Archives For Jerusalem

by Hana, K4P Jerusalem Media Intern

Last Thursday Kids4Peace Jerusalem’s Leadership youth (9th graders), met with diplomats from the US Consulate, the US Embassy, and USAID.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The session started with each diplomat giving a brief presentation, explaining their jobs and responsibilities. Some of their positions are more political, linked to the Consulate, others more cultural. They all express their admiration for the kids Congratulations, you are our hope for the future.

The first question that broke the ice was direct and had no hesitation: If you say you support the two state solution why does US always vote against it at the UN?

The diplomats smile at the question and make comments about how the kids go directly to the point. One of the diplomats assistants replies:

“We are working towards a two state solution to bring peace into the country. By getting involved we provide a neutral space so that both sides feel comfortable. We want to bring peace and establish a Palestinian state, however a big impediment is the estrangement between the two sides.”

The answer was followed by another question directed to the US, Why is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict such a big issue for the US?

The diplomats answered: The US is deeply connected to the history of the area, with a large population being Christian and having very important Jewish and Muslim communities. Many Americans feel spiritually connected to this land. Israel was an important ally of the US during the Cold War, and it’s very connected to WWII, so there is a spiritual, cultural and political connection. Furthermore there is a feeling of frustration for the endurance of the conflict and we believe stability within this region affects the global economy. The instability of oil and global market could get better if the region had more stability.

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The kids also wanted to know wether the US supports not only organizations working with kids, but also with adults.

One of the answers the kids received was: Definitely, we also support the parents circle of Kids4Peace and are involved in environmental issues. It’s true that it gets more tense whenever parents are involved. We are also currently learning negotiation between Israeli, Palestinians and diplomats. Not only do we learn technical skills, but we also get to know each other and deepen the relationships within our community.

The diplomats also want to make clear that it is our kids job here at Kids4Peace to continue with this work as they grow up: It’s also on you guys to continue to engage when you grow up as adults.

Finally the diplomats say that they find it easier to work with both sides within similar communities:  People with common interests working together helps create peace. So working with educators, social workers etc. from each side is helpful. 

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At this point the diplomats feel they also want to know more about the teenagers sitting in front of them: Why do you participate in K4P?

Adam, 15, answered: Both sides are in pain, so the only way to understand the other side is to hear their story. Some of my friends are against it and I also lose hope sometimes. Even if we don’t change the world, we can change ourselves.

Talia, 15, added: As we grew up there was a moment when my classmates started discussing politics and the conflict, and I realized I didn’t know anyone who was Arab. As soon as I joined the program I started to understand that the reasons of “the other side” were rational and that it’s not fair to put the blame on them.

Aviya, 15, also expressed: I had only heard what my side was saying “They kill people, so they’re bad” I wanted to know what they were thinking as well.

Omri shared his personal experience in the public space: With my family we bought in Arab shops, we went to Arab restaurants, even my parents had Arab friends who spoke in Hebrew. Also, many of my friends said it was ok to get to know Arabs, we played football together. I didn’t have Arab friends myself and decided to join K4P. I prefer to come to Jerusalem every month because here Arabs and Jews really live in the same city, it’s not like two different cities.

Zeina: Many of us heard a lot about the other side and knew a lot of things from what people had told us, but we had never met or knew anyone from the other side. We were curious to know what they think about us too. After we joined Kids4Peace, we noticed that the others are just normal people as we are and we share many similarities.

Tia: Older K4P members and program Alumni’s encouraged me to join, some friends were against it, but I believed I had to hear what they have to say.

Guy (Leadership program coordinator) : We’ve reached a moment where more kids come to us that we can afford to accept. Friends and relatives of K4P members want to join too.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter the kids had been in the spotlight, they all had a short break. After the break it was their turn again to ask some more questions. The conflict is again, the main topic.

One of the kids asked: What do you think about “drawing a line”, creating a boarder in areas people live in? what do you think about the future, post boarder?

The kids received an interesting answer, referring to world history: It’s not up to us to draw any line. Societies have been able to work together without diminishing their pain like the example of France and Germany who have been enemies in different wars through history and now are allies.

The diplomats then received a very direct question: What are some personal goals you would like to achieve during your service in Israel?

