Archives For Staff Reflections

Solidarity in Seattle

Jordan Goldwarg —  November 26, 2016 — Leave a comment

by Jordan Goldwarg, Northwest Regional Director

In my life, I don’t think I have ever had the experience of an unknown grown man hugging me while breaking down in tears. Today, it happened twice.

These have been an intense, emotional few weeks in the United States. To add to the weight of those emotions, last weekend, someone vandalized the main sign at the Muslim Association of Puget Sound, the largest mosque in the Seattle area and one of K4P’s oldest partners in the region.

maps-vandalism

In an act of vandalism, someone took a sledgehammer to the granite sign outside MAPS (photo courtesy of MAPS)


In response to this act of hate, MAPS responded with love and hospitality by hosting an Open House for the whole community to come and learn the truth about Islam as a religion of peace.

The Kids4Peace community showed up in force for the Open House and also stayed afterward to hold up signs of support as members of the MAPS community arrived for the large Jum’ah prayer.

Standing in front of the mosque with our signs was such a simple act. It literally took only minutes to coordinate the invitation to our families and to make signs (which for some families, became a fun Thanksgiving activity!). This simple act, however, had a profound impact on the members of the MAPS community who saw it — and by extension, on all of us from K4P who were there. Countless people came over to talk to us and to thank us for standing together with them. Some brought snacks and sweets to share with us, further extending the hospitality of the Open House. Many people took photos or selfies with the group. And toward the end, a teenager approached and asked if it would be okay to take a photo of his grandfather with the group. The older gentleman had sunglasses on, so it was hard to read his expression. But when he put his arms around the shoulders of me and a K4P father as we posed for the photo, we could feel him start to sob. After the photo, without saying a word, he hugged each of us as the tears streamed down from under his sunglasses.

20161125_120347

Standing in front of MAPS

It is so important for Jews, Christians, and others to be strong allies for our Muslim friends and neighbors right now. A simple act of support goes such a long way toward lifting people’s spirits and making everyone feel like they belong in our communities.

In the wake of this divisive election campaign, if you are thinking about concrete things you can do to make a positive difference in the world, here is one easy solution: grab a group of friends of family (or both!), make some signs, and stand outside your local mosque during Friday prayers. You will be making a world of difference.

by Hannah Hochkeppel, K4P Seattle Program Director

An Evangelical Christian Pastor, a Unitarian Minister, a Buddhist Monk, and a Jewish Business Woman walk in to a room … and it is not the beginning of a bad or confusing joke!

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of attending Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry’s Interfaith Harmony Week banquet.  The theme of this year’s banquet was, “What in the world are we here for?”  This question, one I think many of us often ask ourselves in jest, was addressed by each of the 4 panelists.  Each panelist spoke from his or her own personal experience and personal faith tradition.  Despite the extremely different approaches to faith, spirituality, and the human experience, each panelist spoke of the interconnectedness of humanity and of a desire to work always for the greater good.

Rev. Jon Luopa, a Unitarian Minister, spoke of the transitive versus intransitive use of the word hope.   For so many, hope is confined to a specific item or idea – hoping for good weather on vacation, or hoping for a favorite present on our birthday.  Luopa challenged the audience to think more broadly about how we define hope.  What if hope was instead the way that we chose to approach our life each day?  What if hope brought about a self-awareness of the responsibility we have to the greater good?

Taijo, a Buddhist Monk, began his sharing with the story of a lotus flower, growing in a lotus pond to be big and beautiful, with an unrivaled delicious scent.  He painted the picture for all of us of this beautiful flower.  Then he began to describe the pond that the flower grows in.  Stagnant water, compost and waste, dirt and mud, the list goes on but it is obvious that this pond is dirty and smells decidedly less delicious than the flower.  This description jarred us from our image of this beautiful flower, to an image drastically different.  Taijo left us with this thought: if a flower as beautiful as the Lotus could grow from the disgusting lotus pond, what can come from the difficult, and decidedly less hopeful situations that we find ourselves in from day to day, week to week?

lotuspond

As I was reflecting on the question, “Why on earth are we here,”  I settled on the word we.  We are here, we exist in the world.  I do not exist alone, nor do others exist alone, but we all exist together.  Many times this existing together as a dynamic we means that we find ourselves in messy lotus ponds fraught with political arguments, violent actions, and prejudice based on any number of judgements that one passes on the other.  Despite this mess, how does hope influence what grows?

