Archives For Jerusalem

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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As part of the theme, “My Land, Your Land, Whose Responsibility”, Roots camp focuses on issues of identity and responsibility. This project shows just one example of how the process works
 
Each kid made two individual watercolor paintings depicting 1.) who they were when they began K4P, and 2.) who they are now (including their hopes for where they are going on their journey with peace). Each youth then presented both pieces, all of which will hang in the camp activity room for the duration of the program.
 
The discussion showed how far the youth have come from the beginning of their participation with K4P as they finish their third year in the 6-year program. Many spoke of how they need to work at peace, one youth even painted a battery with a peace sign, with connecting wires of both the Israeli and Palestinian colors, noted that we need to constantly re-charge our selves and engage in the work with renewed energy. Peace will not just come – we need to work at it. This sentiment was echoed by the participants and noted as a key learning in their participation with K4P. Many youth, through their paintings, referenced how things are less black and white for them now, how things have become “messier,” but that with this comes more understanding of the other and a desire to be more open.
 
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Here’s a glimpse into the first day of camp:

The energy on the 4-hour bus ride down to the desert felt nothing short of miraculous, as ten Israeli and Palestinian teenagers from Jerusalem took the brave step of joining together for a week of intensive learning, sharing, and growing.

Opening of the day: Fears/Hopes/Expectations:  Youth spoke about their fears in leaving home during this turbulent time, all who had reservations were happy they decided to come. Many felt concerned that their close friends were not attending camp this year, but they saw this challenge as an opportunity to get to know others in the group better. It seemed that the concerns about loneliness were lost on the bus as they felt they came together as a group.

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“Personal Key of Success”: Each participant stated what they could bring to the camp to make it a success and placed a key around their neck.
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Pool time was a great break from the heat. All the youth passed the camp’s swim test with our on-site lifeguard with flying colors, cheered each other on, and enjoyed popsicles and relaxing and hanging out together.
 
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“Desert Solo”:  Night hike under the stars, with guided time for group and individual reflection. This is always a turning point in camp for bonding with each other, and the land we all connect with so deeply. 

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*All donations to Roots Camp 2014 have been matched by actress and K4P supporter Natalie Portman! We are so appreciative to her incredible generosity. We loved meeting Natalie at our offices this past winter, and could not be happier with her support.
 

by Reeham Subhi, Co-Director of Education for Kids4Peace Jerusalem

The atmosphere at this camp is truly amazing. Every minute I feel inspired. From ease at the airport, through to camp running so smoothly: it is just amazing. It meant so much to me to celebrate my birthday at Kids4Peace. There is nowhere else in the world that felt more important and meaningful right now than the Kids4Peace family. It really feels like home. I feel happy for real, for the first time in many weeks.

The kids are so excited. You don’t feel any anger between them now just excitement and relief. The last few meetings with the kids and their parents were very difficult because of the situation. It was an important process but as soon as we got to the airport you could feel their readiness to be together. This isn’t just an escape. Yes, the farm is beautiful and living together is bonding. But the youth are working hard, learning a ton, and growing personally and as a community.

One of my favorite programs so far was the Fishbowl. It happened to have been an exceptionally difficult day in Palestinian and Israeli society after 2 terror attacks in Jerusalem. Even with the current events, the kids participated wholeheartedly. We divided the youth by national identity: Palestinians, Israelis, and Americans. Each group had 20 minutes to just vent out all of their feelings and experiences about everything that has been happening lately regarding the violence, hatred, and horrible news. No one was allowed to interrupt, comment, ask questions, or anything. They had to all listen to each other 100%. It worked. The kids had so much to say and were real and emotional and straightforward. Their peers listened to them and didn’t challenge them until the second part of the activity. 

The second part of the activity was to discuss forgiveness: and not just any forgiveness, national forgiveness. Each group sat together and tried to figure out if and how their own society could forgive the other. I’ll be honest, it was too much to ask of them. It is so relevant to right now, so hard for them to let go. Realizing this as facilitators could have felt frustrating but it had the opposite effect. We saw the beauty in the kids desire to listen to each other. Their inability to forgive the national tragedies mattered less than the desire to reach it. These youth are the answer and I know they will get there. I am more inspired now than ever before. 

These kids can go deeper and deeper. We need more time, more programs, to meet more often. I have my work cut out for me but I’ve never felt more ready. We have a great staff and team of facilitators and we accept the challenge. Our dear leadership, camp may be coming to a close but our work has only begun.