The diplomats were pretty surprised and pleased with the question. “It’s a good question / I hadn’t thought about it. Freedom of movement is something that would help my job so much. There’s a sense of being displaced depending on the city you’re in. My wife is an Arab and she doesn’t speak arabic in West Jerusalem. If we could reduce the tension and help make people more comfortable to walk around.  A better access to resources (water, electricity) everywhere. More patience and manners: traffic is an example.  That there would never be a reason to turn away a student in K4P for lack of resources

The last question that was asked: How are we gonna get peace if there is a wall of separation? If the two populations are not connected?

The kids received a complex but yet hopeful answer: Any border is an invisible wall, and also walls can fall like in Berlin. The greatest wall is the mentality of people. Even if there are two states, you will also need some kind of border between the two states.

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The Diplomats also reminded the kids of their power and responsibility and working towards a change: “Remember that you guys have a lot of power, talk to the people about your dreams, about what you want to achieve. Raise your voice. Remember Rosa Parks ( African American civil rights activist) she was not alone and didn’t come unprepared. She was from a peace group in Tennessee. You can also bring change in society like Rosa Parks did.”

Overall kids showed a level of maturity and preparation that definitely surprised the diplomats who praised them. The kids were also satisfied with the session, feeling that their questions have been answered and the difficult topics addressed.

 

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Program Report: Friday, March 11th, 2016

Goal: Introduce the K4P community to sacred places in Jerusalem.  Understand the importance of Jerusalem for each faith tradition – and why the old city is a place of so much conflict.

Original Plan:
“Jerusalem 360” – Interfaith Walk through the Old City (rescheduled due to violence)

Revised Plan:
Dialogue for 30+ youth, parents and staff about daily life in Jerusalem, with guest facilitator Jay Rothman


STAFF NOTES

IMG_0029We just finished our meeting today and I have to tell you that we feel the support and we are thankful that Kids4Peace is a real community where people feel safe and obligated to. We will continue to do our work inshala and will continue to inspire and be inspired.
– Mohammad, Co-Director

 

It is not easy to keep living in Jerusalem with the amount of daily violence. Everyday, our kids4peace staff must make decisions about our lives: should we go to the office? should we keep the meetings and risk our children, young adults and ourselves or not. Each day I have the question: does my peace work really deserve to risk my life? if anything will happen to me (and too many times I have seen/hear the violence) — do I really believe that my work was deserve this risk?  I admire our team.

 

I feel holiness each day to be next to them, to hear the stories of their daily lives and see how they risk themselves for creating change. Each staff meeting looks as both: a special unit military meeting, which deal with life/death decisions and also as a seminar lead by the Dali Lama, full with mindfulness, spirituality, compassion, love and care.
 – Yakir, Director of Dialogue to Action project.  

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REFLECTIONS BY PARTICIPANTS

This morning we had a unique event of Kids4Peace, for parents, staff and children who decided to join together to deal, together, with the trauma of these days, to support each other and keep the work at homes, schools and in kids4peace for change and peace.

K4P children shared that they suffer at schools since they are youth for peace. Almost all of our staff had to deal with violence next to their eyes because of their decision to keep working in Kisd4Peace. We are all called with names – “traitors” is the most known.

We all lost friends and people we love because we demand to see the other side as humans too, since we demand from ourselves to feel their pain too (and not on the account of feeling the pain of our “natural” side). 


There was an attack close to my home in Jaffa. And we have a what’s up of the parents of my child’s kindergarten. I have sent a message about being ok, and no one answered. There are 35 people in this group and no one answered. And in K4P, always people write and care and call.


I feel there are two Jerusalems. In the Jewish one, no one really cares what is happening in the other side. You can live and not care and know what is happening a few miles next to you. Even during the shooting and stabbing I don’t talk about it.


I want to talk about feeling numbness. As an Arab, we are so using to hearing about shooting and stabbing and it sounds that the people are interchangeable. I was one of these people who just “heard about things.”  But 2 days ago, the shooting was next to the shop of my grandfather who is 80 years old. So, when it affects your family, it affects your personal feeling. I am so thankful for the meeting and have the place to express the feeling. I know that it will be taken in consideration that it is fragile, and I am thankful for feeling supported.


I had a bad experience at my school and class. My classmates had a debate with the teacher about the events from two days ago. We spoke about these crimes. But they didn’t even call it crimes – they supported the actions. The teacher called it a crime. I didn’t want to join the debate, since most people were against my opinion. The teacher closed the debate, since people were shouting.  So, I am glad to be here and to share my experience, and here I can express my feelings and make my hope stronger.


