Tallulah

“While I have never had to worry about where I am going to sleep and where I will get my next meal, I’ve grown up in communities filled with people below the poverty line. It has been a part of my life, and I’m especially passionate about helping children, so that their economic status does not affect their opportunities and experiences in life.”

  • Tallulah – Christian American participant, 16 years old

Young people are the future, and it’s important for them to get involved in their world so that they can change the things they want to have changed before it’s too late. 

My generation can help create peace because we have the ability to learn from the mistakes of the past and the ability  to connect with each other, no matter gender, race, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic status, physical ability, etc.

I am most passionate about women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and the protection of children experiencing poverty and homelessness. As a girl who identifies as LGBTQ, I find the protection of my own freedoms, and the freedoms of others like me, particularly important. While I have never had to worry about where I am going to sleep and where I will get my next meal, I’ve grown up in communities filled with people below the poverty line. It has been a part of my life, and I’m especially passionate about helping children, so that their economic status does not affect their opportunities and experiences in life. 

It is easy to believe that things aren’t changing, especially when so many terrible things end up in the media we consume regularly. The best way to get out of a cynical loop is to spend time  with individual people and open yourself up to them so that you can see the  goodness in some people. If all that goodness works together, our world can truly change. 

My peacemaking hero is Malala Yousafzai, who spent most of her teenage-dom working for equality in her own area. She was lucky to grow up in a family where her education was just as valued as her brothers, and made the courageous choice to go to school in a hostile environment. She was even more courageous when she began to fight for the right of education for all girls. Even after an attempt on her life was made, she continued to work towards equality and peace. 

This is especially inspiring. 

As a young peacemaker who believes very strongly in education as an equalizer for all people, and a great first step on the way to a peaceful world, Malala’s efforts are a great example of how anyone can make a difference. Her grit and willpower are enviable, and her compassion is astounding. One can never know how they will step up for others when their own safety is being threatened, and Malala has made it clear that her fight for equality is more important than her comfort. She inspires me to face adversity head on, and never stop in the strive for peace.

To read more about Tallulah and other youth leaders in Kids4Peace, purchase our book Raising Generation Peace at http://k4p.org/book

“I really believe it’s simple: the conflicts arise just because of our differences. And so noticing and understanding, from such a young age, that at the root of discrimination sit our differences, I have always been interested in learning and exploring those differences. That realization ignited my path in advocacy and peacemaking.”

  • Shayan – Muslim American participant, 18 years old

I’m 18 years old, I live in a small suburb outside of Boston called Needham. I am a first generation Pakistani-American from a Muslim family. 

The first day of kindergarten in Needham, I remember the teacher stumbling over my name—she sailed through the Stephanies and Seans—and then she came to my name, she looked around, squinting her eyes, and tried to say it—and all the kids looked at me. I remember feeling this very deep embarrassment—just for being there. That moment was a deep realization that I’m clearly different than other kids. 

My name is just one thing, the smallest thing perhaps, of all the other parts of me that are different. This was a really important moment for me. Growing up with these types of personal experiences have made me more mindful of discrimination across the country, for different groups, not just my own. Like the structural racism or police treatment of African-Americans—my experience as a minority makes me super conscious of other groups who are discriminated against.

I really believe it’s simple: the conflicts arise just because of our differences. And so noticing and understanding, from such a young age, that at the root of discrimination sit our differences, I have always been interested in learning and exploring those differences. That realization ignited my path in advocacy and peacemaking. 

Throughout middle school and high school, with my involvement in Kids4Peace, I’ve been able to take these things I was feeling, this issue of ‘difference’ and explore and build my empathy and awareness. At the Global Institute, where we lobbied in front of legislators who were in a position to make change, we felt like we actually had a voice to influence and enact change. 

That experience made me realize that change can come, but change comes from policy—that people need to get involved to impact those decision makers. That experience has inspired me to think about working for a non-profit or in government in the future, organizing to make change in the community or create policy. So now I’m taking economics, and government policy classes—so I’m definitely interested in a career path along those lines and studying these issues in college. 

I think we live in a world where dialogue and discourse is overlooked immensely—I think it’s partially because the climate of our country today has made people cynical about the potential for true understanding to come from personal engagement. 

