Written by: Jordan Goldwarg, Global Institute Director and NW Regional Director
On Thursday, July 20, fifty participants in the Kids4Peace Global Institute made their way to Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. After days of preparation–which included training in legislative advocacy and public narrative storytelling–the day had arrived to lobby for H.R.1221, a bill in the House of Representatives that would create an international fund for Israeli-Palestinian grassroots peacebuilding efforts.
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Ready for their meetings with US Congressional Representatives.

In meetings with Senator Bernie Sanders, Rep. Keith Ellison, and over 20 other congressional offices, our youth spoke passionately about their lives in Jerusalem and about the urgency they feel–as Palestinians, Israelis, and Americans–to create a better future for themselves.
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Kids4Peace Youth and Staff met with Senator Bernie Sanders.

When the meetings were over, I asked the group that I had accompanied how they felt about the experience. Given that one Congressman had pledged to sign on as a co-sponsor of the bill and another had expressed strong support for the bill, they were unanimously positive about the power they had exercised in these meetings. When I asked whether, when they arrived at the Institute a week earlier, they thought they would be able to do what they had done, one person responded, “I didn’t think I would be able to do this two hours ago!”
Time and again over the past 10 days in DC, our youth took things that they thought they could NOT do, and showed themselves and their peers that, with the help of a supportive community, almost anything is possible.
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Jordan Goldwarg, Global Institute Director, with youth from Kids4Peace Seattle.

Other highlights of the week included:
  • Briefing State Department officials on the importance of engaging religious communities in peacebuilding efforts in Israel/Palestine
  • Briefing officials from the US Institute of Peace on the harsh realities of life on the ground in Jerusalem
  • Learning about identity, privilege, and power
  • Volunteering with DC Central Kitchen and learning about gentrification and displacement from ONE DC
  • Using social entrepreneurship to solve problems in our communities
  • Attending worship services at a mosque, synagogue, and church
  • Peer-to-peer learning sessions on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and social issues in the US
  • Exploring media bias at the Newseum
  • Visits to Smithsonian museums, the National Mall, and more!

 

 

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Learning from past negotiators for Israeli-Palestinian Peace at USIP.

 

We are so proud of our Global Institute graduates, who proved that they are not only the leaders of tomorrow, but are already the leaders of today. We can’t wait to see the impressive things they will continue to do!
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Kids4Peace Youth met with the Office of Religion and Global Affairs at the US State Department.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the 6th and 7th graders (Pathways to Peace program) had the opportunity to explore Akko/Akka for the day with tour-guides and educators, Tamer and Carmiel.

Our first stop was Napoleon’s Hill, a place to see the city from above and an interesting active archaeological digging site. They learned about the city’s history and talked about what they were digging for at the site. They also began thinking about why, as a group from Jerusalem, they were going to be exploring Akko/Akka all day.

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From there, the group continued to the Crusader’s Fortress, where they split into groups and explored the ancient site, acting out scenes with their groups of what the Knights would have been doing in the different rooms.

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Next, we went to the beautiful and famous el-Jazzar Mosque (built in 1781), where we were able to go in and see the inside of the Mosque, and then sit in the courtyard to talk about the history of the Mosque and learn more about Islam. The youth engaged in interesting discussions about the different traditions of dress and head-coverings in the different religions, and the Muslim youth took turns explaining what some of the different things we had seen inside of the Mosque were.

Afterwards, we visited the Ramchal synagogue (built in the 16th century) and learned about the Rabbi of the synagogue for which it was named, as well as more about Judaism. The group spoke a lot about culture vs. religion, and how often they are closely intertwined. We also discussed what it means to build a community and how to be a part of different communities, how to become a person that can allow their different worlds to meet. They were also asked about holy things meeting, like visiting a mosque and a synagogue in the same day, and were asked to think about how to build a community that can bring such holy places together. When we asked the youth what kind of values the Kids4Peace community has, they said: friendship, tolerance, honesty, kindness, and inclusiveness.

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The tour of Akko/Akka was educational, fun, inspiring, challenging and thought-provoking. The youth finished the day with many questions and new ideas, talking with their friends about what they had seen and done. Thank you to Tamer and Carmiel for leading the youth on this journey of questions, thought and self-reflection and growth.