I was born at the heart of the old city in 1966. The place where I was born was called, Halti Sharaf. A few months after I was born the war of 67 happened, and it became part of the Jewish quarter. My parents and myself became refugees. And we got a place at Shuafat refugee camp, but when my parents saw the situation there, (and it is till today) they decided not to live there and they went to Siliwan.

And I grew up there as a refugee at this place in Silwan. Back then, as a child, I didn’t see the war, but my childhood was ok, but my school was at the old city, so I walked by the western wall and walked by the mosque (everything was open then) and went to my school. I have walked this way everyday. There was a monastery and we played there football and learned languages. Till they put walls.

Later, my father bought some land in Beit Haninah and we went there, but when the separation wall was built, our home was in Palestine, and it is all empty area and no one can live there because of the military.

The situation in Jerusalem has made everyone to lose the hope and dreams. I really want for real peace. Only then we can live together.

 

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This sounds like such a simple concept. But it is a remarkable fact of life in Israel that Arab and Jews who are sharing the same air and the same space and the same hot, daily grind, whose lives are so intricately bound up on one another, for the most part barely speak to each other.

One of the most precious aspects about the Kids4Peace parent meetings is the discovery that, as parents, we are all pretty much the same. We all try to get our kids off the computer, we all try to get them to clean up their rooms, we all live for school plays, academic presentations, sports games, and we all really just want a nice life for ourselves.

Still, Thursday night, October 22, was a little different. This was the first time we were meeting in a context of violent tension. Many people at the meeting said that they don’t remember a time when Jerusalem was this edgy: when life had completely come to a halt as everyone seemed to be staying home.

People are so anxious right now that Kids4Peace held a phone meeting for parents a few days earlier, under the assumption that most would not want to come in person. Significantly, Thursday’s group proved them wrong and, despite the surrounding events, some 60-70 parents turned up, from all sectors of society.

As people began sharing feelings and experiences, one Arab woman described a scene that really shook me. She had been looking after her elderly father in the hospital for the past few weeks, which gave her a ringside view of the comings and goings in the hospital around terror attacks. One day, when a female soldier had been stabbed and badly injured, the hospital staff made visitors make room for them to wheel the victim through the corridors. As she stood with her 8-year-old son she had a jarring conversation with him. He assumed, she told us, that the victim was an Arab woman. The mother said, “No, she’s Jewish”

“I don’t understand,” the child replied. “Why would a Jew stab another Jew?”

“No, no,” she gently explained. “The attacker wasn’t Jewish. He was an Arab.”

The boy could not comprehend this. His mother recounted that in his mind, the only violence that exists is Jews hurting Arabs. This is all he knows, and it’s all he has seen. He had no idea that the violence goes the other way, too.

When he realized his mistake, he said, ”That’s okay then.”

The woman, who is a long-time peace activist from Jerusalem who currently works in hi-tech, was also shocked by part of the conversation. And she said plainly, “I failed as a parent.” How can her son ever justify violence, she painfully wondered out loud.

Still, I don’t think she failed at all. First of all we cannot control everything our children see and experience. Second, she is trying to have compassionate conversations with her son and instill in him a deep sense of shared humanity — which is I think what many of us are trying to do. And let’s face it, considering the social and political tensions we are living through, it is a hard task. I told her, in the way so many of my female friends are constantly telling one another, to be kinder to herself. Still, she was shaken by the discovery that her son had it in him to believe that sometimes violence is okay, if it sort of “balances the scales” so to speak.

I was shocked because I could not believe how different the world looks for Arab children and Jewish children living in the same city.

For Jews, the only violence that we see or that “counts” is violence perpetrated against “us.” Against Jews. Meanwhile, for Arab children, apparently the only violence that they see is violence perpetrated against them. There is a symmetry here that would be charming if it weren’t so utterly tragic.

Jews like to deny this. When “numbers” of killed and injured on both “sides” are counted, Jewish pundits will go immediately to arguments of self-defense. Israeli news outlets frequently report only numbers of Jews dead, not Palestinians. News reports say, “There was an attack. No casualties reported; three terrorists were eliminated.” So actually, three Palestinians are dead, but their deaths don’t count as deaths if we can call them terrorists. Nobody dead means nobody Jewish dead. It is chilling that this is standard reporting in Israel.

Why are we then surprised that in the Palestinian community, they do the same thing? Why do Jews have so many media watchdogs to correct Palestinian narratives when our own narratives are just as skewed? It’s all messed up.

