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Pathways Camp Ketura Day 5

merk4p —  August 17, 2018 — Leave a comment

The youth started off the day with games that challenged them to see one another in a new light, as they grouped themselves in accordance to their likes and dislikes. They then played an epic battle of rock, paper, scissors.

The talent show brought to light some of our campers’ unique talents. We were in awe of the quality of the performances. From dance numbers, to instrumental pieces, to acapella and accompanied singing acts, these kids blew us out of the water. The audience cheered on each performer with supportive enthusiasm, often chanting his or her name to offer encouragement.


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We finished the evening with a poolside barbeque. If you closed your eyes, you would hear laughter, song, and other sounds of pure joy. Almost everyone was in the pool. Even most of the staff made it in one way or another. “I wasn’t planning on going in the pool, but a camper decided otherwise,” recalled Talia, one of our 7th grade counselors. DSC_0262.JPG

We all said a teary goodbye to our small groups, sad to leave one another after connecting and bonding over the course of the week. These groups felt like a small family in which we were safe to share our secrets, hopes, and hardships. Many of the youths expressed gratitude for the new friends they have made.

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Special thank you to USAID West Bank/Gaza for making it all possible!

Today’s activities were soothing for both the soul and the environment.

The seventh graders started off the day with a relaxing bike ride through Kibbutz Ketura and the nearby date fields.



After pool time, the kids geared up for a field trip to Lotan, a nearby eco-kibbutz. Their tour guide, Mark taught the kids that the prefix “eco” comes from the ancient Greek word “oikos,” which means home. The idea of eco-projects are to take care of not only our individual family homes, but also the earth, the home we all share.

Mark demonstrated the way the kibbutz does a lot with a little and uses recycled materials to build houses and structures around the village. The youth learned how to make rich soil through composting and ethanol gas with the use of old kitchen scraps. They built their own mud walls using the ancient technology of arches and crafted seed balls to plant in the ground. DSC_0316.JPG

With the guidance of Avi from Kibbutz Ketura, the sixth graders hiked into the vast, deep desert for their dinner. They roasted pita and marshmallows over an open fire and adorned these masterpieces with falafel and salad, or nutella for dessert. The kids sprawled across a large tapestry, eating by lantern light under the wide-open sky. Mars, Venus, and Saturn could be seen among the millions of twinkling stars. Quds, Sema, and Siba graced us with their beautiful voices and sang sweet serenades to the group as we said our final goodbyes to the desert.

Screen Shot 2018-08-16 at 1.31.56 PM.pngWhen we arrived back at camp, we had a spontaneous dance party! They boogied the night away and put off going to bed as long as possible. It was the perfect happy ending to a perfectly wonderful day.

Special thank you to USAID West Bank/Gaza for making it all possible.


As you entered the dining hall for breakfast, you could feel the excitement radiating from the kids about today’s destination – Eilat!  We could all feel that today was going to be an incredible adventure. The bus ride there consisted of singing and laughter.

The day was filled with fun in the sun and on the water with rafting and boat rides. They hung on tight and tried not to fall off into the water. There were three rides the campers could go on- the banana boat, crazy shark, and floating seat.
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“My favorite was the Crazy Shark ride, because it’s literally like a bouncy castle on the water,” Hind, 6th grade.

The water was so pristine and the location had such biodiversity that we were able to see bizarre and colorful fish species that were unlike any we had seen before. One surprised group of kids even had a bright blue fish jump into the ride with them!

Before leaving Eilat, we had a delicious lunch of schnitzel, meatballs, potatoes, pita, and salad (and hummus, of course!). The lunch was so good that we had to fend off strangers from eating our food.

After a long day on the water, we returned to Camp Ketura for educational programming. The youth explored their identities, the values that are necessary to accomplish a goal as a team, and what the world would look like without those values. These “kids” offered wisdom and insight far beyond their years. We are blessed with such an incredible group of young hearts and minds. The advisors then led a guided meditation that helped the group self-reflect on the values they had discussed and the realities of the world we live in.

We finished the night watching Ferdinand and having small group discussions. Some of the groups began their presentations while others reflected upon the day and shared meaningful stories with one another.