For pictures, go to our Facebook page. More photos will be uploaded each day: Camp 2017 Photo Album

Written by Liana Rothman, community engagement coordinator

Yesterday, I embarked on my third Kids4Peace summer camp. Three years ago, I began the journey with the 8th grade Roots program at Kibbutz Ketura after spending the year as their Jewish advisor. Last summer, I went to Washington D.C. with the same group of then 9th graders, and this summer, I am joining camp as the social media coordinator/blog writer/parent updater/support advisor.

Yesterday morning, I boarded the bus with the Roots (8th grade) group which included 18 youth, three staff members, and four counselors. Plus: a medic, a bus driver, and Daniel Sherman, our guide and camping expert and founder of Yuvalim, an organization which uses nature and adventure to connect Israelis and Palestinians interested in building peace and creating a shared society.

Our first stop was a hike on Mt. Carmel. During the hike we stopped at several caves, learning about the different groups of people that had lived there over the centuries, and looking at the ocean view, noticing the Atlit island on the water, a Crusader fortress which was built in 1218. Once we stopped for lunch, the youth broke out into smaller groups and talked about their expectations for the camp, something their friends didn’t know about them, and what they were looking forward to that day. Using teamwork and communication, they built a machine, miming all the different activities they were looking forward to, and played some other team-building games.

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Once we arrived at the beautiful campground on the beach, the youth set to work making camp. They began building their tents, setting up supplies for cooking dinner, laying out mats for us to sit on, and of course enjoying the water. After setting ground-rules and going over the schedule, we began with tie-dying shirts, and then cooking as a group, while watching the sun set into the ocean. The youth set up candle lanterns around our camp so we could see once it got dark, made the salad, cooked the barbecue, and after dinner, helped clean up and then enjoyed s’mores around the campfire. The group went to sleep in their tents, on the sand, hearing the waves, underneath the stars.

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This morning, there were three different activities; kayaking, hiking and Budo for Peace (an organization which uses traditional martial arts to connect and bring together children and youth from diverse social, economic and cultural backgrounds). All the activities were very fun, educational, community and team-building experiences, which the youth loved. In the afternoon, after packing everything away, everyone got back onto the bus and headed to Nes Ammim, where the 6th, 7th and 8th graders will be for the next 3.5 days. In the closing the day circle this evening, the 8th graders talked about how much they loved the experience of hiking, kayaking, of being outdoors, working together as a group to cook and organize their makeshift home, of swimming in the ocean, and of course everyone was very excited for a good shower and a nice real bed tonight!

Tomorrow, I will be joining the 6th graders as they travel to Akko/Akkā (Acre) for the day to visit different religious sites, to explore the market and learn about the history.

The 7th and 8th graders will stay at camp, playing games, building friendships, engaging in educational programming, swimming, sports, and more.

For pictures, go to our Facebook page. More photos will be uploaded each day: Camp 2017 Photo Album

Written by Liana Rothman, community engagement coordinator

Last week, Kids4Peace had the unique opportunity to join around 1300 American and international youth at the 2017 Episcopal Youth Event in Oklahoma for 5 days.

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Adam and Charlie, an Israeli and a Palestinian, incoming 11th graders from K4P Jerusalem, Lana, an incoming senior from K4P Vermont (born in Baghdad, Iraq), and Liana, the community engagement coordinator from K4P Jerusalem, joined executive director and Episcopal Father, Josh Thomas, at the event.

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All of the interesting and fun activities during the week lead up to the final plenary event (keynote speeches) on Thursday morning, delivered by Adam, Charlie and Lana, with an introduction by Fr. Thomas in front of the entire convention.

After arriving late Monday night, Adam and Charlie jumped right into the swing of things on Tuesday, telling their stories, talking about Jerusalem and Kids4Peace and answering questions during a break-out session with about 40 people.

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We were able to watch the opening prayer service and welcome program, which included a live band, lots of standing and singing, a beautiful procession of the Bishops, a speech by the presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States, Michael B. Curry, and the communion service. For Charlie, a Christian Lutheran Palestinian and Adam, a Jewish Israeli, this kind of service, with singing, dancing, live instruments, impassioned speeches and 1300 people crowded into one University gym, watching and participating in this was a unique and special experience.