Plus, there is something even more chilling in this new round of violence in that so many of the terrorists are kids. I cannot conceive of a 13-year-old boy as a terrorist. I don’t know how he got to be a knife-wielding, but we cannot simply label a 7th or 8th grader as a “terrorist” without asking difficult questions about how he got to where he is. I don’t know the stories of these teenagers committing acts of violence, but I do understand that their families and friends will mourn their death regardless of their weapons. Israel may not count Palestinian dead as dead, but we should not be surprised that 8-year-old children witnessing events certainly will count their dead as dead.

One of the opinions shared by almost everyone in the group was that there is an awful lack of leadership — on both sides. When Palestinians said that Israelis need to elect better leaders, I could feel myself sinking into my post-election depression. Bibi again? What’s worse, he won precisely because of how successfully he instilled a fear and hatred of the other in Jewish Israeli minds: Run to the ballots because Arabs are voting in swarms, he effectively told voters on Election Day. And it worked! When people in the group last night said, “Elect different leaders”, all I could think was, I wish I knew how.

Significantly, it seems from our discussion that the Election Day experience has had a powerful impact on this current wave of violence. The dreadful validation that Arab Israelis — citizens and taxpayers of Israel — are still viewed by Israeli leaders as “the enemy” was a slap in the face to so many people. I totally get that. Rather than embrace Arabs who want to create a normal life for themselves in Israel, rather than look for ways to build bridges and find common ideals and passions, Bibi time and again reverts to the narrative that all non-Jews are potential enemies. Bibi created this nightmare that we are all living in.

Still, I said that I also came out hopeful. And that is because despite all of this, there are still many people (many? I don’t know exactly what many means, but enough to fill two large rooms with engaged conversation) on both sides who believe that another way is possible. There seems to be a growing number of people who are willing to think differently from friends around them, who are willing to challenge traditional narratives that we have all been fed about the “other” in society, and who are willing to consider perspectives other than their own.

This makes me hopeful because, previous elections notwithstanding, I think we are living in changing times — times when social media creates blink-of-the-eye awareness of events and at times unexpected relationships. Although researchers are mixed about whether social media makes people change their views on things or whether it creates millions of echo chambers, I think that it is impossible not to be influenced, even a little, by the volumes and volumes of ideas and perspectives that come through our personalized news feeds. It’s just not possible that we are not all changing, even a little, as we learn more about others. We are exposed to so much stuff all the time. And sociologists generally confirm that we are all becoming a little less driven by traditional communal affiliations and are instead redefining boundaries of affiliations, creating our own customized connections and communities. I think maybe this creates new opportunities – like the Kids4Peace parents meeting – for all of us to come to new understandings and new awareness.

At least I can hope. Hope itself is an idea worth hanging onto at times like this.

— Elana Maryles Sztokman, PhD is founding firector, The Center for Jewish Feminism

Read more: http://forward.com/sisterhood/323345/why-im-shocked-and-inspired-by-kids4peace/#ixzz3pngm6Ilh

by Yazan, Muslim participant, Jerusalem

11794441_915451221844836_3137224644963309201_oToday I got up particularly early for a morning shower. For breakfast, I warmed up a couple of pieces of toast. The day was made of dialogue sessions, at least one session with a guest speaker, lunch and dinner, swimming, and outdoor activities, as well as card games and throwing around a frisbee. We began the day with a challenging teambuilding activity, where we had to hold hands in a big circle and pass two hula-hoops around. The activity required lots of communication.

One of the highlights of this camp so far, Bill Cusano and his three volunteer assistants came to work with us all the way from New York City. They spoke to us about a project called the “Elijah” project, and presented each of us campers with a video camera, provided by sponsors that have a lot of faith in what we are doing and are looking forward to seeing the videos that we will be making. The videos will be about the ‘3 Sabbaths’, referring to the holy days of Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the three Abrahamic religions.11722055_915451281844830_3713642335937427211_o

We then had a session with Jeanie, a family therapist who told us about her career, and a couple of extremely meaningful stories of how important the ‘lens’ we wear are, meaning how much a perspective of things can vary from one person to another. One’s curse may be another’s blessing.

11722419_915451251844833_496912809283893935_oAfter a small break, we had a great lunch of kosher hamburgers and hotdogs. Our camp had many guests, which was very interesting since each camper had one guest to sit with while we ate our amazing food. The other Muslims and I (including an Imam, who was also our guest), prayed the significant Friday prayer for Muslims, which is taken as a day of rest in the Muslim world.

