Archives For North Carolina Camp

by DanDan, Kids4Peace Intern

DSC_1261Last weekend, a group of yellow backpacks broke through the gray monotony of the stately buildings and rising monuments of Washington DC. Carrying the message “Together, Peace is Possible” through the wide tree-lined streets, they were enough to cause a few passerby to stop and ask where these kids came from.

Coming from their camp in North Carolina, 29 K4P 7th graders from Israel, Palestine, and North America spent four days exploring the cultural offerings of the nation’s capital and meeting with important representatives. Their tour began with an exclusive meeting at the State Department, where a line-up of prominent politicians spoke about their peace-building work and shared their insights on conflict. “Politicians are afraid of religion, because they see it only as a source of conflict and violence,” said Sean Casey, Special Representative for Religion and Global Affairs.

As much as these government officials spoke from their own perspectives, they seemed more eager to hear from the kids themselves. Ira Forman, Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism asked the group a question: “What is the hardest thing you all have to deal with in your fight for peace?”

Lola, a 13 year old Jewish girl from New Hampshire, answered: “I think the most difficult part is that when you’re really young, you don’t always feel like there’s a lot you can do. Even though I’m going to a camp and making a lot of friends, I don’t feel like I’m making a big difference when there’s still a war going on and so I feel sort of powerless.”

Shaarik Zafar, Special Representative to Muslim Communities, could relate: “I work for the State Department and I have access to many important people. When I pick up the phone, people will listen to me, and sometimes, I feel the same way. But sometimes it’s the question of inches, not even miles or kilometers…I’ll be honest with you, just by sharing your stories with me, you’re making a difference. This has been the most important meeting I’ve had all week.”

DSC_1229This message resonated with many K4P students, who expressed this as the most important take-away of their time in DC. Gayil, a 13 year old Jewish girl from Jerusalem, said: “When I joined K4P, I thought it will not change. We’re just kids, but they give me a feeling that we are important and that we can change something even if we’re kids.”

Other leaders present at the meeting were Betty Bernstein, who spoke about women’s equality, and Chris Hensel, who spoke about US relations with Israel and Palestine.

From here, the kids took a tour of the US Capitol building while some of the campers went to meet Senator Leahy and attended Jummah prayer. “I have never ever dreamt in my life that I’m going to pray Jummah in the Capitol,” said Montaser, Muslim faith advisor. “It was such an amazing thing.”

Due to the recent acts of violence in Jerusalem, the kids all returned to the United Methodist Church to engage in group discussions and share their feelings about these events instead of visiting the next stop on the tour. There was a strong sense of solidarity, as tears, words, and vigil-like moments of silence were shed. Rabbi Scott spoke about these events at the Shabbat service at Sixth&I Synagogue which closed the evening with Shabbat services and dinner.

The next day was packed with fun trips to the White House Visitor Center, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, and the Native American Museum. These visits were interwoven with two special guest speakers.The first was Lauren Shreiber, who spoke about her experience as an American who converted to Islam. The second came from our own K4P family. Gerald Tieyah, father of K4P camper, Shoshana, spoke with his daughter about their Comanche identity and culture. Shoshana, a 13 year old Jewish girl from Vermont, reflects over this experience: “Ever since I was in Kindergarten, my dad would come into my Jewish day school and talk about being Native American to my classmates and so I was quite proud to share it with my new family.”

DSC_1473The third day was just as packed as the first two. It began with a Christian service at St. Mark’s Church, which featured a sermon given by Josh Thomas, Executive Director of K4P International. The kids then visited the National Zoo and attended a closing potluck party at the DC Jewish Community Center. Featuring Aaron Shneyer from Heartbeat, a music organization which unites Israeli and Palestinian youth, this event brought together DC community members, sponsors, and K4P staff in a night full of song, dance, and testimonials.

When reflecting over what she had learned in DC, Alona, a 13 year old Jewish girl from Israel, said: “I felt a lot more confidence that it’s not just me and this group, but there are more people who want peace and doing a lot of it. It felt really nice to see it. Being with kids from America, I felt better because it’s not just us in Israel who want peace, but also kids from around the world.”