In Kids4Peace, the interfaith work that we do is often messy.  It is hard, and emotionally draining.  Yet, it is also beautiful and life-giving.  The intentionality that we have as we cultivate growth amidst the messiness, intentionally seeing and upholding the gifts we see in others, gives me hope.  I am hopeful for the greater good of the we when I see others willing to come together amidst the mess, to find the roots for what one day, I hope, will be a big and beautiful flower.

LotusFlower

by Jordan Goldwarg, K4P Northwest Regional Director

There are times when the life of Kids4Peace gets so busy that time seems to warp in a way that allows us to do more than we ever thought possible. This past weekend was one of those times here in Seattle.

Friday

8:30am: The work of Kids4Peace spans the globe, and 8:30am in Seattle, USA (Country #1) is 5:30pm in Lyon, France (Country #2), where I Skyped with the leader of K4P’s chapter-in-formation there. They are hard at work building the first European chapter, in a country that has seen too much violence supposedly committed in the name of religion this past year.

10am: Hop on GoToMeeting with our Executive Director (currently in Jerusalem, Country #3) for a conversation with the director of a Canadian (Country #4) foundation that funds peacebuilding projects in the Middle East, seeking ideas for working collaboratively to drive greater funding to programs working on peace and reconciliation in Jerusalem, a place that too many programs stay away from because they view the situation as too complicated.

11am: Pull out my phone (how many different communication platforms can I use today?) for an extended conversation with a colleague in Boston about the program design of our new Global Institute in Washington, DC this summer.

1:30pm: In-person meeting with Hannah, our Program Director, and a local Christian couple who have been working on building relationships with local Muslims and who are interested in finding out more about Kids4Peace and where there might be opportunities for collaboration.

3:30pm: Back on the phone for a quick chat with the Education Director of a local synagogue who wants to explore the possibility of creating a Peace Pal program between youth at his synagogue and K4P youth in Jerusalem.

Saturday

2:00pm: K4P Seattle youth gather at St. Mark’s Cathedral for our first overnight retreat of the year. (Stay tuned for another blog post about the retreat, written by one of our counselors!)

2:30pm: With the help of local Palestinian and Israeli K4P volunteers, we learn some basic phrases in Arabic and Hebrew (Shalom! Marhaba!). Although lots of fun to learn these words, we also get frustrated as we learn more and more and start having trouble remembering what we learned early on. We have a discussion about what it must be like for our Jerusalem friends when they come to camp in the US and need to work entirely in a second (or third!) language.

IMG_20160109_144815342_HDR

Risa and Evan play a language-learning game, practicing their Arabic and Hebrew.

 

4:30pm: After a game of Malcolm Ball (rules made up as we go by Malcolm, our Christian Faith Advisor), we cook dinner and settle in to watch the Pixar movie, Inside Out.

5:00pm: Meanwhile, I hop in the car and head across town to attend a Jeffersonian Dinner hosted by a K4P Seattle Board member. Over a lavish feast of Middle Eastern food, the group discusses the social justice issues that we feel drawn to, and we find a sense of solidarity through sharing our experiences. The guests also pledge generous financial support to Kids4Peace, allowing us to continue building interfaith communities that embody a culture of hope and empower a movement for change.

11:30pm: I head back to St. Mark’s Cathedral, stopping to pick up a late-night snack of chocolate for the K4P staff who have spent all night playing games and having fun with our youth. After debriefing the evening’s activities with the staff, we all get into our sleeping bags and lie down on our air mattresses to go to sleep at 1am.

Sunday

7:30am: Three of our older participants decide to replicate the camp experience by waking everyone up with cheerful shouts of, “GOOD MORNING, EVERYBODY!”

