For twelve days, twenty-three teenagers from Israel and Palestine–Muslims, Christians, and Jews–took part in Jerusalem Peacebuilders’ Interfaith Citizenship Program, where the shared value of environmental stewardship creates space for personal reflection, new friendship, and dialogue about the conflict. On the last day of the program, the participants were invited to reflect on the meaning of these new friendships on their lives and on the way they view the conflict. It was a beautiful, transformative experience for so many of them–and the many Palmer volunteers who helped make it possible– as the following two reflections attest.
Hanna (a Jewish participant from Mexico who moved, by herself, to live in Israel for a year. This program was her long lay-over on her way back to her family)
This trip is finishing. A lot of things happened and everything sounds crazy in my mind. Now I realize how much I will miss Israel, JPB & all the people I’ve met during this year. Like I wrote to my younger self during one of our activities, I am braver than I thought, stronger than lots of my friends and family thought, weird, complex, and extraordinary. During camp, I’ve learned about religions, cultures, and stories. I will never forget these people.
In the camp, we had all kind of experiences and each experience was honest, true, and connected to the reality we live in. The world is not made just of mercy and blessings. I have–we have– a lot of reminders about how unfair life is sometimes, but I do think that peace is possible. Before camp, I thought that peace is far away from my generation, but I realized that it is not.
After a crazy year in Israel and this meaningful, powerful program, I’ll be back in “my reality”, to a society and a background full of close-minded people, a bubble of mostly Jewish people. I will go back to a world where money is more attractive than the mind or heart of a person.
I can’t remember exactly who I was before meeting all of these Israeli, Palestinian, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Arab, Bedouin, Asian, and Armenian people and the camp is the perfect reminder that we are all human beings. We should learn to appreciate all the things and blessings that we’ve received. After a few days of being in the camp, I was shocked by the complexity of our identities, I really wanted to come home. But then I asked myself: Is this really what I want to do (To put my effort, energy and time on)? Am I just an outsider to “the conflict”? Do they like me or just respect me (My personality, essence, mentality)?
After observing and listening to them I finally realized that I am part of “them”. I have the responsibility to help solving the conflict as well.
Sarey (a Muslim participant who made a quick best friend in Forat and couldn’t get used to rain in the summer)
I will never forget. I will always remember.
A twelve-day journey, 280 hours full of fun, 16,800 minutes mixed with joy and love. We are a big family with lots of memories. I remember when we met at the airport. I remember when Sarah, our amazing mother, (accidentally) cleaned the Lufthansa plane with her water bottle. I remember when we arrived in Texas after fifteen hours of traveling. I remember when we started singing together, playing together, and joking with each other.
I remember, on the third day of camp, when we were about to move to our new campsite, imagining the place. Is it a big room or a small one? Is there one bathroom that eight boys will share? I can't forget the moment when we actually arrived. The sky was falling. We started helping each other to get the bags into the room under a lot of rain and we had a lot of fun. I remember when we played basketball. I remember the high ropes, the blob and the inflatable iceberg. I remember Bush Library and my best friend in the program: Mr. President. I remember everything; boom, chicka boom, boom, boom, chicka boom. The time is counting down.
Lots of pressure, and tons of tears. Twelve more hours before we leave. Every one of us, every member of our family, learned a lot of things about the environment, the conflict, and about themselves. I will never forget my family; I will always call for peace in Palestine-Israel. You and In should never ever forget this thousand-mile journey.
You and I should never ever forget that a thousand-mile journey starts with one step. I will never forget. I will always remember.