When reflecting over his take-away from DC, Montaser, said:

“These kids are even smarter than we thought they are. I always hear things from them and maybe because of the age group they belong in, it makes it harder for me to understand that they’re thinking on a bigger scale. But today after the discussion we had, I saw that these kids have really amazing ideas. They have really bright minds and I think something’s going to happen in their hands.”

If something does happen, perhaps the kids should take Shoshana’s advice: “DC is where all important stuff happens so if you want to make a difference, try and make it happen in DC.”

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Journeying

merk4p —  July 31, 2015 — Leave a comment

by Rachel, American Christian Advisor, North Carolina

IMG_5885Our group also asked a question about the hijabs or headscarves that many Muslim women wear. The Imam pointed out that people cover their heads in many traditions including Mary, mother of Jesus, who is almost always pictured with her head covered. He said that for Muslim women as well it is a personal choice and a sign of humility in front of God.

We ended our trip with a big selfie with our new friends who were so gracious and welcoming to us today at the Masjid.

Our next stop was Temple Kol Emeth where we met another board member, Erin. We sat in the first couple of rows and he explained some of the things we saw in the new space. Around the synagogue were windows depicting “a life dedicated to Torah.” The windows included the Passover story and the story of Noah among others. At the back of the sanctuary were plates with names of those who had passed away so that their memory could live on within the synagogue.

It was a great first day in Atlanta! We’re excited for tomorrow.

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by Rachel, American Christian Faith Adviser, North Carolina

IMG_5779After rock climbing this morning and a break for lunch, the 6th graders went to their daily Discovery session. The first activity involved everyone writing their names on mirrors. Then the campers got to choose someone else’s mirror and look at their reflections together through the shared mirrors. Finally, they got the place their mirrors someplace on a world map that is meaningful to them.

Maria placed hers on Canada because she would like to visit family there. Ariel placed his on Japan because he wants to practice the Japanese he’s been studying. Maya put hers on Thailand because she would like to visit there someday. We learned a little more about each other based on where each person placed their mirror.

The next activity was to trace over the old city of Jerusalem and the existing four quarters: the Muslim Quarter, the Jewish Quarter, the Christian Quarter and the Armenian Quarter. Each camper got to reimagine what the city layout would be if they could design it.

Haya drew her picture with five sections of the city. Haya said, “I made 5 parts and in the middle we can all share a place together.”

Many of the campers intentionally included a place in their city design where everyone could be together. For some it engulfed the whole city and for others they added a “peace quarter” for that purpose.

After discovery the group got to learn outdoor survival skills from the Camp Bob staff before a Faith Advising session led by Adli, Jerusalem Muslim Faith Adviser and Yair, Jerusalem Jewish Faith Adviser. The kids had so much fun playing games to get to know each other better. Working off of the mirror theme, one activity involved sitting across from partners and mirroring their actions. We talked about how difficult it can be to do exactly what someone else is doing, but also how fun it is to see things in a different way.IMG_5799

After dinner, we joined the LEAP group for a talent show. We had a few performances from both the 6th grade and LEAP as well as all of the counselors and the LEAP Faith Advisers. From music to cultural dances and skits, it was the perfect way to end the day together.

Speak Your Truth

merk4p —  July 30, 2015 — Leave a comment

by Rachel, American Christian Faith Adviser, NC 6th grade camp

IMG_5855This morning we said goodbye to the LEAP campers and staff as they boarded a bus for a long 8-hour drive to Washington, DC. There were more than a few tears shed as we said goodbye to the many friends we’d made over the past week at camp together. We wish them luck and productive, thoughtful meetings over the next few days as they get the chance to explore our country’s capital and  meet with some new friends.

After the bus pulled away we started our day with a Discovery cooperation course in the woods before lunch and today’s afternoon activities: archery and a tour of the nature center.