Overall, today was an excellent opportunity for bonding between the staff and 6th and 7th grade youth.  The groups were mixed both in Eilat and while watching Ferdinand and sharing popcorn.

Thanks so much to our partners USAID West/Bank Gaza for your support.

The sixth graders rose with the sun this morning for an early morning bike ride through Ketura’s date plantation and the desert’s soft sand dunes. Each kid and staff member on the ride had a chance to jump down the dune, if they dared!

Back at Ketura, the rest of the sixth graders created gorgeous decoupage crafts while also getting to know each other better. They learned about the history of Ketura, the mission and vision of the Kibbutz and some of the “ins and outs” of kibbutz life.  

After breakfast, the kids cooled down in the pool. The boys played water games and enjoyed the pool to the max. Then afterwards, the girls played chicken and monkey in the middle. There was not a frown in sight as these water bugs splashed and laughed the hour away in the cool pool.  It was much easier to get everyone in than out.

After lunch the CIT’s led everyone in some games that enabled all of us to use our bodies and also get to know each other better through a series of speed round questions.  

The staff continued raising the energy level with more games.  A fantastic round of “Who’s afraid of the big bear?” got everyone energized for what was yet to come!

From there we split up into electives with the 7th graders. Dance, Painting and Crafts provided relaxation and fun.

We then moved into our small groups for educational sessions and everyone created a group flag to be presented on our closing night.

The 7th graders enjoyed a peaceful 10 minute walk in the desert to watch the sunset. It was a new experience to many of them and magical to all. They had a blast playing in the sand dunes. For dinner, the youths made their own pita over a fire and prepared their meals with the support of the staff. They then watched falling stars and played games with their flashlights. It was a truly beautiful experience.

After dinner, the small groups had the opportunity to reflect on the day and what Kids4Peace means to them. They discussed the opportunities and difficulties that the program brings and how this makes them feel. Some were given time to plan the creative presentations the groups will share during the closing night of camp.




And we are off!! What a day it has been! Despite the the drastic change in climate and environment the campers are adjusting well and excited to be learning and playing together. To ensure they stay hydrated in the heat, we play fun drinking games (with water!).  Pathways Summer Seminar is part of our Interfaith Jerusalem project, funded by USAID West Bank/Gaza, which fosters youth leadership and civic involvement, celebrates the religious diversity of Jerusalem, and engages 288 youth and their parents from critical neighborhoods to support a pro-peace agenda in their communities.

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The kids were divided into small, intimate groups of seven to eight, with which they will meet twice a day throughout the week. They shared personal stories and funny anecdotes to break the ice and form bonds. They learned that this circle will be a safe space for them to come with questions or concerns for the rest of the week. Together, these teams will plan special projects or performances to present to the rest of the camp.

A highlight of the day was the Ketura tour during which the youth learned about kibbutz life and the way Kibbutz Ketura functions and sustains itself. During the tour, the guide showed the kids a beautiful olive tree that grows from a 2,000 year-old date seed.


The culture and atmosphere of a kibbutz is a new experience for many of our campers. “This is my first time on a kibbutz. I’d never even heard of a kibbutz before this,” said Gowan, one of spirited 6th grade campers.

Later after dinner, the kids cracked codes and solved puzzles, leading them around the kibbutz in search of hidden treasure and then retired to their dorms for more bonding and a good night’s sleep.


sarahGood luck to our beloved Sarah, the outgoing Kids4Peace Jerusalem Youth Director. 

Sarah Stone was in charge of the educational programming and curriculum development for all youth programs in Kids4Peace Jerusalem. Sarah is dedicated to informal education in divided societies, and in bringing youth together to learn, grow, and create change. Sarah left Jerusalem this past January to complete her Master’s of Public Administration in Urban & Social Policy at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs in NewYork. Her degree is in the Education Policy track with a focus on Management.

“I am focusing on education policy in divided cities, and on the role of informal education in developing educational frameworks for youth of different backgrounds to build understanding, empathy, and advocacy skills together.” 