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After Breakfast, noted educator, the Rev. Stephanie Green, led a interactive workshop on the sacredness and centrality of water in our lives and cultures. She lives in New Haven. 

There were a number of guests at lunch including Debbie and Court who are to lead an interactive workshop series on mediation and communication. Debbie is a local professor in Vermont and Court is an actor. We loved it. Leadership training with Jack and Reeham followed.

Dorothy cooks great food and Nicholas continues to whoop Hassan in backgammon.

After dinner the counselors had their own facilitated dialogue, and Victoria led an interactive workshop on what does peace look like. It uses poems, and art and speaches and Scripture to inspire a vision of peace in each of us. She lives in London and NYC.

Later, around a bonfire, Ami and Gabri Yares gave a concert. We sang songs in Hebrew, Arabic and English. They are really good. Some of our Jewish friends were fasting for Tisha B’av and missed the concert.

 

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by Jill,
Kids4Peace Jerusalem Coordinator for Boston Group

Not the routine check at El AL as our Kids4peace group of Israeli and Palestinian kids and staff from West, East Jerusalem and Ramallah arrived to the airport yesterday. Greeted by an amazing young woman who embraces rather than intimidates our group as she checks us through reminding us of the essence of what security can mean. She literally embraced us as you can see in picture below.

She asks the usual security questions and notes immediately our many passports of different colors and countries of origin. She pauses at Mariam’s (our Christian Advisor) and can’t believe that she is holding the document of a Palestinian from Ramallah. Today standing in front of her, Gaza in the background while our peoples continue to kill, but Mariam in front of her standing for peace.

She can’t restrain herself and praises Mariam and the work we do. We start talking and learn more about  this amazing young woman, security agent currently working at the airport to earn enough money to go on her post-army trek. She shares with us her morning coming from Kfar Sabba where she has lived her life, having grown up a few doors down from Hadar Goldin (z”l), knows his brother Yuval, having grown up in the neighborhood together. She was crying all night and this morning when hearing that kidnapped Hadar has now been declared dead. A relief though, she said, that he is at least not a captive, alive. His funeral can take place without the body.

Our lovely security agent then tells us that two other friends of hers were killed in Gaza this last month. Devastating. And to add, she taps into earlier traumas of her young life, almost blown up twice in two near miss bombings. “Near misses ” that left their mark. Putting all of her trauma and loss aside, she tells us how important  our work is and that we  should reach out to thousands more. I suggested that maybe next year she could jump over to the  other side of her security -check podium to join us in our work!

We asked for her details and if we could take a photo to remember this very positive moment as our journey began. She said, YOU all have made my day– of course! Mariam outstretched her hand giving this agent her Ramallah phone so that she could input her details.  What a twist of events!!!!

As we were boarding our plane to Rome, I sent the photo to our new buddy/security agent, and this is what she wrote back to me…

“I’m so happy for you guys
Always remember that your cause is very important
May we all have peace soon
Every day people like YOU make this day come closer.”

Amen to that.

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Last night, Kids4Peace Jerusalem protested against the violence. We left our families, we left our bomb shelters, our neighborhoods, our villages, to come together as a community. Yes, many of us were terrified. Some community members and even staff sent messages of love and support but were too afraid to join.

In Kids4Peace Jerusalem, many members of our community have been directly affected by the terror and violence. Whether it be close personal relationships with the teenage boys who were murdered, military lock-down, inability to enter Jerusalem, violence in our neighborhoods, cities, and even inside some homes. Everyone in Jerusalem has felt threatened, felt afraid, and had run to a bomb shelter at least once, and the war in Gaza and the violence around us is growing.

What was our action? We had dinner. We: Jews, Christians, and Muslims, Palestinians and Israelis. We broke bread together. We caught up with old friends. We lent each other our ears, our shoulders, and our hearts. We feel that now more than have to take a stance against violence and this interfaith Iftar was just the beginning.

Kids4Peace Jerusalem co-director Mohammad Joulany opened the evening with a few explanatory words about the holy month of Ramadan, the spiritual opportunities it provides, and how an Iftar is a family dinner that breaks the daily fast. In the last few moments before sundown, members from each religion stood up and offered a prayer over the food. As the sun started to set over the 11th night of Ramadan, all who attended felt like family and broke the fast together.

Udi, K4P Jerusalem Steering Committee Chair compared the violence to the Kindergarten that he runs. He asked everyone to imagine what would happen if one of the kids came to him and said: so-and-so ruined my drawing, and his reply would be: well then go on and ruin everyone else’s drawing too. This, he pointed out, is the extremism in our societies. They are trying to destroy everything, but here we are coming together despite it all, making a stance against violence.