I don’t have all the answers to solve all these problems, but I do know that dialogue, when used as a tool, as a foundation for human connection, can help us face the problems we face today.

To read more about Shayan and other youth leaders in Kids4Peace, purchase our book Raising Generation Peace at http://k4p.org/book

“The most important thing is to begin by telling your story to the right people, to the people who you know have a way to understand, then from there your confidence will grow, and you will be able to share with more people. You will realize that it’s never wrong to share your own experience, and you never know what can come of it.”

  • Lana – Muslim American participant, 18 years old

Speaking for myself, I think young people are most afraid of being judged. I was afraid to tell my own story for a long time. I had never been able to speak to my friends at school about the things that had happened to me in Iraq—until I had gone to Kids4Peace. I remember the first time I told my story to the circle at camp, and the counselor looked at me and said, ‘Lana, tell us your story.’ And I remember everyone looking at me. But I knew that these people had heard stories like mine before, so I knew I could tell them, and I trusted them to listen.

When I was done, swimming in my own pool of tears,  I had built my confidence for the first time to share.

The most important thing is to begin by telling your story to the right people, to the people who you know have a way to understand, then from there your confidence will grow, and you will be able to share with more people. You will realize that it’s never wrong to share your own experience, and you never know what can come of it.

I grew up in Iraq, but in 2006 we had to move because of the war. I was six year old. My memory of the war was the fear of the bombs… having to literally run away from a bomb is something that has stayed with me. Our house had been threatened by the bombing and my parents received a notice that within one week, all the things inside the house, and any people inside as well, would be destroyed. My parents told my sisters and I to go pack a bag for two weeks, and we would go to Jordan, and then return. But two weeks turned into two years, and we never came home. To this day, I haven’t seen my childhood home. 

Coming from Iraq, being new in America, my family had always taught us from a young age never to jump to conclusions. We knew how people tend to do that looking at us, so we were always taught never to do that to the people we  met. My parents always reminded us to look beyond just how things may appear at first. My mom is Shia and my dad is Sunni, so in Iraq, they constantly saw how people reacted to their marriage—but they never looked at each other in those terms, and they never had conflict about that. So we learned from a young age to look beyond those labels.

Starting at a young age is so important—peacemaking becomes as normal as brushing your teeth. Having an open mind comes from my family, but also from being in Kids4Peace every summer—it’s a habit for me to think about where the other person is coming from. 

The value comes as you begin to connect the dots and suddenly what we’ve been practicing at camp makes sense on a much bigger level. After the hiking, swimming, and games, we’d come sit together, and get to work, and it was difficult. Those discussions were hard. But at such a young age, the experience really affects you and opens your world.

Within our current political situation, it is one of the most important times to be having these hard discussions. In a country where it’s getting harder and harder to be heard, we have to speak up, and try to get heard. Talk to your local political leaders, to your neighbors, try to have difficult discussions and conversations that you would normally want to shy away from. 

To read more about Lana and other youth leaders in Kids4Peace, purchase our book Raising Generation Peace at http://k4p.org/book

“This is not just an organization and a youth movement—it has grown into a flourishing community. A community that’s programs are turning today’s youth into not only tomorrow’s leaders of peace, but into the leaders of peace today.”

  • Maytav – Jewish-Israeli participant, 16 years old

When I was younger, my neighborhood served as a bubble and I rarely got to interact with the “other side”,  much less hear their opinions or points of view. I thought it was simple: I was born here;  I was raised here; this is my land. I wasn’t aware of it yet, but there were people only a few minutes away that were much less privileged than I was. Some of them had to cross a checkpoint to go to their schools and when they couldn’t they simply wouldn’t go.

I was completely unaware of their struggle. I was unaware that there was even another point of view, but soon I would join Kids4Peace and that would change. I first heard of Kids4Peace through a friend. She told me it was fun.That’s all I knew getting into it: It was fun. After I had been interviewed and accepted into Kids4Peace, came my first meeting. We had a number of ice breaker games and as we were laughing and playing together I looked around and I realized that I hadn’t bothered to ask who was Jewish, Muslim or Christian and as a matter of fact for the most part I couldn’t tell. It was in that moment that I started to realized that there was no other side, we all live on earth and we are all human, we are all people who should be treated equally.