While in New York, she is working in after-school educational programs and also working in research on school integration in the American and New York City contexts.
She’ll be briefly in Jerusalem this summer directing the summer day camp at the Hand in Hand school, and very much miss the Kids4Peace youth, parents, and staff communities!
Sarah stepped away from her responsibilities at Kids4Peace  this summer due to her studies and the limited amount of time in between semesters. She’ll be staying in New York until December to complete her studies, and then we hope she’ll return to Jerusalem and Kids4Peace.
If you’d like to reach out to Sarah personally, please email her at

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by Lauren Fialkow, K4P Intern

The halls of the beautiful Brigham Young University campus, situated overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem, were bustling with families of local Christians, Muslims, and Jews.  The hundreds of people in attendance came together to honor the 15 years that Kids4Peace has been creating its community.  Each person present has been touched by the work of Kids4Peace, and watching these kids naturally playing together and parents casually laughing together demonstrated to me the power of the work being done by this community.

IMG_2928Despite the lively conversations, exciting capoeira performances, and tubs of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream consumed, the event did not ignore the stress and confusion that some of the community might have been feeling.  A typically joyous time of year surrounding Christmas, The Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, and Hanukkah, this year’s annual event came just a week after the President of the United States announced the US’s acknowledgement of Jerusalem and the capital of Israel.  At a time when many Palestinians and Israelis are processing the news and deciding how to react, many questioned why Kids4Peace would come together to celebrate at such a rough time.  

In the words of Meredith Rothbart, the Jerusalem Kids4Peace Co-Director who spoke that night, “Our work does not stop here. Not now. …It is not enough just to be together. We have to take action to influence the situation around us….It is not upon us to complete the task, or to solve all of the political turmoils of our leaders. But we cannot stop trying.”

IMG_3035The number of families in attendance was proof of the strength, mission, and unstoppable spirit of this community. When teens and parents got on stage to speak about what they’ve gained from Kids4Peace, the hope for a brighter tomorrow became very tangible.  

Many ask, what would peace look like, is it even possible?  The firsthand stories shared by students Hussam, Loure, and Nadav demonstrated an authentic relationship between friends where different backgrounds, perspectives, and opinions can’t break the trust and support they have for one another.  They spoke of getting into a heated argument regarding Jerusalem politics while having a picnic on the grass after visiting Congress in Washington DC.  They had expressed their beliefs strongly and never came to consensus, but afterwards they went “right back to being the friends that they are.”  Building a world where people come together to build relationships that look to understand the ‘other’ may seem like daunting task, but our 16-year-olds in Jerusalem are showingus that it IS possible, what it looks like, and how to do it.

I found the energy and friendships of these teens so inspiring, but I was equally blown away by the parents and their stories.  We heard from two fathers, a Muslim Palestinian, Maher, and an orthodox Jewish Israeli, Yisrael.  We often look to the younger generation to build peace because it’s perceived that the older generations have too many scars from past conflicts and are too set in their ways of being.  

DSC_9039Because of this, the genuine sensitivity, respect and care that these fathers had for each other was incredibly moving but also undeniable as they embraced–standing with their arms around each other–and told the story of how they met, initial expectations and what that relationship grew into.  Maher spoke of how touched he was by Yisrael’s thoughtfulness when he brought a gift on his first visit to Maher’s neighborhood.  You could see in their eyes and by their enthusiasm that they were speaking from the heart, that their perceptions were changed through experiences with Kids4Peace and that they felt gratitude for these new relationships and cultural discoveries.

Kids4Peace has a few catch-phrases and “hashtags” like “Together Peace is Possible” and #KeepHopeAlive.  When hundreds of members of a movement for peace come together to celebrate, share stories, and bridge gaps—despite the political volatility of the time—it’s clear that Kids4Peace’s work stands for itself and by just talking to some members it’s easy to see how together peace is indeed possible and how this community is absolutely keeping hope alive.

With summer camps coming to an end, and the August lull upon us where many are vacationing with their families and the office is busy preparing for the exciting year to come, I took a look back at some notes I jotted down throughout this year. These notes were often quotes from the youth; things they said on tours, at activities and meetings, speaking to groups, and to each other.