Afterwards, I met another Palestinian man, who is a friend of Fr. Nicholas, from a city in the West Bank called Jenin, which also happens to be where my great-grandmother lives. We had a very educational and meaning session with Youssef Bashir, a man from Gaza who came to tell us his first-hand account of his childhood and his very forgiving, peaceful father, who had forgiven the Israeli soldiers who nearly killed him, used his home as a military base, and in fact shot him in the back. We were all puzzled. How could one forgive someone after going through all that? This was something Youssef himself had to learn and understand over a long time.

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It cannot be easily expressed how life changing that morning was alone. ‘Seeing things in another perspective’ is indeed transformational. I’m not sure how many of us can develop as people without discussing the things we did today at camp
Our daily leadership skills program focused on Dignity. We talked about what Dignity is, the difference between Dignity and Respect, what are the essential elements of dignity, and what can violate one’s dignity. We then went up to swim in the pond, had our Jewish Shabbat prayers and ceremony with Rabbi Michael. After dinner, we had a very deep and meaningful dialogue session, where we talked about personal experiences when our own dignity was violated. We heard and shared many emotional, sad, and moving experiences that we had experienced.

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Talia (left) and Omar (right) welcome the crowd and host the Winter Event

On Tuesday, January 13, Kids4Peace Jerusalem hosted the Annual Winter Event, and saw record-breaking attendance, even after rescheduling last minute due to the anticipated snow storm in Jerusalem. Over 350 youth, families, and supporters came out to acknowledge the despair we have felt for the last 6 months and seek the inspiration to keep moving forward together as a community during such difficult times in Jerusalem.
With two Kids4Peace youth as the hosts (Omar, age 12 Muslim and Talia, age 13 Jewish), the evening opened with remarks from Kids4Peace Executive Director Fr. Josh Thomas, who mentioned several testaments of Kids4Peace’s success in the face of local shocks and setbacks. Firstly, Kids4Peace keeps working and coming together no matter what. Despite the violence and the war and the tension, Kids4Peace has yet to stop and that alone is huge. Secondly, Josh asked the audience to look around and notice that Kids4Peace has grown so much this year that a new location was necessary for community events!

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US Consul General Michael Ratney endorses Kids4Peace

The US Consul General of Jerusalem Michael Ratney, then addressed the audience with an empowering endorsement: Kids4Peace embodies what we in the Consulate General strive to achieve – ending the conflict and inspiring hope in Jerusalem and beyond.” Ratney’s words were so personal, showing such a close understanding of Kids4Peace’s activities and mission, that some community members mistook him for a parent or volunteer. Kids4Peace’s relationship with the US government has strengthened immensely in the last several months after receiving support from the US Consulate for the Video Newsletter project, personal visits with Shaun Casey, U.S. Special Advisor to the Secretary of State for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, and as demonstrated by an unannounced visit from USAID of West Bank & Gaza. Kids4Peace is so thankful for this growing partnership.

Three youth from the Counselor-in-Training course, Carla, Waleed, and Emanuel, then shared their stories. Read the transcript of their inspiring speeches by clicking here! Their words were followed by the annual slideshow, which can be watched here.

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The next part of the evening came after some deep thinking on behalf of the Kids4Peace staff and volunteers.What is the best way to inspire hope for peace in Jerusalem? How can we address the pain, fear, and distress we all fear while also showing our strength and belief in this important work? We decided to just be ourselves. Mohammad, Kids4Peace Jerusalem Co-Director and Meredith, Kids4Peace Director of Development stood side-by-side on stage and told their honest stories. They spoke of their fear of the “other”, their moments of realization that they misunderstand the “other”, and their unwavering commitments to Kids4Peace.

At this point in the evening, everything stopped. Mohammad and Meredith asked everyone present to turn to one another, say hello, and ask the tough question. “Why are you here? What is your story? What keeps you committed to Kids4Peace?” With tears in their eyes, Kids4Peace community members began to open up. They told each other their hardships, their fear, and their confusion. They confided in one another and found hope in one another. Kids4Peace embodies a culture of peace and empowers a movement for change. For the 350+ members of the audience that night, both were accomplished.

Kids4Peace would like to thank the international board, the US Consul General, the Kids4Peace Steering Committee, staff, advisors, volunteers, parents, and youth for not only attending the event, but for infusing the room with energy and inspiration. Together, peace is possible.