8:00am: Pancake breakfast bar! (With blueberries, bananas, and chocolate chips)

9:00am: We begin a final dialogue session for the weekend, focusing on the difficult question of how to integrate our two cohorts of participants (7th and 8th graders) into a single group. Despite all of our practice getting to know “the other,” it can still be a challenge to step outside our comfort zone.

12pm: Pack up our stuff, have a quick lunch, and then walk 30 minutes across Capitol Hill to our final destination of the weekend, Jewish Family Service, where we spend an hour volunteering in their food bank, packing bags of groceries to be delivered to people who physically cannot make the trip there.

1:30pm: I step out of the food packing for a few minutes to help one of our high-school counselors work on an application to have K4P represented at a Teen Action Fair hosted by the Gates Foundation Visitor Center. If selected, we’ll have the opportunity to tell hundreds of local youth about K4P and how they can get involved.

2:00pm: The weekend wraps up with a discussion hosted by a Jewish Family Service educator about the concept of dignity and how the food bank has been designed specially to preserve the dignity of people accessing the service (e.g. allowing people to “shop” at the food bank, selecting their own goods, rather than simply being handed a bag of food).

3:00pm: Parents arrive to pick up their kids, and the staff head home, exhausted but happy. What a weekend!

by April, Communications Associate (K4P Seattle)
 
I knew it was true before I attended K4P camp for the first time, but now I can share with certainty that this truly is a special place.
 
I am relatively n ew to the K4P organization, and was thrilled to have the opportunity to visit the Seattle Camp for a few days.  I had no idea what a memorable few days it would be.
 
My first evening at Camp, I was welcomed with smiles and greetings from a world of people I had never met, but am now so thankful to know.  At dinner I heard the kids discuss their exciting day in Seattle, in which they had visited Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, where the Christian kids read prayers in English, Arabic, and Hebrew.  Later in the evening, the kids met with Hannah and Najla, Christian Faith Advisors, to go over thoughts and questions they had about the service.  I also heard excitement at dinner over their “surprise” visit to the Space Needle, Seattle’s most notable landmark.
 
One thing that has become abundantly clear, just in my few days at camp, is how dedicated counselors and staff are to making this experience a truly rich one for each and every Kids4Peace kid.  The dialogue sessions are an excellent example of that.  In these sessions, the kids have an opportunity to explore their feelings in a safe and supportive environment.  They are taught strategies and words to use as tools to equip them to handle the various emotions and feelings that conflict may bring into their lives.
 
Beyond these sessions, counselors and staff are attentive to the various needs of the kids throughout the day.  Since camp is a 24/7 experience for these eleven/twelve year olds, some conflict is bound to happen naturally.  It has been amazing to see how the kids are cared for and listened to throughout it all.  Kids4Peace teaches kids to be with each another and confront conflict in ways that are respectful of one another and of themselves.  I have no doubt that these kids will take these life-lessons back home with them, facing conflict with this approach.  This is the beginning of the building of peace-makers; meeting them where their own hurts and needs are, and working with them to peacefully resolve them.
 
It is also true that the kids themselves are quite remarkable.  I have been in awe of the kindness and generosity they have shown each other in their words and actions.  Even in frustrated moments, they do their best to express themselves with grace toward one another.  It is something I have learned from in my short time here, and something I expect comes from real-life experiences beyond what I may have faced as an eleven/twelve year old.
My second night at Camp, the group participated in “Movie Night.”  The chosen movie was called “Smoke Signals,” and it was about two young men who live on an Indian Reservation in Idaho.  The movie revealed themes of identity and forgiveness, both of which are very important to the K4P mission.  After the movie, the kids shared what came up for them during the film.  On the topic of forgiveness, one camper, Omar, said “You can’t be angry forever.  You have to forgive them sometimes.  What’s the benefit of being angry?”
 
These words, and many others I heard from campers, counselors, and staff, will stick with me for some time to come.  I am truly thankful for the opportunity to experience this very special time and place.
 
unnamed-2unnamed-1

Rebecca Sullum is Co-Director of Kids4Peace Jerusalem. 

“Rebecca, How are you? How has Kids4Peace been managing during this very difficult summer? My hopes and prayers are with you.”