In our faith advising session today we finished an activity we started yesterday. The faith advisers had previously written three quotes from each of the holy texts of Judaism, Islam and Christianity. For each religion, one quote was written in Arabic, one in Hebrew and one in English so that the language would not give away which religion they came from.

In small groups, the kids discussed the quotes based on theme before attempting to organize them by religion. Surprisingly to many campers the task was harder than they expected. We asked them why it was so challenging to figure out which quote belonged to which religion.IMG_5860

Sami offered that “we all have different knowledge of all of our different religions,” and suggested that that made the task difficult.

Ariel said he wasn’t surprised that the task at hand was so difficult. “It’s not surprising to me because we all come from the same history of Abraham. We all have similar messages.”

The common messages of belief in one God, generosity, kindness, and hospitality towards those who are different from yourself bonds us together.

Yair, Jerusalem Jewish Faith Adviser, added “In every one of our religions there are verses that say we should let people live in the way they want to live.”

Throughout the afternoon we continued learning about one another’s religions and how they can exist together and even compliment each other. In the evening Samar, Jerusalem Christian Faith Adviser showed us how to make Baba Ganoush in the dining hall. Over dinner every camper got a chance to taste with pita bread. It was delicious!

Tonight we pack for our trip to Atlanta tomorrow! We’re so excited to apply what we’ve learned so far to the city where we are headed to next.

Mapping Home

merk4p —  July 29, 2015 — Leave a comment

by Rachel, American Christian Faith Adviser for NC Camp

This morning the 6th grade campers went on a hike on Eagle Rock trail with Jill, some Camp Bob staff and faith advisers. They climbed a mountain to a scenic overlook where they could reflect on the theme of the day: home. They were asked to draw about and share what home means to them. Here were some of the many answers that were shared.

“Wherever my books are is home.”

“Chocolate chip cookies mean home for me.”

“The globe holds my home.”

“Outside space, the landscape and view from my window. My garden is home.”

“Sitting on our porch with family talking.”

“Doing nothing with my family is home.”

“My state is what makes me feel pride of home. I also love my flag which symbolizes home and I hope to be the governor one day of my state.”

“The four chambers of my heart is home.”

After the hike back down the mountain the campers had lunch and spent the evening playing sports from Jerusalem and the US before their favorite activity of the day: swimming!

In the evening both the 6th graders and the LEAP kids got to be a part of a carnival with fun activities. They had fun playing all together in the big field as their counselors led in the fun.

In the evening reflection all together Lauren, American Jewish Faith Adviser for 6th grade, shared that she felt at home today in the cabin when we were making friendship bracelets with all the girls.

David Rowan, Camp Director, ended the evening by sharing a quote from his favorite bumper sticker: “If you lived in your heart you’d already be home.”

We’re looking forward to spending more time tomorrow growing as a Kids4Peace family.

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by Rachel, American Christian Faith Adviser, NC

IMG_5745This morning the 6th graders boarded a school bus to travel to Asheville, about a 45-minute drive from camp. Our first stop was at Trinity Episcopal Church where our whole group was generously welcomed and ushered to a group of seats in the front.

Lilly, American Christian camper, and Maria, Jerusalem Christian camper read passages for the service in English and Arabic respectively. The priest and the congregation extended a warm welcome to our whole group and thanked us for being there and working together towards peace.

For many of the non-Christian campers (especially from Jerusalem) it was their first time in a Christian church in America. As the service progressed I saw many eyes roaming over the large space, surveying the high ceilings, the stone archways and the stained glass windows. All four American Christian girls are Episcopal so they were able to help the others throughout the service.

After the service we gathered in the church dining hall to meet with their congregation and have lunch. Three of the Jewish campers were fasting for Tisha B’av a Jewish day of mourning for the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. The day includes a 25-hour fast and abstaining from celebratory activities such as listening to music and other forms of work.

BIMG_5740ecause they were keeping Tisha B’av, they were unable to eat the delicious meal provided by the church and were instead sitting at the tables with the other kids looking longingly on at their plates of food.