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Wednesday, we revised and practiced the speeches all morning, working hard and focusing on the speeches they were to give the next day. Being in the U.S., we also of course took a quick asian-fusion restaurant lunch break and Target run.

That afternoon, we went into Oklahoma City to join the rest of the group to participate in the food truck festival and street fair put on by the Episcopal Church of Oklahoma City. We enjoyed various fried American delicacies (including safe-to-eat raw cookie dough for dessert), watched different street performers, tried to stay out of the heat and mingled with the group. In the evening, we went to the site of the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing to have the closing evening service at the beautiful memorial site built there. There were several speakers, survivors that told their stories, and the Bishop from the Diocese of Oklahoma, and reflective singing and quiet meditation as the day came to an end.

On Thursday morning, Charlie, Adam and Lana got on stage as the entire convention gathered once again into the gym. With courage and focus, they gave their speeches, one by one, telling their stories, talking about growing up in Kids4Peace, and their future goals and aspirations, for themselves, in Kids4Peace, and for Jerusalem and the United States. At the end of each speech, they received standing ovations from the audience, and at the end of all of them, once again.

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Here is an except of the end of their speeches and pictures of them practicing them, so you can get a taste of these inspiring stories and leaders. For the full speeches, click here (starts at 40:00):

Adam:

“If each one of us will make the effort to meet the “other,” and find their own pathway to peace, like we do in Kids4Peace, If we can see the humanity on both sides, If we can know their pain, their fear, their hopes and their stories… Then achieving peace will be possible.

I would like to end with a prayer for peace from my Jewish tradition

First in English and then in Hebrew:

G-d, who makes peace in the heavens, Make peace on us, and on all Israel – and I add, on all the world, and let us say, Amen:

“.עושה שלום במרומיו, הוא יעשה שלום עלינו ועל כל ישראל ואימרו אמן

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Charlie:

“In my opinion, finding inner peace is the first and most crucial step of achieving a path to peace. Once inner peace is achieved, peace can prosper among us humans.

I believe Kids4Peace will be like a spark. A spark for change. A spark to a much larger movement, where thousands more families can meet people on the opposite side of conflicts – just like I did.

K4P is different and special due to the unimaginable spirit and devotion to peace, and I KNOW we can be the start of something great.

I want to close with a prayer for peace, from my Christian faith, first in English and then in my native language, Arabic:

Gracious and holy God, lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth. Lead us from despair to hope, from fear to trust. Lead us from hate to love, from war to peace. Let peace fill our hearts, our world, our universe; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen

الله الكريم والقدس، قودنا من الموت إلى الحياة، من الباطل إلى الحقيقة. قودنا من اليأس إلى الأمل، من الخوف إلى الثقة. قودنا من الكراهية إلى الحب، من الحرب إلى السلام. دع السلام يملأ قلوبنا وعالمنا وكوننا. من خلال يسوع المسيح، مخلصنا وربنا. آمين

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Lana:

“I am so thankful that Kids4Peace has given me the chance to help the people that are around me. I challenge you to take that risk and give someone in your life a second chance, and be the difference that you want to see in the world.                                               I would like to leave you with a final prayer from my Muslim faith.  It’s a kind of prayer that we call a dua in Arabic:                                                                                                                O heart be patient. Prayer and patience heals all pain. Nothing lasts forever. Your pain will also come to an end. In Sha Allah”

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After the speeches, everyone surrounded them, taking pictures, thanking them, saying how impressed and moved they were by them and their stories. It was a beautiful moment, one that Kids4Peace will forever hold dear, watching these once young K4P youth, become the strong and motivated leaders our movement is helping to build.

After the speeches, at another break-off session, this time the attendance wasn’t 40 but 400, as people crowded in, wanting to hear more, wanting to learn more, and wanting to spend more time with these fearless young leaders.

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Thank you to the Episcopal Church for inviting us, thank you for giving us the opportunity to share our stories with the world, and especially thank you to Charlie, Adam, and Lana, for your commitment, your strength and your grit.  

