Archives For Jerusalem

by Yazan, Muslim participant, Jerusalem

11794441_915451221844836_3137224644963309201_oToday 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.11722055_915451281844830_3713642335937427211_o

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.

11722419_915451251844833_496912809283893935_oAfter 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.


Talia (left) and Omar (right) welcome the crowd and host the Winter Event

On Tuesday, January 13, Kids4Peace Jerusalem hosted the Annual Winter Event, and saw record-breaking attendance, even after rescheduling last minute due to the anticipated snow storm in Jerusalem. Over 350 youth, families, and supporters came out to acknowledge the despair we have felt for the last 6 months and seek the inspiration to keep moving forward together as a community during such difficult times in Jerusalem.
With two Kids4Peace youth as the hosts (Omar, age 12 Muslim and Talia, age 13 Jewish), the evening opened with remarks from Kids4Peace Executive Director Fr. Josh Thomas, who mentioned several testaments of Kids4Peace’s success in the face of local shocks and setbacks. Firstly, Kids4Peace keeps working and coming together no matter what. Despite the violence and the war and the tension, Kids4Peace has yet to stop and that alone is huge. Secondly, Josh asked the audience to look around and notice that Kids4Peace has grown so much this year that a new location was necessary for community events!


US Consul General Michael Ratney endorses Kids4Peace

The US Consul General of Jerusalem Michael Ratney, then addressed the audience with an empowering endorsement: Kids4Peace embodies what we in the Consulate General strive to achieve – ending the conflict and inspiring hope in Jerusalem and beyond.” Ratney’s words were so personal, showing such a close understanding of Kids4Peace’s activities and mission, that some community members mistook him for a parent or volunteer. Kids4Peace’s relationship with the US government has strengthened immensely in the last several months after receiving support from the US Consulate for the Video Newsletter project, personal visits with Shaun Casey, U.S. Special Advisor to the Secretary of State for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, and as demonstrated by an unannounced visit from USAID of West Bank & Gaza. Kids4Peace is so thankful for this growing partnership.

Three youth from the Counselor-in-Training course, Carla, Waleed, and Emanuel, then shared their stories. Read the transcript of their inspiring speeches by clicking here! Their words were followed by the annual slideshow, which can be watched here.


The next part of the evening came after some deep thinking on behalf of the Kids4Peace staff and volunteers.What is the best way to inspire hope for peace in Jerusalem? How can we address the pain, fear, and distress we all fear while also showing our strength and belief in this important work? We decided to just be ourselves. Mohammad, Kids4Peace Jerusalem Co-Director and Meredith, Kids4Peace Director of Development stood side-by-side on stage and told their honest stories. They spoke of their fear of the “other”, their moments of realization that they misunderstand the “other”, and their unwavering commitments to Kids4Peace.

At this point in the evening, everything stopped. Mohammad and Meredith asked everyone present to turn to one another, say hello, and ask the tough question. “Why are you here? What is your story? What keeps you committed to Kids4Peace?” With tears in their eyes, Kids4Peace community members began to open up. They told each other their hardships, their fear, and their confusion. They confided in one another and found hope in one another. Kids4Peace embodies a culture of peace and empowers a movement for change. For the 350+ members of the audience that night, both were accomplished.

Kids4Peace would like to thank the international board, the US Consul General, the Kids4Peace Steering Committee, staff, advisors, volunteers, parents, and youth for not only attending the event, but for infusing the room with energy and inspiration. Together, peace is possible.


On the 19th of February Sarah a Jewish advisor at K4P led an introduction to YaLa Young Leaders to the Leadership group.

She introduced the topic by asking them to talk about social media and the way they use technological tools. Facebook was the most popular tool as noted by the group. They used it to stay connected to their friends. Sarah then explained how something like Facebook can be used for so much more than that, emphasising its unique platform as a place of freedom of speech, cooperation and exchange. Sarah then spoke about how YaLa was formed; after the Arab Spring and the rising social justice protests taking place in Israel, social media, Facebook in particular became a key tool for the communication and expression of those people involved, it gave an outlet the social movements of the time. Uri Savir, founder of YaLa Young Leaders felt that peace in the Middle East rested with the youth of the region, not with the political elite. This thought was the driving force behind the setting up of a Facebook page; Today less than 3 years later, 440,000 young people are using the page from all over the Middle East and Northern Africa. The page has become a place where youth can meet, debate, discuss and often disagree.

