by Yazan, Muslim participant, Jerusalem
Today 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.
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.
After 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.
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.