Samar, the Jerusalem Christian Faith Adviser, asked the kids if they would like to take some of the food back to camp to break their fast in the evening. Their eyes lit up. Samar spoke with the church staff and in moments the Episcopal Church provided enough bags for the kids to take whatever foods they could possibly desire with them.

They began shoving whatever food they could into their ziplocks: pita bread, chips, cake, salad, boiled eggs and fresh fruits and veggies. They happily packed the bags into Yair’s, Jerusalem Jewish Faith Adviser, backpack for later.

With tips from Adli, Jerusalem Muslim Faith Adviser, about fasting, the support of Yair and Samar and their bags of food, the kids were well-equipped to make it to the end of their fast. They were so lucky to have such thoughtful, strong, supportive advisers by their sides. Samar even fasted in solidarity with the 3 campers.

Outside on the lawn the group had a chance to ask questions of the Christians within our group about the service.

One of the questions that was asked was about the symbol of the cross.

Aida replied, “We use this symbol because Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross to erase our sins and it’s important for us to remember that.”

Another question came from American Muslim Faith Adviser, Kareem, about the representation of Jesus in Christian churches in the US versus Jerusalem.

Haya offered that the depictions are almost the same. Nazeeh added that “they are a little different because nobody knows what Jesus looked like so people just depict him like they imagine him to look.”

Together we got to learn more from one another about what we had just been a part of before heading to Lauren’s, American Jewish Faith Adviser, synagogue in Asheville.IMG_5748

Inside the building most of the campers were treated to a concert with local musician friends that Lauren is connected with. The performance was a combination of American pop music, North Carolinean fiddle music and group sing-along songs. A few of the songs we sang together as a group were even translated into all three languages.

After an exciting day on the town the group is looking forward to some swimming at Camp Bob and more faith adviser sessions tomorrow.   IMG_5750

Brian SullivanBy the Rev. Brian Sullivan, President of Kids4Peace Atlanta.

As I am walking to my car about to leave Kanuga to prepare for the children to arrive in Atlanta, I had a familiar feeling.

I feel aspiration. It is the feeling I get when the actions of others cause me to take action.

Whereas, inspiration makes me think big thoughts, aspiration is a catalyst to make those thoughts a reality.

After 13 years of being involved with Kids4Peace, aspiration is the reason for our continued existence. People from all over the world have aspired to make Kids4Peace a reality.

People like you are what make Kids4Peace possible. You know Kids4Peace is about children coming together to see one another for who they are, not what they are. Kids4Peace makes space for simple questions, to get simple answers, but it also about experiencing the complex meanings behind those answers. What could me more simple than a child asking a new friend at the dinner table, “Why can’t you eat that?” The simple answer is, “because scripture says I can’t eat it.” But at Kids4Peace we are also exploring the more complex meaning, which is “because this makes me who I am.”

In today’s society we like clear answers, and Kids4Peace is giving us those answers along with the complex meanings.

Kids4Peace is a community of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim children. We are from the United States and Palestine/Israel. We love to play soccer, draw pictures, share thoughts, paddle canoes, and hike trails. We are also surrounded with conflict, confusion and sometimes violence.

However, by coming together and respecting the complexity of who we are, Kids4Peace is making peace a daily reality.

Clearly Kids4Peace is an inspiration. But the reason you are reading this has more to do with the fact that you want to be inspired. Whether you are reading this as a leader of your own chapter, volunteer at a camp this summer, or JUST AS IMPORTANT a financial supporter; I hope that you take action to help Kids4Peace remain one of the most aspirational programs many of these children will ever experience.

Rest.

merk4p —  July 26, 2015 — Leave a comment

by Rachel, American Christian Faith Adviser for NC

20150725_162038As we continue to learn from our Jewish friends about the tradition of Shabbat, we took on the theme of “rest” today. The Jewish kids and staff here at camp each have different traditions of how they keep Shabbat. Some staff and campers abstain from listening to music or doing work that might seem simple to some (like writing), other campers and staff take on the spirit of rest and Shabbat in different ways. It has been eye-opening to learn from each of them.