Another interesting thing that Sarah spoke about was its Online University. The desire for access to good education was an expressed interest of many of the youth. In 2013 YaLa launched its own Online University. Over 300 students from across the region have participated in free online classes from well-known established Universities. This in itself has shown how Facebook as a technological tool can have a far reaching social impact. The internet does not work from borders it works sharing information freely and without discrimination.

The group were then afforded the opportunity to meet one of those students. She was Tunisian, her name was Rahma and she spoke of being an active member of YaLa, She spoke though Skype, she introduced herself and fielded questions from the group. The group were very keen to know her thoughts on the revolution and the new constitution. Rahma answered all the questions the group had for her. When asked why she was interested in Israel and Palestine she responded that she is a humanist who feels concerned each time there is suffering in the world.

The second part focused on blogging. YaLa host an online blogging platform known as the YaLa Café, approximately 60 young people aged 20-30 years contribute twice a week. Sarah spoke about some of the topics the contributors would focus on; gender equality, peace, politics, check points, religion and identity. Sarah then held a discussion where the group exchanged their feelings about these blogs, these particular themes. The group was very sensitive to the particular topics that are popular amongst the bloggers.

Sarah then asked the group to write an individual ‘blog post’. Everybody wrote a piece, for now they choose not to share them publicly but they were amazing pieces. Topics included; peace, fear and gender inequality to name but a few.

The session concluded on the note that the peace community is bigger than it sometimes seems to those of us working on the ground. The internet is one tool that we can harness for our cause, encouraging new ways to communicate and cooperate.

Maybe someday our youth will want to publically share their stories or testimonies and they may choose to do that through YaLa Café.

On Thursday the 20th of February K4P Jerusalem had the pleasure to welcome actress and activist Natalie Portman to our offices. She took a break from filming her directorial debut here in Jerusalem to visit, an adaption of Israeli novelist Amos Oz’s acclaimed memoir A Tale of Love and Darkness.  3D4A6874

With people arriving early the anticipation and excitement was palpable. Staff, alumni, volunteers, members of the steering committee and young people from the culminating groups awaited her arrival with baited breath. This excitement was not just that we were about to meet one of most prolific female actresses in Hollywood but that this was a woman born in Jerusalem, well known throughout the world who speaks with hope that, “someday [we] use our unique human assets of language and empathy rather than military technology or propaganda to resolve this conflict” A ideal that K4P endorses and works through. Having just gained NGO statues we are working towards developing and delivering a programme that will do just that. By extending the hand of friendship we are surmounting mountains that politics in the region has failed to deliver on. This visit is a testament to all the young people that have participated and a reminder to the staff that the work we do is of importance in shaping the worlds understanding of life in the Middle East.

Co-director Mohammad Joulany introduced Natalie Portman noting her work as an actress but choosing to focus on the many campaigns which she has led and or been a part of. The list was extensive and imparted on all those present the keen humanitarian spirit with which Natalie has used her star statues. Three young people from The Leadership Programme representing the three faiths presented a bouquet of flowers and then addressed Natalie directly focusing in what K4P means to them and what they have gained from their participation in the programme as well as acknowledging the challenges they face as young people living in Jerusalem. She then addressed the crowd with great humility and compassion speaking of the hope that young people brought to the region and the support she had for the ongoing work of the organisation. The floor was then open to ask Natalie direct questions, she spoke of cooperation and the human spirit, her love for Jerusalem and her intention to continue to visit the region. Co-director Rebecca Sullum then presented her with a Kids4Peace gift bag, including t-shirts for her husband and her son as a thank you and a momentum of her visit.

We wish to acknowledge and thank Rana Khatib who sits on the K4P steering committee for arranging this visit. Natalie Portman studied Arabic with her father Omar Othman when she studied at The Hebrew University, thus furnishing a close relationship that led to her hearing about the work of Kids4Peace Jerusalem.