Every day, friends from around the world reach out to me. They want to hear how I am and how my Kids4Peace community is coping during this very violent time.

This post is an attempt to share with you how a Jewish Israeli Zionist who is also a mother, wife and peace activist, is coping. I want to share my insights as Co-Director of Kids4Peace, where I engage daily with hundreds of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish, Palestinian and Israeli families.

Six weeks have passed by since the kidnapping of the 3 Israeli youth, Gilad, Naftali and Eyal, in Gush Etzion on June 12. Since that morning, I can no longer answer the question “How are you?” It is just too complicated.

My cousin studied at Yeshiva (Jewish religious boys’ school) with two of the kidnapped youth. Friday morning when it had become clear that the 3 boys had been kidnapped, my sisters and their daughters spent the morning picking berries in Gush Etzion, just a few kilometers from the location of the kidnapping. I wasn’t there. My husband Itai requested that I do not pick berries in occupied Palestinian territory, since weeks earlier the IDF detained Palestinian girls for picking cherries on their way to school. Itai thought that it would be too ironic, too cruel, to exercise my freedom in a way that Palestinian girls cannot. So I spent that Friday morning at home. As the Shabbat approached and the youth were nowhere to be found, I fell into despair that lasted for 18 days.

During the 18 days of searching for the three Israeli youth, a complete siege was held on the Palestinian people of Hebron and surrounding areas. Twice during those days, I reached out to a Palestinian friend and colleague who lives in Dura, a small village next to Hebron. On both occasions, the IDF had searched his home the night before while his entire family was there. He told me, “They even went through my underwear drawer and pulled out all my t-shirts. I couldn’t help but smile to myself as they threw my Kids4Peace shirt from the drawer.” Speaking to him, across what many people view as the lines of conflict, I felt a moment of hope in our ability to keep communication open during these times.

June 22, 2014- 19 years ago my family made aliyah from Allentown, PA to Israel. This year I couldn’t celebrate my Zionism. My return to the land of the Jewish people. It was far too difficult.

June 29, 2014– The Ramadan fast begins.

June 30, 2014– 18 days glued to Facebook and Israeli news, until Monday evening the media posted that the 3 youth bodies had been found. Complete and utter despair came over me.

July 1, 2014– I read warnings via Facebook from Kids4Peace Arab youth: “Don’t go to downtown Jerusalem, since there are riots and attacks by Jews on Arabs and it isn’t safe. “Avoid Jaffa street”- a Palestinian Christian youth remarked.

July 2, 2014– The next day I head into Jerusalem to work from the Kids4Peace office in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheik Jarrah. Upon entering the city, I hear on the radio that the light rail has been suspended due to heavy rioting in East Jerusalem by Palestinians. I then learn that a Palestinian boy’s body has been found in the forest, after he was kidnapped and burned to death by Jewish Israelis. My heart fell past my stomach and fear began to take over me.

I posted on Facebook: “Helicopters overhead, sitting alone in the Kids4Peace office, as the roads are blocked for Mohammad to join and the fear has left Meredith and Reeham at home on the other side of town. I am sitting in the midst of a war zone paralyzed from all sides.”

I scan through my Facebook to find Kids4Peace youth from all sides, posting messages of anger and fear. I begin to watch my beloved city of Jerusalem fall apart. All attempting to cope and make sense of it all:

“This morning: Palestinian youth Mohammad Abu Khdeir found dead in Jerusalem. He was first kidnapped and then killed by criminal terrorist settlers. Mohammad was 17 years old from shu’fat in occupied East Jerusalem. He was going to the morning prayer. May his soul rest in peace. You possibly won’t even find his name in today’s news stories, he is just a Palestinian youth. Nothing else. Today, the world will not mourn Mohammad or any other Palestinian waiting to be killed. Same old same old. Today, the world shall continue to mourn Eyal, Gilad and Naftali. Yes, I know their names. But just like always, we the Palestinians shall mourn alone. Not only the innocent lives we lost today and yesterday, but also humanity. Now a moment of silence to mourn the dead.”- written by a Muslim Palestinian female youth

Rebecca-Violence
I try to find some bit of light and decide to attend a Jewish Israeli Anti-Violence demonstration organized by Tag Meir. Rather than being uplifted from the speeches and the crowd, I am upset by how few people attended, and I recognized far too many people in the crowd. I suddenly feel that I am alone in this work.