I thought it would be nice to post a collection of inspiring and honest quotes (and the context behind them) from our K4P youth here in Jerusalem this year. Enjoy!

At the local summer camp in the north a few weeks ago, the 6th and 7th graders did an Outdoor Training activity with ropes. This took a lot of teamwork and communication. Three of the 6th graders, Galina (Christian Palestinian), Tareq (Muslim Palestinian) and Shachar (Jewish Israeli) were working together to walk across the tight-rope. Galina, seeing Shachar harnessed and getting ready to climb the ladder, asked Shachar how she was feeling. “Be brave,” Galina said. Once she was on the rope walking nervously towards the tree Tareq was standing on waiting, Tareq looked at Shachar and said, “put your eyes on my eyes. You can do it!” and helped her until she finished the walk.

In July, Adam (Jewish Israeli) and Charlie (Christian Palestinian) flew to Oklahoma to be the key-note speakers at the 2017 1300-person Episcopalian Youth Event. While there, they gave a few panel discussions. When asked about impact, Charlie said: “Adam came to my grandma’s house last week and we had dinner together. It took him 3 minutes to come to the house, but we never would have met each other if not for Kids4Peace. K4P gave me an important responsibility and job. I am the bridge between the two sides. I break the stereotypes and tell stories of both sides.” And Adam agreed, saying, “now I can say I know Charlie, and I can correct Israelis that have stereotypes; I have another perspective.”

At one of our overnight seminars, our 10th graders came to speak to the 9th graders about their experiences in Washington D.C. last summer, to help them prepare. Adan (Christian Palestinian) said, “turning our frustration into public speaking, we sat with American leaders, able to share our stories and show them why this conflict matters and how it’s affecting us. Public speaking is challenging, you have to be vulnerable, speak about what matters to you and help them understand and see what it is we are doing. Show them why you matter, why your story matters, why they should help this generation.” Zeena (Christian Palestinian) nodded in agreement and chimed in: “We can have an impact on the people listening to us, we have the power.”

In the fall, we walked around the entire periphery of the Old City as a community, learning about the different gates and history of each place. When asked how it felt to be walking around the Old City, together, Nina (Christian Palestinian) said, “we’re thankful to be walking together, showing the world that peace is possible and that we will continue to walk forward, together.” Omri (Jewish Israeli) said, “we are showing the world that peace is possible.” And Talia (Jewish Israeli) said, “it’s like seeing something you have always seen, but not from the other side; from a direction you can’t always see.”

Thank you for inspiring us to continue down this path of community and peace-building.

Written by Liana Rothman, community engagement coordinator




Last week, fifteen Kids4Peace Youth Action Program Counselors (10th-12th grade) and staff, along with 55 campers and staff from the Parents Circle – Families Forum, met with Tamer Nafar, a Palestinian musician and activist. The Youth Action Program has hosted several Town Hall Meetings this year, giving youth and adults the opportunity to meet with and learn from Israeli and Palestinian activists.

Before Tamer Nafar arrived, the two organizations had some time to get to know each other and spend time together. Two teenagers from each organization introduced themselves, shared a personal story and introduced their organization.


We then continued by splitting into small groups for the “Round Table” activity, where the groups took turns asking and answering questions in Hebrew and Arabic about their lives, politics and personalities. 

After dinner, Tamer Nafar arrived. The youth and staff enjoyed an evening of inspiration, as Tamer shared stories of genuine experiences with care and seriousness, connecting music videos and lyrics with his story, weaving us through his childhood and process of growing up into the successful Palestinian rapper and activist that he is today. We could feel the deep connection between his personal life and the music he makes, and the self-awareness of the publicity he has gained over the years and the impact he can make.


Our youth had the opportunity to get to know a unique individual that evening, a leader from the art world here; an activist that was born into the material he works with, an inspiration to us and our work in Jerusalem and around the world.

Sharing about our work at Kids4Peace, our personal stories, getting to know The Parents Circle – Families Forum organization and participants, meeting Tamer Nafar, and exploring Akko/Akka by night was a unique and exciting evening and opportunity for all. 


Written by Liana Rothman, community engagement coordinator