More than 250 Youth, Family Members, Staff & Community Leaders gathered together on Thursday December 19, 2013 from across East & West Jerusalem and the West Bank. For many, the event was the first time venturing outside after days of Jerusalem’s most intense snowstorm in over a century.

The Kids4Peace community was honored to receive blessings by prominent local clergy members from the three religions including former MK Rabbi Michael Melchior, Father Sanni Ibrahim Azar, and Emam Hosein Abed Gomaa. The community was inspired and encouraged to continue coming together amid rising regional political tension, an unpromising peace process, and increased violence. Rabbi Melchior challenged the community to “listen to other people’s dreams and change our destiny.” He proclaimed to the audience boldly, “We are not destined to fight and kill each other.”

After the blessings, the Jerusalem Youth Chorus of the YMCA performed songs in Hebrew and Arabic, filling the auditorium with cheer and song. Executive Director Josh Thomas honored Kids4Peace’s longest-serving staff, and Jerusalem Co-Directors Mohammad Joulany and Rebecca Sullum announced a new community service partnership with Hadassah Hospital. Staff and volunteers then led activity stations, including art, drumming, and cookie decorating.

The art station featured an array of gifts for the youth to decorate which Kids4Peace will be donating to children hospitalized at Hadassah Hospital as part of a new volunteering relationship with the Mount Scopus branch of Hadassah Hospital. Kids4Peace Jerusalem will be visiting the pediatric ward regularly to run activities for the youth in the hospital.

For the first time ever– Kids4Peace Grandmother Jihan Raouf led an incredible cookie-decorating station, featuring her own homemade cookies! Guests had choices of toppings, spreads, icing, candy and sprinkles for the most colorful and exciting cookies Jerusalem has ever seen.

Kids4Peace counselors in training created and ran a Kids4Peace game with prizes including new Kids4Peace merchandise.

The Fundraising Raffle was a huge success and congratulations to Leap4Peace member Aviya Cohen on selling the most tickets! Special thank you to our sponsors: Guiding Star Travel, Sbitany and Sons, and the Village Green.

The event was a blast for all who attended as community members of all ages rekindled their connections and friendships. Thank you to everyone who participated and we look forward to next year’s winter event already!


IMG_4237 IMG_4250 IMG_4260 IMG_4273 IMG_4117 IMG_4206 IMG_4213 IMG_4215

My apologies for not updating sooner. This blogger got a bit inundated with other camp responsibilities. But let me take this opportunity to fill you in on the last few days of camp.

On Wednesday, we returned to business as usual at camp. We began the day in dialogue groups. We discussed the way that the north star helps us to find our direction, our goals. In small groups of new friends, each kid thought of one goal for the next year and wrote it on a piece of yellow paper. Then, the kids fit the pieces into the shape of a star. Each person’s goals fit together perfectly. With the help of our friends, we can achieve anything.

During the afternoon, the kids learned about intentional communities. A representative from a kibbutz explained how the kibbutz is organized to reflect the ideology of its members. After her explanation, the kids got to design their own kibbutz…out of ICE CREAM! And then eat it!

In the evening, our group had a pool party with lots of delicious food and fun music.

On Thursday morning, the New Generation campers joined the Roots campers on a trip to learn about environmental stewardship. We learned about compost toilets, rolled seed balls, and made bricks out of mud and straw.

In the afternoon, there was an all camp presentation. The dance and movement group had a recital in front of the whole camp and we enjoyed the premier of Roots’ new song (video forthcoming)!

Be on the look out for videos from the Roots and New Generation groups in the next few days!


DSC00246Opening the Day

DSC00254Our own Big Dipper

DSC00276…and North Star

DSC00275Planning their ice cream community

DSC00274Another Ice Cream Community

DSC00280Barbecue and Pool Party


DSC00314Recipe for Seed Balls

DSC00318Learning how to make Seed Balls

DSC00317Making Seed Balls

DSC00327…and Mud Bricks


The Roots Camp Debuted their song with the help from some New Generation Campers

DSC00352And a conga line ensued. 