#ViolenceStopsWithMe  #TogetherPeaceIsPossible

Below are quotes by those who attended the event. 

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“I came to prove to others that it is possible to be around people from the other side.”
-Eden, 9th grade, Muslim

“I came to show that other than all the fighting between Arabs and Jews, there is still a way here to show peace and love.” -Carla, 9th grade, Christian

DSC_0094  “I came because I wanted to come. The war is making us all divide up and be on separate sides. It just makes me want to come even more to settle things down.” -Aviya, 7th grade, Jewish

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“The dinner was a success, as I was in a room where Muslim, Jews and Christians were eating, talking laughing together I remembered John Lennon’s song: Imagine…”  – Zahava, mother of Liav (Jewish)

“This is a really interesting meeting, but we have to build on it. It is one thing to come together, but let’s see how much we can make it grow.” -Francis, father of Mira (Christian)

“Yes, it is Ramadan and we came without the whole family. It is so important for us to be part of this meeting. We are Kids4Peace people, we are really in it.” -Aref, father of Adel (Muslim)

If it wasn’t for K4P I might have just grown up with the idea of hatred in my mind, and without the idea of being peacefully active.

Hailing originally out of East Jerusalem, Sami Qumri was a Kids4Peace camper in the early years, way back in 2004. Originally, he just wanted to make friends and learn about different cultures. What he discovered he gained in the process was a different mindset, one that believes in peace and looks for opportunities to pursue it.

Sami comes from a Christian background, “Not super religious, but enough to be a good Christian,” he says. He’s currently studying graphic and web design at Brevard College, with a minor in business marketing. He balances school with working as a bartender and DJ.

Having participated so long ago, before social media became the prevalent force it is today, Sami unfortunately had a tough time maintaining relationships with the friends he made. That’s one of the main reasons he’s reached out to K4P, he’d like to be involved as a leader and reconnect with the K4P community.

Sami was very generous in taking the time to tell me more about his story:

sami qumri“I joined K4P in high school. We started by forming meetings at St. George’s college. Our families would come and organize various activities. That went on for a few weeks, then we prepared for our trip to Houston. Having traveled to the states before, I didn’t encounter many surprises—I had a little feel for it.

I remember Camp Allen very well. We spent a week there getting acquainted with the American campers. It was just like having fun with my friends at home: learning, building connections, and bonding across cultures. It’s been 7 years, but that’s the most significant thing I remember, how good that felt. That was what I liked. Being Christian didn’t make it difficult at all to connect or feel included.

I always grew up with an understanding of the conflict and what was going on. But I also had the mentality that people just don’t get along and are full of hatred. I was caught off guard by K4P, I wasn’t expecting to make new friends, or even get along. Bonding over all the different activities there helped me to make some very good friends—I loved it so much. It stays in my heart, it changed me, my view. If it wasn’t for K4P I might have just grown up with the idea of hatred in my mind, and without the idea of being peacefully active.

Whenever I think of K4P there’s always one memory that pops into my head, a picture of my classmate and another friend, arm in arm. It was a very good memory, a great image that really touched me and totally demonstrated exactly what K4P is all about.

After participating, I talked a lot about the experience. My whole family was engaged, and so were my classmates, one of whom had also participated. A lot of our friends did not have the chance to travel so it was very exciting for them to hear about. They were so interested, they loved it. Some of my classmates and neighbors actually went and applied to participate.

For two or three years after participating, the other participants and I all remained close. It was easy because we were still in high school, and the K4P staff would help organize reunions to help maintain our connection. After we graduated, it became much more difficult.

Being here isolates the day to day stuff going on back home. I’m more free to move without checkpoints and soldiers checking IDs. I try to keep up with the news, and if it wasn’t for family I wouldn’t know what’s really going on. The media is so different, there’s always two sides to the story. At this point, I’ve sort of gotten used to being away, having spent so much time here.

I’ve been interested in raising awareness here at Brevard. I often meet people who don’t know about the conflict, or don’t even know what Jerusalem is, crazy as that can be. On the other hand there are some faculty at school who have traveled to Jerusalem and are more aware. I had a good talk with one faculty member in particular, which led to me doing a series of powerpoint presentations, talking about the conflict and what it’s like for people there. Students were engaged and it raised a lot of questions for them.

 

Kids4Peace young leaders: Toot, Mohammad, Mary, and Louis
**starring in**
KidsSpeak! with Molly Livingstone!
Episode 2: Social Media and Freedom of Speech