In an attempt to find others that want to end the violence and claim back Jerusalem – to make it a place that belongs to all – Kids4Peace launched the #ViolenceStopsWithMe online campaign and decided to have an interfaith Iftar gathering, a moment of hope.

July 8th 2014– Haaretz Conference on Peace: I was privileged to be among 2,000 or so people gathering to hear, learn, share ideas and be inspired to understand how peace is possible. I was honored to hear speeches from Israeli President Shimon Peres and an interview with PA Prime Minister Abu Mazen. I heard him at a gathering of Israeli peace activists in Ramallah only a month earlier, but now that feels like a life time ago. A surreal atmosphere hovered in the air, as we speak about peace and just that morning Israel launched an air attack in Gaza in response to the rockets that were being shot into the south of Israel. This too was in response to previous violence, but I can’t contain it all.

The day ended literally with a BOOM. During the final session, sirens went off throughout Tel Aviv warning us that a rocket from Gaza from Hamas was heading our way. In that instant I had already forgotten everything that I learned that day and all the ways that I was inspired. At the conference, I heard the deepest authentic reasoning behind my work in Kids4Peace, but with that siren it all got left behind.

All I wanted to know was “where are my family?” Text messages on my WhatsApp app immediately came in to check on me, from my family and my colleagues Mohammad, Reeham and Meredith. But Mohammad and Reeham are Palestinians. Aren’t they on the “other side?”

We residents of Tel Aviva aren’t accustomed to sirens, rockets and running to shelters, unlike the south of Israel that has been under attack on and off for many years. So when that siren caught us all by surprise we panicked!

Almost daily since then, I have been running in and out of the shelter in Jaffa, the mixed Arab-Jewish neighborhood in Tel Aviv where I live. At first I was frightened to leave my son Yair (nearly 3 years old) at kindergarten, but I find that I can adapt much more quickly to the situation than I thought. Although the cosmopolitan city of Tel Aviv has quieted down a lot due the situation, people can still be found on the streets, coffee shops, beaches and bars. It is almost to say “Hamas you are not going to win”. We are going to keep on living our lives.

One evening at home with Yair, a siren went off, so we headed to the shelter. He has become great at following directions, and even remembers to bring our dog with us. We wait until we hear the loud BOOM, which is the sound of the Iron Dome intercepting the rocket. Then we go back to regular life.

An hour later as the call to prayer from the mosque next to our house was blasting from the loudspeaker, Yair ran up to me and told me we need to head to the shelter. In that very moment, all my liberal and pluralistic education for Yair crumbled in front of my eyes. How do I tell a 3 year old that some loud sounds are sirens warning us that rockets are coming and some are a prayer to g-d, one g-d just like we believe in?

Yair also saw the political satire in the paper. It was one of the Israeli Air Force bombing mosques and buildings in Gaza and the Israeli politicians turning their backs to the devastation. Yair wanted to know, why are there airplanes and helicopters on top of “Ramadan,” which is his word for mosque. Again I am lost for words.

July 9th, 2014- Despite my fear of leaving Jaffa, Yair and Itai are at home. I leave my house for the first time in days to attend the Kids4Peace interfaith Iftar in Jerusalem. Although many media agencies wanted to cover the event as a scene of light in a time of darkness I didn’t allow them to attend. Tonight is for the Kids4Peace Jerusalem community, this is for our time for internal healing and coming together as a community not for public consumption. The evening was incredibly inspiring. I confronted my fears and spoke to Palestinian members about how they are coping with their fears in what has become a hateful Jerusalem. I felt supported, heard, listened to and grateful for the evening that over 60 people attended, despite the fear of leaving your home due to rockets or hate crimes/violence.