Written by Liana Rothman, community engagement coordinator        

Written by Chelsea MacMillan (Interfaith Advisor) and Selina Petschek

 

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Two days ago at Kids4Peace VT/NH, we celebrated Interdependence Day. We began the July 4th morning asking the students if there really is such a thing as independence, considering how dependent upon other people we all are just to live our daily lives. To illustrate this concept, our Coordinator and Co-facilitator, Selina, had the kids act out the life cycle of monarch butterflies in which the presence of milkweed is crucial. Without milkweed the monarchs would not survive, no food or place to lay their larvae, and without the monarchs, the milkweed would never be pollinated and would likewise disappear. We followed up by moving into our peace groups to further explore the interdependence that weaves through each of our lives.

 

In each group, kids chose an everyday object to investigate: soda, Nike shoes, and pancakes, and did their best to trace all the materials back to their sources. They quickly got caught in the web of trade, commerce, ecology, humanity, the interconnectedness that we live in and partake in everyday. As one kid put it, “We could be doing this all day!” Each group presented their webs of interdependence and, together, we made lists of all of the people, materials, and earth systems that are required just to make pancakes or shoes! This may have been the first time these kids had really thought about the interconnection of all things, but it was also a great reminder to us adults.

 

This exploration led right into acroyoga and trust exercises with Jeff. The kids got to embody what it means to really let go and trust that their new friends will not let them fall, just like they have to trust that they will be fed and clothed by the systems that support them. The kids also learned what it looks like to give the support in return and will be more mindful of how their choices affect others.

Under Pressure

Kids4Peace —  July 2, 2017 — Leave a comment

Contributors: Ada (8th grade, NH), Deklan (7th grade, NH), and Fiona (Counselor, NY). 

As the rehearsals for the musical dramatic event “Peace Child” are in full swing, the campers and staff of Kids4Peace Vermont and New Hampshire’s first year camp are beginning to feel the challenges of memorizing, staging, and mounting a production. Fiona, a Senior Counselor from New York, NY, offers some perspective on the performers and their progress. Putting up a show in six days with six hour long daily rehearsals has her “nervous about their energy” on the day of the performance, for “it’s going to be a big stretch”. Ada, a rising eighth grader from New Hampshire, echoes Fiona, acknowledging that “it’s a lot of work”.

However, while the work can be stressful and exhausting, it is also just as rewarding. Now the campers are working on scenes and character development, helping them to realize the thematic value of this piece. Fiona believes that “they grasp that it’s something about peace and that it means more than other shows they might have seen or been part of”. That appreciation for the play has many of the campers eager to perform.

One in particular is Deklan, a rising seventh grader from Sunapee, NH. Because Deklan is “never one to get anxious or anything” while onstage, he is finding great excitement in his work. Especially in exploring his character, “Character”, in the play. Understanding his role and how Character connects to the other characters and action of the play is making him “feel more confident that [he] is going to enjoy it and have a really good time”.

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Downstage from left to right: Deklan and Mariam

While the play is helping the campers to find meaning and joy for themselves, it is also helping them to connect to others. Ada is finding that the activities they do at camp and rehearsals have helped her to connect “to the [other] kids and enjoy being around almost all of them”. Deklan has also “made friends with kids from K4P through the play”, and has had “fun [meeting] people and [hanging] out”.

But the impending audience incites nerves and excitement. Fiona cannot wait for the kids to have a “really cool experience” with a “whole sea of people all there supporting” the group. And among that sea of people will be familiar faces. Looking forward to “maybe get[ting] to hug them” and maybe “ask[ing] for a picture with them”, Deklan cannot wait to see his family. Surprisingly homesick, this performance is also an opportunity to reconnect to his loved ones and share a beautiful story.

A story that Deklan claims “speaks for itself and … is very persuasive”. Addressing peacemaking and bullying, they hope that they play inspires the audience to go out and lead change in their lives and schools. But do not be alarmed at the portrayal of bullying onstage. Deklan reassures us that “the bullies on stage are just acting”. Don’t let their impeccable acting fool you; the Peace Child “is not hurt, she’s totally okay!” To all planning to witness this event- please sit back, relax, and enjoy the peacemaking.

