(Kids for Peace has been bringing Israeli and Palestinian children together for dialogue and recreation for many years. The children, along with their parents, spend eight months in workshops before the children board planes to attend Kids for Peace summer camps in North America. I was in Jerusalem when Kids For Peace celebrated its tenth anniversary.)
T. 13 I am a girl from Beit Hanina, between Jerusalem and Ramallah. My father's family came from the northern part of Israel and my mother came from Jerusalem.
Beit Hanina is divided into two parts now, north and south. It is separated by the Wall. The Qalandia checkpoint is there. I used to have to go through it to visit my grandparents I didn't like it. I always felt like I was going to be in trouble. But now my grandparents live on this side of the Wall, so I don't have to go through the checkpoints anymore.
I got involved with Kids for Peace because my sister did it when she was my age and she really enjoyed it. It's been a great experience so far. You get to meet kids from other cultures and you can make friends with kids you might not meet otherwise.
When we first started meeting, we would play games to help us get to know each other. Simple games at first, because we were all strangers. We'd play games to learn each other's names, learn each other's favorite colors, things like that.
I went to a Kids for Peace camp in Atlanta. It was so much fun!
Our leaders tell us that we should risk everything for peace, that it takes a lot of courage to say yes to friendship in the middle of a war. They tell us that peace isn't something we get, like an object, that we get and then we can forget about. Peace is something we have to keep practicing. The more we practice it, the better we get at it.
But peace isn't just about being nice. Of course we have to be kind to each other. It's also about telling the truth and about hearing the truth.
In our discussion groups, after we were past the easy stuff like learning our names, we talked about serious things. I talked about what it was like to go through the checkpoints. The Jewish kids talked about knowing they would have to go into the army and wondering what that would be like.
It can be hard to tell someone that you are hurt, and it can be really hard to hear someone tell you that they have been hurt by you - not you specifically, but by what you represent. We all want to be good people. I've never killed a Jewish Israeli, but Jewish Israelis might not trust me at first because maybe someone in their family was killed by an Arab. And the Jewish Israeli kids in Kids for Peace did not build the wall that kept me from my grandparents, but other Jewish Israelis did.
I would like to become an optician when I get older. When things get hard, I sit and read, because that helps me to escape.
(C. is another girl I met at the Kids for Peace anniversary party.)
C. I am thirteen years old, from Beit Safafa. My father is from Yafa and my mother comes from Beit Jala. I'm in the eighth grade. Math is my best subject. Grammar is my worst.
My teacher got me involved in Kids for Peace. I really like it because I want to have peace and I want to have Jewish friends and Muslim friends and all kinds of friends. I am Christian. Many Arabs are Muslim, so I already knew a lot about Islam before joining Kids for Peace, but I didn't know anything about being Jewish because I hadn't met any Jewish kids. There are no Jews in Beit Safafa. We are right beside a settlement called Gilo, which is Jewish, but we can't just go there, and the kids from there don't come to where I live.
My grandfather lives on the other side of the wall. We can go to visit him if we go through the checkpoints, but he can't come to see us because he doesn't have the right permit.
Talking is the thing I like best about Kids for Peace, talking and listening, when we sit in a circle and talk about important things. Last winter, when the bombs were falling from Gaza, - and on Gaza - our leaders called us to come in for a special meeting so we could talk about our feelings. One of the girls - a Jewish girl - has parents who were living near Gaza and she was afraid for them. Other Jewish kids were afraid for their brothers and sisters in the army. We talked about what the children in Gaza must be feeling.
Fifteen of us were picked to be in a film for Kids for Peace and I got to be one of them! In the film we are all in a park. It's a nice day. We are in groups and each group is colouring a section of a heart, and at the end of the film we put all the pieces of the heart together and it's really beautiful. And in between we all talk about what peace means and what it's like to make friends with other kids.
When I get older I would like to become a doctor for babies, and I would also like to continue my peace work, because there is a lot of work to do.