July 10th 2014- Arab-Palestinian Muslim Israeli moderate writer that portrays in Hebrew to the Israel Jew what is it like to be Arab in Israel, Sayed Kashua decides to leave Israel and heads with his family to Chicago. Part of me screams to him to come back because I know that he takes with him insight and hope that only he has given, but part of me also screams please let me come with you!! Get me out of here! And I begin my countdown to Kids4Peace camp, one month to go.

July 11, 2014- I turn 33 years old. I jokingly blame my parents for not teaching me as a child from Allentown, PA to run to shelters and ways to cope with post-traumatic stress. How I am going to teach Yair? I read this morning a piece by Israeli writer Etgar Keret, suggesting that instead of working towards peace let’s work towards compromise. Since peace is perceived as a gift from g-d that we do not need to work hard towards. As compromise is clear that we will need to give up something to make it happen and it won’t come on its own, we need to work for it. I then decided to dedicate my 34th year of life toward fighting for peace, since working for it peacefully hasn’t succeeded so far.

“Thank you for the birthday wishes! It is especially meaningful to receive birthday and peace wishes together from my friends from the USA, Palestine and Israel. As my friend Rula said it is hard not be celebrating a summer birthday at Kids4Peace which is certainly more fun and inspiring then spending part of you celebration in the shelters and stairwell. I am committing this year to promoting and advancing tangible peace in Jerusalem and Jaffa. As Etgar Keret wrote, peace isn’t a godly present that we are waiting for. It is something that we need to work hard for and that we will need to make many sacrifices along the way.”

http://www.haaretz.co.il/opinions/.premium-1.2373490

July 12th, 2014- Encouraging Yair to pick out his own clothing in the morning, he choose his favorite t-shirt: Kids4Peace, of course. I also put on my very stylish t-shirt. With some fear of promoting peace via our shirts during this difficult time, especially in diverse Jaffa, Yair and I head off to kindergarten following the morning rocket attack. Only a few hours later I ran to pick him up after the second alarm. As we left, a few of the teachers thanked us for reminding everyone that peace is possible and for inspiring them to hope again. Yair and I highly suRebecca-Yairggested reading David Grossman’s article “On Hope and Despair“.

July 13th World Cup Final, I think to myself, maybe tonight will be quiet, doesn’t Hamas want to watch the World Cup? My sister attended the Left Wing Anti War/Violence Peace rally in Tel Aviv. Shortly after she left, right wing extremists attacked the protesters.

I have begun to fear sharing my ideas, thoughts and feeling publicly. “Left Wing” has now become a curse word. I over hear people telling each other, “don’t think that I am left wing, but I feel badly for the people in Gaza.”

I too can’t stop thinking of the people in Gaza, as every day goes by, the death toll rises. Sometimes, I need to step away or I would go into deep depression seeing this loss.

July 14th, 2014– An unmanned aerial vehicle (uav/drone) entered from Gaza to Israel this morning. I call Itai a million times in panic, thinking he will get called to reserves.

July 17th, 2014- Itai and I have been married 6 years. We were hoping to celebrate at the Neil Young concert in Tel Aviv, but he canceled a few days earlier. At least he donated money to two peace music programs. That night Israel launches a ground incursion into Gaza. I will forever remember my anniversary as the day that marks the beginning of this horrible escalation of violence. And I can’t keep thinking that next year when it is Ramadan again, we will carry in our hearts the sadness and anger from this year.

July 20th, 2014- Days of news and FB. Caught somewhere in the middle, as I too was once a combat soldier. I pray for their safe and fast return, but I hate my government for putting them there in the first place. Why? Why? Netanyahu couldn’t you have kept up your end to the Peace Negotiations??? There are other alternatives to violence.

Sometimes I wonder, if Netanyahu, Bennet, Lieberman, Lapid and other political leaders had a Palestinian friend then maybe they would act differently. Maybe if they had a child in the IDF they wouldn’t so hastily send them to Gaza.Rebecca-IDF

Friends and family are separating themselves from me. Upset that I condemn this invasion. “Rebecca, we had no other choice the Hamas forced us to doing this”. I can’t decide if “we” Israel had to do this (or not) for our safety. What I know for sure is that this cycle is never going to end through violence, “We” the peacemakers, humanitarians and activists need to pursue much more forcefully other channels. I find that I am pushed away from the national “we” that I thought I belonged to and now need to find my “we” that is beyond national identity and relays on values and ideals to bring us together.