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.אנחנו הילדים של קידס4פיס, אנחנו פותחים את הלילה הזה עם תקווה ומקווים להקדיש נרות אלה לשלום

نحن أطفال سلام، نفتح الليل مع الأمل ونأمل أن تكرس هذه الشموع من أجل السلام

 We are the kids of Kids4Peace. We are opening this night with hope. We dedicate these candles to peace.

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Kids4Peace joined with Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities from Jerusalem to celebrate Hannukah, the Jewish festival of light, and shed some light on our shared difficult times. We were invited by Tag Meir and Kehilat Tzion to open the night “with hope.” Together we spoke of hope, light, peace, and the power of coming together to make change.

Four youth from Kids4Peace Jerusalem, Yazan (age 14, Muslim), Nicole (age 14, Muslim), Emanuel (age 15, Jewish), and George (age 15, Christian), spoke about light and their personal hopes for Jerusalem.

Other guests included  Brother Alberto Parry, Sheikh Mahammed, Capricorn Gevaryahu, poets and musicians and the community youth choir of the YMCA. Thank you so much to the dozens of Kids4Peace community members who came out to support our youth, and to Tag Meir and Kehilat Tzion for inviting us to join in this important prayer for light in the darkness.

 

Presentation to the Ecumenical Thanksgiving Service at Temple Kol Emeth, Marietta, GA
November, 2014

My name is Montaser Mohammad Mousa Khalil Suliman Mohammad Abdulrahman Mohammad Amro, but you can call me Mono. Recently, however, since returning to America, many people have had troubles with Mono, so I’m considering making it even simpler- Mike. Maybe even M. My story and the reason WHY I’m here, however, is not simple.

See, I’ve been an advocate for peace for almost ten years, and I believe that not only does peace come from within, but I believe that we can create change.

I was born in Bethlehem, Palestine on February 20, 1991 to Mohammad and Lamia Amro. My parents expected the best from me. This caused me to excel academically from a young age. When I was a sophomore in high school, I was selected to be an international foreign exchange student. I was elated because I was going to finally see the America that had starred in all of my favorite movies. But where was I going? Would I be heading to the city that never sleeps, New York? Or maybe I could spend my academic year in the Windy City- Chicago, Illinois. Maybe I could create memories that could only stay in the city of Las Vegas! I eagerly awaited the announcement of where my cultural learning would take place in the states.

However, my excitement came to a screeching halt when I read the name of a state I had never heard of before- Alabama. Little did I know, Alabama was the epitome of racial oppression, even in present day. My work was definitely cut out for me. I arrived in the fall of 2006 and quickly realized that I could not live in this state for long. I planned to return to Palestine and go back to the life I knew. I lived in an apartment where I shared a bedroom with 2 young children as well as another foreign exchange student. There were four of us sleeping on two beds in a house with no heat and hardly ever any hot water. This made the hot summers in Palestine look like a Florida vacation. However, I later met a family that took me in, gave me a much bigger room and a bed of my own. Things were looking up, except for the fact that I shared the house with the family’s mentally disabled aunt. We got along great! Until one day she decided she no longer wanted me in her house and decided to chase me with a knife! The only person’s number I had in my phone was a guy I had met a few weeks earlier- Corey. Corey and I didn’t like each other very much, but I knew that he was a loyal guy.

Corey ended up letting me move into his house, and even became my legal guardian while in the states! This experience dramatically changed my life, as well as my perception and tolerance of others, mainly because Corey and I hated each other in the beginning. After moving in with Corey, I slept in the same room with him on his couch. We spent many nights comparing Islam to Christianity, talking about racism and music. However, our deepest conversations stemmed around a subject that we both were passionate about- food. He soon started referring to me as his brother and showed me that not all Americans are the same. Corey got the school to allow me to go to prom, go to Panama City Beach for Spring Break, attend concerts, church meetings, late night movie screenings and even introduced me to the culinary delicacy known as Taco Bell.

Saying goodbye at the summer of 2007 was not an easy thing to do, even when just a few months prior, I was begging to go back home. After returning back to Palestine, I pursued a degree in Civil Engineering from Palestine Polytechnic University. After graduating university in 2013, I decided to set my sights on my true passion- bringing peace.

I searched around for different ways to help, and stumbled across an organization called Kids 4 Peace this organizations’ mission was a simple grassroots , interfaith concept dealing with youth , its main vision is to end the conflict and inspire hope , not just in Jerusalem but also in all societies around the world , kids4peace mission is to build interfaith communities that embody a culture of peace and empower a movement of change . I immediately enrolled to become an Advisor !