2013: A Jerusalem Odyssey

A group of youth from Kids4Peace recently spent the afternoon exploring the Old City of Jerusalem as “time-traveling explorers” from the future. The three teams—“The Investigators,” “The Champions,” and “The Christopher Columbus”—spent their time learning about the composition of Jerusalem’s population: Muslims, Jews, and Christians, along with a healthy number of Tourists!

They found that the tourists were the easiest group to identify: they wear hats, colorful shirts, and sunburned noses. They walk around with heavy cameras and large travel books. The groups learned a great deal about these tourists: they come from all over the world and love Jerusalem for its history and beautiful people. The groups met with local storeowners who told them that most tourists are looking for wooden crosses as souvenirs of their time in Israel.

As part of their mission, the teams had to explain the way from the meeting point near Jaffa Gate to: the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Dome of the Rock, and HaKotel. This was a relatively straightforward activity for the Christians and Muslims, who each agreed on one single route to their holy sites. However, when the Jewish kids were asked the way to HaKotel, they pointed in different directions. However, when we tested out their different paths, we found that both were correct!

At the end of the day, kids and parents shared a meal of pizza and stories about their shared experiences of Jerusalem: weddings, bar-mitzvot, Christmas, birthdays, Ramadan. The city is full of wonderful memories for everyone!

The Treasure Hunt!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAworking together to learn more about the Old City

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnother group working together on the treasure hunt

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAoutside the old city walls



The Awards Ceremony!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Certificates: Outstanding Explorer and Peace-Maker Certificate

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwaiting for the ceremony to begin!




The Pizza Party!


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALearning from each other






Kids4Peace youth and their families explored three important religious sites in the Old City of Jerusalem. The group met at Jaffa Gate and meandered through the labyrinth of streets leading to the Kotel.

IMG_1608Beginning our tour with a group picture.

IMG_1323Taking a break along the way!

At the Western Wall, a Jewish youth gave a short presentation on the importance of the Wall in his religion and spiritual practices. Then, his mother led the group in a traditional Jewish song.


IMG_1624Singing a new song.

IMG_1568Learning about the importance of HaKotel.

Then, the group traveled to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where a Christian participant showed us some important parts of the church, including the location of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial.

IMG_1337Inside the Holy Sepulcher

IMG_1345Exploring a tomb in the Holy Sepulcher

After the Holy Sepulcher, the group took a short walk to visit the Mosque of Omar.  A Muslim participant and his father described the importance of the mosque in Muslim prayer and community life. We were lucky to get a tour of the mosque after the explanation.

IMG_1352Outside the Mosque

IMG_1350Youth learning about the mosque

The tour concluded with some youth reflections over fresh fruit and savory pastries.




So many opportunities to be thankful this Ramadan!

The Kids4Peace family has truly been blessed with abundance this Ramadan season. In preparation for their trip to the USA in August, the Boston group met together for a wonderful Iftar meal. Not only did they join together for a magnificent meal and incredible views of Jerusalem, but also, they had the opportunity to join in conversation and learning about the traditions of Ramadan from two of the youth. As we watched the group come together around a shared table beneath the stars of Jerusalem, we couldn’t help but dream of the peace that these young leaders would bring to their communities.


Explaining Iftar to the group.


And stories about Ramadan.


Yummy food.




Greetings from Jerusalem, where many in the city are celebrating the holy month of Ramadan. Ramadan is a month of remembering and giving to the poor and hungry.  As part of Kids4Peace’s commitment to learning and understanding our varied spiritual and religious practices, we organized an Iftar dinner for our families. It was a great evening to reconnect and pray together for peace.

We want to take this opportunity to thank the steering committee members for their great support in arranging for this successful event. Thanks to Ibrahim Abu Dalo, Dr. Raouf Azar, Dr. Kholoud Dajani, Rana Khatib, Arie Melamed-Yekel, and Lilach Shelly.

The event helped us raise 2500 NIS for this year’s local camp. We are grateful for the generosity of so many families and friends of the organization who attended or made donations.

Great Food!




Great Conversation!




Were you unable to attend but still wanting to contribute? We recently launched an online fundraiser for our local summer camp. Every contribution brings us closer to goal of one, peaceful Jerusalem: