly studied, yet a simple explanation or definition of it still seems to elude many. We discussed nonviolence as being an evolving spectrum, which includes a framework of values, the most important to MLK Jr. being the fundamental commonality of humanity. The logic of nonviolence is rooted in our history, of the violence embedded within it and dismantling that violence. Among the panelists there seemed to be a consensus that the main takeaway from MLK Jr. was equal opportunity. If you give people equal opportunity, they will flourish. That concept really resonated with us at Kids4Peace, as that is a main goal we strive for here.

At the conference, Dr. Johnny Mack explained to us that civil society has a lot to do with the individual, the idea that I should do those things that only I can do that must be done. Nonviolence can be seen then, as a means whose end is community; It is far more than contentious politics or physical resistance. It is a means of managing conflict, of social change and human development. The logic of nonviolence is built between these principles: personhood, freedom, and community. Dr. Johnny Mack discussed how one’s personhood and freedom is only relevant with respect to community. So our question was how do we work together as a community to build a larger community and support other communities? If conflict is resolved at the neighborhood level, we need to work together to create a civil society.

We act in accordance with the truth as we perceive it or believe it to be. So, if we can change the way we think, we can change the way we act. For us at Kids4Peace, our main takeaway from the conference was think globally, act locally: building community is building a structure and culture of nonviolence, based on the shared values mentioned above: personhood, freedom and community.

The panel discussion was also filled with resonance and interesting perspectives. Something said that was interesting was that the greatest impact we can have is on ourselves; that we should work on fine-tuning our inner intentions so they are not filled with hate. Ronit, a director from ACRI, named MLK Jr.’s main values as: equality, liberty, dignity, humanity, and justice. Someone said that tragedy presents opportunity, and in today’s tumultuous environment, both statements and those values ring truer than ever. Now is the time to make sure we are filled with love, not hate, for our fellow humans, to aim higher, to fight for justice and equality, and to keep moving forward even in these politically-charged times.

Another panelist discussed the need for a revolution of values, which MLK Jr. also grounded his work in. We have to dare to be committed to the truth; we have to view nonviolence as not only a tactic, but a principle of how to behave in the world.

Here at Kids4Peace we look forward to continuing our work with Dr. Johnny Mack and following the values and goals set forth by Martin Luther King Jr. and those that follow in his footsteps today.

Written by Liana Rothman, Community Engagement Coordinator for Kids4Peace

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JohnnyMack1.jpg Johnny J. Mack is a social entrepreneur with expertise in the subject areas of peace, conflict, social change and social movements. His professional expertise includes serving as senior executive in healthcare, mortgage banking, community development, and nonprofit organizations. Dr. Mack has traveled extensively throughout the Americas, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and Asia working in the fields of peace, development, conflict, and nonviolent social change. In addition to holding degrees in business and theology from Oakwood University, Dr. Mack is a certified public account. He is the Henry Hart Rice Fellow at the School for Conflict Analysis & Resolution at George Mason University in Virginia, where he earned both the masters and doctorate degrees in Conflict Analysis and Resolution.

This year’s annual winter event was bigger and more inspiring than ever. With a musical performance, guest speakers, and our youth leading the way with several activities, the Kids4Peace community ended the evening feeling inspired, proud, and energized. This was in big part thanks to Adan and Omri, a Christian and Jewish participant, respectively, in the Youth Action Program (grades 10-12) who got up to speak at the end about growing up in Kids4Peace, learning about advocacy and social change in DC, and the strength and power that young people today hold. Read the speech for yourself below!

Kids4Peace Winter Event ‘17

Palestinian Youth Representative Speech

By Adan

Hello,

I hope everyone is having a wonderful evening.

My name is Adan. I am 15 years old, and am currently in my 5th year in Kids4Peace. I’m Christian. I am Palestinian, and proud to identify as one. I love my people; I love our customs, traditions, language, food, strength, integrity, generosity, and most of all, I love the dignity found in everything that we do. I love my land and I love every olive tree my people have ever planted, because my land is my home.

Being in Kids4Peace doesn’t deny any part of my identity, yet in the past 5 years, I was constantly being told that it does. I have been called a traitor, liar, and coward. I was stigmatized – accused of being fake, accused of being aggressive, accused of being a terrorist. I have thought of quitting Kids4Peace multiple times, because I thought I would no longer be singled out if I did.

I am constantly told that I’m still young, I have no idea what I’m talking about, this will never work, and that my little, 15 year old voice will never bring forth any change. Last year in particular, I defied the limits those claims set for me. We travelled to Washington DC, and were up at 6:00 AM, every single day, out of the hotel at 7:00 AM (if we were lucky, 8:00), and had 3 meetings a day with the most influential leaders of today – including Shaun Casey, Dave Harden, ambassadors and diplomats of the highest positions, and the heads of the National Security of The United States of America). I gave a speech about inequality in the United States’ Institute of Peace (USIP), and was absolutely petrified of sharing it, because I feared people’s reaction. Mustering up the courage to give a speech that I wrote at 2:00 AM (practically got 3 hours of sleep because I had to stay up writing it) and managed to make one of the most controversial speeches presented in last year’s program was a defining moment for me. But, it came from my heart and touched theirs.

I shed more tears than I’d like to admit in Kids4Peace. In my second year, I regretted ever joining the organization, because the War on Gaza was taking place and I was not with my family – I was out there, at camp in Houston, Texas, the only member of the family to be guaranteed safety, while everyone back home was fighting merely to stay alive.

Understanding just how much I regretted my decision helped me realize that the young don’t rank the controversy of who’s right and who’s wrong above the significance of our emotions. I think that’s just as crucial as selflessness when resolving an issue, because we take those stories, emotions, and experiences, and turn them into personal motivation, which we later use to seek change.

That is why I love the fact that Kids4Peace is youth based. Kids4Peace understands that our dreams are the future’s reality. They know that our voices are the media and will later become the news. I ask every adult sitting in the audience to do the same. I ask you to acknowledge the voices of your kids, the youth. I ask you to realize what we are capable of because we are works of art. I ask you to recognize that not only can we be strong, but that we are strong. I ask you to remind us that not only are we enough, but that we are more than that. Don’t give up on us, because, at the end of the day, the leaders of tomorrow are today’s youth.

Thank you.

From Meredith Rothbart
Development Director, Jerusalem

Dear friends and supporters,

I write to you now from Jerusalem, just easing back into work after maternity leave with my newborn son Yishai.

As I reflect on the growth of my family, I feel determined to help the Kids4Peace community continue to grow at a strong, steady pace. Sometimes it seems that we face more challenges each year.

“Ima, who are the bad guys?” my 3-year old daughter, Shalva, asked me just a few days ago.

As an Israeli child, she hears the chatter around her about division and violence.

While I try to reassure her that the world is not divided into “good guys” and “bad guys”, I know these are the very same questions my Palestinian and American friends, family and colleagues are struggling to answer to their children.

As a mother and an educator, I believe that we must not merely answer our children in words. We must provide opportunities to take action–and in Kids4Peace we are doing just that.

In Kids4Peace Seattle, our community stood up against violencethis weekend at the Muslim Association of Puget Sound, a mosque recently scarred with vandalism.

Our Kids4Peace Boston youth joined together in service by cooking dinner for residents of the homeless shelter at First Church in Cambridge.

In Kids4Peace Jerusalem, 100 youth leaders marched in unity through the Old City, and will take what they’ve learned back to their schools where they’ll share their experiences.

More than 500 youth participate in Kids4Peace globally.

You have the power to help them stand up against violence, join together in service, and march together in unity.

With Hope,


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