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This morning we had the privilege of seeing a Torah scroll unrolled led by Rabbi Laurie, the head of the 7th grade LEAP program. All of the campers sat in two rows of benches facing each other. We laid sheets and blankets across our laps so the Torah would not touch us or fall to the floor as it rolled by.

Laurie explained that we would be unrolling and rolling the entire Torah (about the length of an American football field) from start to finish. As the Torah was unrolled Laurie and Lauren, American Jewish Faith Adviser for the 6th grade, shared with us some facts about the Torah and how a Torah is written and purchased and meant to be treated.

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Two of the Jewish girls from Jerusalem, Arielle and Maya, recited their Torah portion from their bat mitzvahs when the group had scrolled to it. Some of the most beautiful moments this week have been when kids have had the opportunities to share these important moments with their new friends. Everyone listened respectfully and watched as the intricate Hebrew letters slid across their laps.

In the 6th grade morning session with our facilitator, Jill, we were able to spend some more time sharing our stories with one another. As part of a larger exercise, Jill laid maps of the campers homes out on the benches.

Among the maps were Jerusalem, North Carolina and Georgia. Each camper then got to choose a map to bring back to the larger circle and share. The second the campers had maps of home in their hands their faces lit up and they started telling stories to one another.

“This is my street!”

“That’s the pond near where I live.”

“This is how I walk to my school in Jerusalem.”

One conversation in particular caught my ear. Nick, one of the 6th grade counselors, was talking with our campers Yona and Nur. He was talking about his 3 minute commute from his home in South Carolina to work across the border in Georgia. He pointed at the map on the floor and traced his route.

“3 minutes to cross?” Yona asked. “No police?”IMG_5717

Jill, who was listening on helped facilitate the conversation to explain that in the US there are no checkpoints or police when you cross a border into another state.

Yona, an Israeli camper, was sensitive to something that many of the Palestinians and Israelis at camp and back home may have to face daily. Hearing his questions and observation struck a chord with each of us who overheard.

It’s through these moments of sharing and awareness of each other that we really begin to form deep understandings.

In the afternoon the 6th grade took some time for much needed rest with a silent meditation together by the lake. 20150725_162740

After the meditation the kids were able to come back as a group and get together in a way that we haven’t before. Seeing the kids playing games together this afternoon was a sign of the days ahead. Tomorrow we are looking forward to learning more about Christianity at an Episcopal Church in Asheville.

by Rachel, American Christian Faith Adviser, North Carolina

One of the big events of today was shaping and baking the challah for shabbat this evening. In the afternoon 6th and 7th grade campers gathered in the dining hall where Jill, our facilitator, distributed challah dough to each camper to shape before placing them all in the oven.

Jill shared that in her family the 3 braided strands of challah represent where the ideas of truth, justice and mercy join together in Psalms.IMG_0696

“Mercy and truth are met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” -Psalms 85:10

Arielle, one of the Jewish 6th grade campers from Jerusalem, shared her own experience baking challah and explained the significance of a tradition she continued with the challah today.

“When you bake the challah you use 1 or 1.5 kilos of dough and take a small piece out of the bread to set aside. When you finish, you can say a blessing and you can ask for wishes with the small piece you set aside (you can wish for a baby, or something for yourself, or for someone to feel better). My grandmother is sick so today I asked that she would feel better. When I made my challah today, I put the piece in foil and you can throw it in the oven with the challah. When the challah is finished you can throw that piece away.”IMG_0689

This small piece of leftover challah dough is called hafrashat challah and members of the Jewish community practice this tradition across the world.

After our 6th grade challah bake and lunch, all of the campers (6th and 7th grade) went to sit and observe as the Muslim campers, counselors and faith advisers practiced Jum’aa prayer. The whole camp was quiet and respectful through the prayers and service which was translated into English wherever possible. After the prayers, the Muslim campers and staff opened the floor for questions.