In a loss of what to do and how to move forward I post:

Spent the morning between FB, news and phone calls to my incredible Kids4Peace Jerusalem staff that are still keeping lines of connection open during these very sad times. I keep asking myself what can I do? I found this as a suggestion from scholar Marc Gopin:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marc-gopin/what-we-must-do-right-now_b_5599510.html

July 21, 2014- Two failed attempts to bring the Kids4Peace older youth, 9th-12th grade together. It is easier for them to hide behind their Facebook pages than to come together for dialogue in person. Honestly I understand them. Every time I see my Co-Director Mohammad, I take a deep breath and pray that we do not find ourselves in an argument that we won’t be able to get out of. An argument that wouldn’t allow us to continue to work together. Looking beyond my personal fears, we arrange for an Emergency Staff Meeting, so our 30 staff members in Jerusalem can come together.

July 22, 2014- WhatsApp text message from my boss, Josh in the USA: “Yikes, Delta just suspended flights to and from Israel”. I head to the news to see that a rocket/rocket fell near the airport and very quickly international airlines suspend their flights. I become claustrophobic. I can’t breathe, I can’t leave this country. I’m trapped here! I feel like I am under occupation, but in real life I am the occupier.

I won’t let this feeling stop me, I won’t let this stop Kids4Peace, we will have contingency plans, we will move on, we will have camp. Yes, camp. The great savior for all of us during this time! I went out with friends for the first time since June 12th. I actually had a drink and smiled. I need a moment’s break. Luckily my phone battery ran out, so I can’t check the news, I didn’t know that the area surrounding the airport was under attack. I decide not to check the news or Facebook for a few days. I need to live in a bubble for a moment – to breathe.

July 23, 2014- Since I haven’t been reading the news I actually get a lot of work done. I discover that none of my Palestinian staff can obtain permits due to the situation to travel through Israel to their Kids4Peace camps in the USA. I work with the team to reroute them through Jordan. At night I meet with a group of 12 Kids4Peace families in Beit Safafa. The meeting is so relaxed, calm and quiet. I realized how we all need a break. Families and youth took the opportunity to talk face to face, human to human. I didn’t want the evening to end.

July 24, 2014- Walk into the office ready for the Emergency staff meeting, only to hear: “Rebecca, Qalandiya checkpoint is closed, many of our Palestinian staff can’t come into Jerusalem”. At this point I have learned not to panic. We will move ahead with our meeting and update them afterwards. I try to gather sympathy from my Jewish Israel friends and tell them, forget about politics, imagine if you were the director of a company and every day your workers couldn’t come to work because of your government. I am certain that you would also be frustrated. So beyond my political frustration is my challenge as a director not having a third of my staff available to work.

The emergency staff meeting brings with it an incredible hope and want to move forward. I feel that I am in my community, one made up of Christian, Muslim and Jews that want to live in Peace, sorry Etgar Keret, I refuse to live in compromise.

July 26th, 2014– On my way to the non-violent anti war protest, I was verbally attacked on the bus by 2 Israeli men that cursed my very existence and wished that a rocket fall on me and the entire protest. They also felt that they have more “claim” to Israel then me, since they were combat soldiers. I too was a combat soldier I told them, and this quieted them for at least a minute. Given me just enough time to share with them one of the pillars of democracy, freedom of speech which they can’t take away.

I was petrified the entire demonstration, scared from the right wing demonstrators. I wanted to take one of their Israeli flags and bring it to the left wing demonstration, this is my flag. Everything that I do is what I think is best for Israel. We, the Israelis clearly have a lot more internal work to do. I do not want to become one of the lefties that hate Israel, that hate religion, that are apologetic. I love my Judaism, my nationality and I am proud to be an active Israeli citizen.

And I found another article by Etgar Keret: Israel’s Other War