Contributors: Ana (8th grade, VT), Seth (7th grade, NH), and Sylvia (8th grade, VT)

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While Fridays in the United States typically give young and old alike a reason to celebrate in itself, Kids4Peace Vermont and New Hampshire campers learned about the religious significance of this day to both Islam and Judaism. During the early evening before dinner, the campers learned about and witnessed Juma prayer, the Friday mid-day prayer held each week for Muslims. In addition to learning about the physical and social nature of Muslim prayer, campers also learned about the significance of Friday in both the religion and the structure of a week, for Fridays mark the end of the weekend.

After dinner, the campers learned about and witnessed a Shabbat service, marking the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath while at camp (Shabbat Shalom by the way!). In addition to seeing the nature of Jewish prayer, the youth also learned how Shabbat affects people’s lifestyles and the structure of a week, for Fridays mark the first full day of the weekend. The staggered days of rest among the three Abrahamic faiths was a new concept to many. But Sylvia, a rising eighth grader from South Burlington, VT, embraced the knowledge, noting that “each religion has their own day of rest, [and hers] is just on Sunday”.

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Sylvia (8th Grade, VT) and Ana (8th Grade, VT)

Ana, also a rising eighth grader from South Burlington, VT, also related this lesson to her own faith tradition as a Christian. She found that it was her belief in the Episcopal Church that “helps [her], [and] leads [her]” by “teach[ing] [her] to welcome and accept other cultures [and religions] even though they are different”. She uses her own faith as a vessel of acceptance and appreciation, even to other faith traditions.

While Ana feels incredibly connected to her own faith, this sensation of connection embedded in the Juma Prayer was significant to Seth, a rising seventh grade from Henniker, NH. While he noted the physical state of connection between shoulders and knees in the different postures used during Muslim prayer, he continued to see beyond the traditions to the universal commonality of being human, for “we are all connected”.

And it is that connection that has inspired Seth to advocate for peace and understanding in his school, standing up for Jewish and Muslim students who “are just like [the Christian students], they just do things a little bit differently”. Although now, Seth feels more hope to “not give up right away”, for even a young peacemaker knows that “it’s easy to get overwhelmed” in the face of injustice and prejudice. But he intends to move forward anyway, for, as Sylvia puts it, “everyone deserves peace and rest”.

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Seth (7th Grade, NH)

Contributors: Hussein (7th grade, VT), Judah (7th grade, NH), and Sage (6th grade, NH).

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The early bird spreads peace and understanding at Kids4Peace camp, and these campers sure are living as peacemakers, waking up bright and early at 7:00 am yesterday morning. While they may not have bushy tails, the bright eyed campers headed off to the Flying Monkey House Theater for their first full day of rehearsal. And as they say in the theatre, early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable!

actingAnd these young professionals were on time as they headed into a six hour rehearsal day, consisting of singing, dancing, and scene work. Working with graduate students, staff, and faculty at Plymouth State University, the campers began the journey of breathing life into their musical dramatic piece, Peace Child. However, even the beginning stages of the creative process challenge young performers to reach outside of their comfort zones.

Dance in particular proved demanding, for dancing in front of others can be quite vulnerable. Judah, a rising seventh grader from Hopkinson, NH, “really hates dancing in public”, but nonetheless “had to dance in front of people”. And with that positive attitude and willingness, Judah found that after awhile, “it was even fun!” Sage, a rising sixth grader from Loconia, NH, was continually pushed out of her comfort zone today as singing and dancing is already uncomfortable. And when the campers had to improvise dance themselves, it “was an extra push”, for she “did not feel comfortable making up things on stage with just loose instructions”. Even on the outskirts outside of her comfort zone, Sage was able to appreciate the situation as something that, while uncomfortable, is in fact just “new”.

Being in the theater can be intimidating in itself. Hussein, a rising seventh grader from Winooski, VT, was “really shy” and even “scared” when they arrived at the Flying Monkey House Theater. But Hussein found that “when [he] tried to do the things [the instructors] showed [them], [he] wasn’t as shy anymore, and it was fun to be an actor!” That positivity flooded the day as the campers experienced memorable moments together: hearing the unique score that was composed intentionally for them, learning each of their specific roles within the group, and singing the opening song together.

Both Judah and Hussein enjoyed singing the opening song, or as Hussein calls it, the Group Singing 2“special music”. After the young campers put their all into singing that song together, Judah assesses that it was “definitely a memorable moment”, for “it was a team effort”. The new community they formed together during the first day was further strengthened as they became something even more powerful, an ensemble.