People often ask me what Kids 4 Peace means to me. There is no simple answer to this. When you truly have a passion for something, you’re following everything with your heart- not your mind.

Therefore, I can not quite put a simple answer into words. However, I reflect on my past. I think back to the days that I vowed to see Israel fall. I think back to the days that I viewed America as a corrupted country. I then think back not too long ago when my mind was changed and I realized I was wrong. I could not continue to live life generalizing every culture. I realized during my visit in 2007 that no two people are alike. However, it didn’t stop at someone’s nationality, it also extended to their religious beliefs. Famous, influential musician John Lennon said it best when he said, “I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe that what people call God is something in all of us. I believe that what Moses , Jesus and Mohammed and all the rest said was right. It’s just that the translations have gone wrong.”

These spiritual leaders had many messages, verses and direction. However, every word ever spoken by them was deeply rooted by one simple message- love. Anne Frank believed that no matter the physical and psychological torture she and her family were put through people still had good in them , she said that despite everything I believe that people are really good at heart.  Despite everything a young girl who was beaten , starved , molested , witnessed hundreds of thousands of Jewish executions , this girl said despite of all that people still have a heart , as many know , the conflict between Israel and Palestine have gotten worse throughout our lifetime , there’s unnecessary killing and violence on both sides , there’s unfiltered hatred on both sides and will never be validated.

Imam Ali “ KAW “ even said , “ ignorance reveals itself in the following , being very angry without cause , speaking without need , rewarding the undeserving , not distinguishing between friend and foe , the ignorant never realizes his mistake “ , I believe change can happen , when you refuse change for humanity , you’re putting your own selfish agenda before anyone else .

As Leon Uris once said “After all, the only thing that is going to save mankind is if enough people live their lives for something or someone other than themselves.”  It was also John Lennon that helped coin the phrase “all you need is love.”

This message is so simple, yet so influential. All you need is love. The world does not need us. The world does not need the Bible, the Quran or any other religious text. Because that’s all it is- text. It is a tangible thing. However, love is intangible. It can not be physically touched, but can be felt. Love does not have an image, but can be seen. It can not make a noise, but can be heard. Love is the most complex, confusing, terrifying yet gorgeous and fascinating thing that will be a part of this Earth for eternity…as long as we let it.

Kids 4 Peace has helped me utilize my tools to show that love can overcome anything.

To quote another wise man, Master Yoda, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Kids 4 Peace taught me that love can make us brave. Love can bring joy and can end the suffering.

During the Israeli-Palestinian conflict of 2014, there were 2200 reported deaths on both sides. However, the true numbers will never be known. What can be known is that during the same year, Kids 4 Peace held a camp with over 100 campers from both conflicting sides. If each camper told 10 people of their enlightened time spent with the organization, we could reach over half the number of the reported casualties…in one year. Amazing. The organization is still young, and so is my role within it. However, I plan on being an integral part of this organization for however long they allow me.

Rabbi Noah Weinberg said “ if you don’t know what you’re living for , you haven’t yet lived “ I feel my purpose on this Earth is to make change and bring peace. Change starts young, with kids. I can bring change with Kids 4 Peace.

I would love to thank kids4peace for helping me come back to where I now call home- America. I would also like to thank them for allowing me the opportunity to create the change that my heart aches for every day. Many people walk through life wondering what purpose does their life have. I’m privileged to not only know what my purpose is, but be able to fulfill it. I would also like to thank the congregation of Temple Kol-Emeth for the invitation to come and visit with you , as well as the acceptance of someone of my Islamic faith my faith in rooted in my love for mankind no matter their background.  Thank you

by Dagan, K4P Volunteer

On Friday, we started with a small sharing presence exercise in small groups asking questions: What do I see? what do I hear? What do I feel? Each kid shared a meaningful thought and we moved on to some tougher questions:

  1. Expectations from our parents — do our parents understand us? I asked if their parents had no expectations from them at all, how would it be for them?

  2. Qualities of a leader: communications skills, charismatic, brave, powerful, thinks of others… Can anyone be a leader? Inside we all have the potential, but for some of us it’s harder because somethings is blocking us from achieving this goal (for example, a shy person).

