Saturday, September 1, 2007

Israelis/ Palestinian Youth Summer Camp

28 August 2007
AT-TUWANI: Israeli children, parents, and teachers participate in Tuwani
summer camp

On 11 and 12 August, fifteen young Israelis and many of their parents joined
Palestinian children from the Tuwani area in summer camp activities. Tuwani
community members collaborated with the Israeli peace organization Ta'ayush
and a non-profit organization called Prelude to make the summer camp

The Israeli visitors were mainly students and teachers from a bilingual
school in Jerusalem. Upon entering the Tuwani schoolyard, an arc of
cheering, chanting Palestinian children, clad in summer camp T-shirts and
caps, welcomed them. After shaking hands and listening to brief welcome
recitations from their hosts, the guests filed into classrooms for morning
activities that included musical games and art projects. Later, Tuwani
children hosted a tour of the village aiming to teach their Jerusalem
friends about life in the rural Palestinian setting. The Israeli youngsters
observed and participated in pulling water from the well, milking goats and
sheep, and riding a donkey before enjoying a meal prepared by local women.
A separate outing to the nearby village of Mufakara took place the following
day. A Palestinian cave-dwelling family received the Palestinians and
Israelis as guests for tea and conversation. The hosts responded to
questions from Israeli visitors about the challenges of living near two
Israeli settler outposts.

In a closing finale of the two-day exchange, all children joined forces in a
painting project that resulted in a vibrant mural hemming the exterior wall
of Tuwani's school.

Parents and teachers of the Israeli summer campers were equally involved in
the tours and activities. Some voiced concerns that the topics of settler
violence and other realities of the Israeli occupation could overburden the
young visitors. But all agreed that the visit reinforced the importance of
learning about Palestinian culture and building relationships with their
counterparts on the other side of the Green Line.

One Tuwani summer camp organizer commented on the significance of the visit:
"This is really something never done before in this whole area. We're
hoping that the people who came will tell their friends, and next year we
can have fifty children from Israel visiting us." He also expressed
interest in offering overnight home stays for next year's guests. "By doing
this we're saying we have faith in the future, because the children -- from
both sides -- are our future."

Click on the following link for a slideshow from the Tuwani summer camp
Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) seeks to enlist the whole church in
organized, nonviolent alternatives to war and places teams of trained
peacemakers in regions of lethal conflict. Originally a violence-reduction
initiative of the historic peace churches (Mennonite, Church of the Brethren
and Quaker), CPT now enjoys support and membership from a wide range of
Christian denominations.

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