 

Contributors: Arbai (9th grade, Winooski, VT), Emma (7th grade, Andover, NH), Sherihan, (6th grade, Winooski, VT)

Water bottles were decorated and the ice was broken as the camp season was officially kicked off yesterday at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, New Hampshire. Staff members welcomed fourteen young campers as they entered into their first Kids4Peace camp experience. After name tags had been made and suitcases were unpacked, the staff introduced themselves, and the campers played some get-to-know-you games. Working up quite the appetite, all gathered in the dining hall for dinner. But of course, no meal is complete without a blessing led by a camper.

 

19437509_1349217565156574_413859909257907386_nThe newfound energy from dinner fueled the following discussion revolving the group’s values and expectations while at camp. As campers and staff voiced their hopes and ideals, a Community Agreement was composed that will serve as the group’s foundation while at camp. While the group’s expectations of each other are captured in the Community Agreement, each of the campers had their own pool of hopes and prospects for the next eleven days at Kids4Peace.

 

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Sherihan, 6th grade, VT

Arbai, a rising ninth grader from Winooski, Vermont, has high hopes to learn a great deal while at camp. She even aspires to pick up “more English”. The desire to learn is also felt by Sherihan, a rising sixth grader also from Winooski, Vermont, who wants to know “how other people practice their religions”. But sleep away camp with a group of strangers can be intimidating, for campers must “[be] away from family” (Arbai). Not to mention the first day jitters, as campers are “talking and laughing with people [they] don’t know yet” (Sherihan).

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Emma, 7th grade, NH

Emma, a rising seventh grader from Andover, New Hampshire, on the other hand is purely “really excited for everything”, hoping to “meet new friends”, “learn about religion”, and “know what it’s like” to be away from home overnight. Whether one is full of unbridled hope, consumed by worry, or anything in between, all campers got the opportunity to voice their hopes and fears and listen to others.

 

The day was closed, accepting all of these hopes and fears, expectations and worries. The campers, now a community, went to bed, marking a successful first day of camp.

 

Kids4Peace Iftar 2017

merk4p —  June 23, 2017 — Leave a comment

On Thursday, June 15th, Kids4Peace held our annual community Iftar event. Our entire community had the opportunity to join the Pathways for Peace (6th and 7th grade) Iftar and community service drive, funded by USAID. It was a moving, fun, inspiring, family-filled evening. With speeches from Meredith and Reeham, and two of our K4P youth, Eliana and Omri, a Ramadan coloring and lantern making station for kids, the charity drive, and two big interfaith text study sessions all happening before the meal even began, it was truly a community event.

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This time, thanks to USAID and the amount of people that came, we were able to get everyone even more involved than in previous years. For the first time at a K4P Iftar, in honor of Ramadan and our K4P values, we organized the charity drive. As people entered, we collected secondhand clothes and toys to be donated to Muslim, Jewish and Christian families in need all around Jerusalem. Each family was also asked to bring a dish to share with everyone. Also, thanks to an incredible donation by K4P father, Jared, we were able to greatly minimize our plastic use and waste production due to his generous donation of plates and silverware, which we will use at every future community event to come. At the end of the meal, there was a washing station set up which allowed us, as a community, to all clean up together.

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Omri, a Palestinian Muslim 10th grader, spoke about Ramadan and what it means to him to celebrate his holiday and traditions alongside his Kids4Peace friends. Eliana, a Jewish Israeli 9th grader, spoke of similar themes, and of the power and hope Kids4Peace gives her.

With 300 people in attendance, I heard people remark on what an amazing community Kids4Peace really is. Everyone participated in making the evening a success, and everyone left with their bellies full and their faces smiling.

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The opportunity to celebrate each other’s holidays in Kids4Peace, together, is meaningful and unique. For the Jewish and Christian youth at the Iftar event, to learn about Ramadan and to experience an Iftar meal, is a rare opportunity that helps connect the youth even more and helps them learn more about other religions and cultures.

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We are so grateful for our amazing community, and for the hope and power you give to us and we continue giving to each other. We are grateful to USAID for making this evening possible.