  3. What can we change in ourselves? Somethings we are born with and cannot change, but inner qualities can change.

During our dialogue on Saturday, the youth had some incredible thoughts:

“If we are all human, why don’t we take care of each other?” -Eyal, Jewish

“War doesn’t resolve the conflict, it only makes it worse… the cycle of revenge.  We should remember that in reality, there are different perspectives than ours.  I don’t necessarily agree with you, but I can respect your way and your own thoughts.” -Lara, Christian

“If peoples’ needs are met, they will be no more reason for war.” -Ismail, Muslim

As the conversations got deeper, more questions were raised in the circle:

-What started the war in Gaza?

-Are we effective? Are we doing enough for peace? We meet each other and talk.. but then what? Can we do more?

-How will the world know about us? Some of the kids talked to other guests, and told them about K4P and even invited them to join us!

-What happened to us personally during the war?

Then Rebecca, K4P co-director asked the youth: What is missing in the dialogue? Where are the things that we don’t agree about, or hard for us to raise? Is talking enough? Can we do more? How can we take more responsibility?”

10801494_10152334784256292_753821377979961704_nBefore closing up the weekend, we all came together for a summary circle to look ahead at the eyar:

  1. During this year we’ll be going deeper into the subjects of this weekend seminar.

  2. One of our main goals: being more aware of ourselves, bringing our full presence to the circle.

  3. Learn to express more of our feelings, and notice the difference between feelings and thoughts.

  4. K4P is not only fun any more, this year will be more meaningful and demands more.

 

We asked the youth, what did you learn?

  • The importance of listening.

  • To respect others is key…

  • That I can understand someone without agreeing with him.

  • About myself and my friends.

  • On other’s opinions.

  • I don’t know all the facts about the war, and what I know is not the entire story.

  • Not to complain but to deal with the way things are.

Questions we take home:

  • What is unchangeable in me?

  • Is it enough to speak, or should we act (to give others hope)?

  • Do I do enough in my community?

  • Can anyone be a leader?

by Nadine, Christian advisor, Jerusalem

The first meeting of the new Video Newsletter program with Kids4Peace Jerusalem’s Young Adults went amazing. The youth were so happy to see each other. The program dealt with the psychology behind the three elements of communication in a performance: content, sound (voice) and show (body language). We analyzed each separately, understanding the concept through a game or exercise and then discussed how it might be implemented in their videos. Then, we had two participants “present” to the group and then analyzed their performance through the elements we had learned. Finally, our guest speaker Myra shared with us her amazing experience when she had to do a video of her sister. The kids started to look at the video from a professional side. They paid attention to the camera’s angle, lighting, body language of the presenter, sound, and content. In this way, they implemented what they learnt in the first part of the meeting. They left with very positive feeling about the program and they were all looking forward for the next meeting.

Some of the youth’s reactions:

“Most of our communication is through body language, so we have to use the right body posture in order to give out the intended information.” -Carla

“Voice can change the meaning of a sentence. Putting the emphasis on different words can change the whole meaning.” -George

“When you work hard on a piece of art, and you invest a lot of effort, you automatically become related to it.” -Adan

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“It feels like a huge relief to take everything we’ve been doing for the last 5 years and finally the world will know about it. The program isn’t just about video, it’s giving us so many lessons and skills that we can use to spread the message.” – Emmamuel, age 15

As part of our mission to “Empower a movement for change“, Kids4Peace Jerusalem has launched a new social action project for its high school youth, titled “My Jerusalem”. This project, sponsored by the US Consul General of Jerusalem, will facilitate creating cross-border video newsletter, and will equip a core group of our Palestinian and Israeli youth to actively engage in promoting peace and mutual understanding. This project will provide a forum for sharing stories from people and places normally inaccessible to young people from different religious backgrounds. It will place a special focus on youth voices and their personal and religious connection to Jerusalem.

“I feel that the biggest challenge is being truthful about what I really feel and think without hurting my Israeli friends. In the Leadership Camp this summer, they taught us how to have a proper dialogue so that we can say what we mean and trust that we can be ourselves.” -Adan, age 15

A main goal in this program is for the newsletter team to show the reality of each other’s lives to the other side: both the positive elements and the challenges of injustice, fear, violence, and poverty. These local stories will honestly address the historical, political, cultural and religious dimensions of Jerusalem through the perspective of hopeful committed youth leaders who are working together for peace.

“When we do talk about the conflict and we say the really hard things, we have to learn how to put it aside after. I’m always worrying, is this going to affect the way we see each other after the dialogue? But so far it hasn’t.  I didn’t only have to learn the skill of how to listen, but also to trust that everyone else is learning it too and they’ll be able to set things aside when the dialogue is over.” -Emmanuel

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