One of the questions the campers asked was, “Why do the men and women sit separately during prayers?”

A few of the Muslim staff offered answers saying that the primary purpose of prayers and service was to offer total, undivided attention to God. In their tradition, separating the genders is an effective way to limit distractions during such a reverent time.

In our faith advising session with the group, Kareem, American Muslim Faith Adviser for the 6th grade, led the activities. He asked the kids to come together in small groups to write down the stories of some of their religious traditions. The groups had time to record their stories in drawings and words before they were asked to share with one another.

“What’s something new you learned about someone?” Kareem asked the groups afterwards.

“Nazeeh told me that for Easter his family hides eggs in the garden and they search for them together and find candy inside,” Nur shared.

Today was filled with learning about each other’s religious stories and opportunities for the campers to get to know one another better. One of the fun activities today was taking the 6th grade to the lake for canoeing. The boys and girls had so much fun paddling around the lake together in the sunshine.

The day finished with a shabbat service run by the Jewish staff and campers as the rest of the Kids4Peace community sat as observers. Some of the Jewish campers spoke about the significance of shabbat to them after the service. They shared that the day of rest is reflective of God’s day of rest after he created the universe in the first book of the Torah. We got to spend time together as a camp community while we learned from our Jewish friends about some of their traditions.

IMG_5667Maya, one of the Jewish campers from Jerusalem, shared how she prepares for shabbat service at home. “Not everyone necessarily has to wear dresses or skirts,” she said, “but we want to dress respectfully for shabbat… just like you would for any other important occasion.”

As we continue to get to know one another, the kids are becoming comfortable asking questions of one another. There were lots of moments of learning throughout the day from the challah bake this afternoon to the closing shabbat service. We are looking forward to learning more about how our stories are intertwined in the coming days.

by Rachel, American Christian Faith Adviser, NC Camp

On Tuesday afternoon American K4P staff and volunteers began arriving at Camp Kanuga in North Carolina. Slowly over the course of the afternoon the main office filled with Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders, counselors and facilitators from all across the east coast and as far as Jerusalem. Over the course of the next day and a half we spent time training and preparing for the arrival of the campers.

Early on in our sessions, Josh Thomas, K4P International Director, posed this question, “How does a two-week camp make peace?”

Throughout our sessions we began to delve into what that means and how we will be able to facilitate peace-making among the campers in the long-term. One of the major ways this two-week camp promotes peace is by connecting young campers with new friends who are different from themselves.

It is often difficult for us to get along with people who initially appear “different” from ourselves. In this program we are asking a group of nearly two dozen pre-teens to do it. They come from vastly different parts of the world with different religious and cultural upbringings and they will meet for the first time as a whole group here at camp. For many of the campers this camp will be their first exposure to some of the other Abrahamic traditions and to kids from other parts of the world.

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In the staff training we discussed what this experience will look like for them and how we can support each child in their own practices, facilitate their respectful observation of other traditions, and find a community in our diverse group.

“I think it will call for us as staff to model vulnerability for the kids,” Lauren, American Jewish Faith Adviser for the program shared.

Copy of IMG_5594We hope that by opening up about ourselves and our experiences the campers will learn to trust one another and do the same. We are looking forward to a fun, thoughtful and eye-opening two-weeks as we learn to live together, play together and have meaningful conversation together.

We jumped into some activities this afternoon when we welcomed our four American campers to Kanuga and Camp Bob. We toured the campus, swam in the pond and prepared a welcome banner in Hebrew, Arabic and English for the Jerusalem campers arriving late this evening. The kids spent the afternoon decorating envelopes for each participant. The campers will be able to drop positive notes, thoughts and encouragements for one another into these envelopes throughout the week.Copy of IMG_5597

The evening was spent around the campfire roasting marshmallows and telling riddles with the Camp Bob staff who will be an invaluable part of our community these next couple of weeks. We now wait anxiously to welcome all of the staff and campers from Jerusalem who should arrive late tonight.