After that meeting and a number of others, I started seeing things differently. I would walk on the streets and I would see the separation, I could see the divide between people just because they looked a bit different and for a while I couldn’t understand it. It’s easy for a 13 year old to say ‘I want to change the world’ but doing it gets a little trickier. I’m a big believer in the saying “be the change you wish to see in the world“ and that’s what I decided to do. I decided that I would no longer stand by and say nothing I would stand up for what I believe in. It’s no easy task to stand up and speak up against public opinion. 

That’s something that Kids4Peace really helped me with in a number of ways. Hearing so many different opinions and points of view on the same matter gave me a new special point of view one that understands each side and each side’s pain which I wanted to share with others. One of the things we work hard on at Kids4Peace is being able to share our stories and opinions with each other and other people outside of the program. Kids4Peace gave me the tools and confidence to discuss and even disagree with people at home, school and wherever I go.

Because of Kids4Peace, my second family,  I have been able to travel around the world, meeting inspiring and influential people learning from them and sometimes teaching them as well. I can say without a doubt that this program has changed my life and all I hope is to able to change someone else’s. This is not just an organization and a youth movement—it has grown into a flourishing community. A community that’s programs are turning today’s youth into not only tomorrow’s leaders of peace, but into the leaders of peace today. Luckily enough today through K4P I have friends of different religions, nationalities and across different economic sectors of society and to me—this is a whole new type of privilege.

To read more about Maytav and other youth leaders in Kids4Peace, purchase our book Raising Generation Peace at http://k4p.org/book

“One of my friends at school used to say she didn’t like to communicate with Jewish Israelis—but I have talked to her all about what I have heard in Kids4Peace and told her about what I believe, and she has told me that she has since changed her opinion. That is a start.”

  • Maria – Palestinian Christian participant, 15 years old

My mother and father are both originally from Nazareth, and I have two younger brothers. My parents both moved to Jerusalem to study at the university, and that’s where they met. When I tell my story, I feel I represent more than just myself—[people] look and see me as a ‘typical’ Palestinian Christian girl living in Jerusalem.

When I speak with a Muslim Arab, I don’t feel any separation. But I do feel the distance when I am with a Jewish Israeli. There is a bigger difference because we don’t share language, culture, or food, so all these small differences make it harder. But now, when I talk to people from any background, I don’t want to think about all the differences, we are all human, and we should not let these differences get in our way.

Until I joined Kids4Peace I hadn’t had much experience talking with Jewish people or Jewish kids of any background—up until 6th grade I was a bit shy. Even though we all live here in Jerusalem, we live together everyday, we don’t talk to the other side. They speak Hebrew, I speak Arabic, we share this space, but we don’t talk. 

I wasn’t that interested in how Jews live or what they believe because I assumed that what I heard on the news, in Palestinian news, was the truth. I didn’t think I needed to hear their stories. But when I started learning about non-violent communication, and when we really began confronting the problems between us, then I started caring, and became interested. 

You always think that Israelis don’t want us here. But then one day, I heard an Israeli in Kids4Peace say they didn’t want us to go, that they wanted us to stay and live together in peace, I was shocked. 

Now I’ve learned why it’s important to keep talking, and we have to keep trying. We have to hear each other stories to know how to work together in the future, and make a change. If 5% of the people believe peace is possible and go to their own communities and share, it will grow. 

One of my friends at school used to say she didn’t like to communicate with Jewish Israelis—but I have talked to her all about what I have heard in Kids4Peace and told her about what I believe, and she has told me that she has since changed her opinion. That is a start.

To read more about Maria and other youth leaders in Kids4Peace, purchase our book Raising Generation Peace at http://k4p.org/book

“In my definition, there are two types [of peace]: negative peace and positive peace. Negative peace is the absence of conflict, the absence of war. Positive peace is people living together in harmony. Turning harm into harmony is my greater meaning of peace. It’s non-judgement. It’s love, it’s thinking.”

  • Kareem – Palestinian Muslim participant, 15 years old

My name is Kareem Hijazi. I’m from Jerusalem, I’m 15 years old and I’m Muslim. 

When I was really little, I used to hear about Kids4Peace a lot. My sister was the one who really encouraged me to go for it. She often pushes me to do these extra-curricular things. But even though she pushed me to do this, I felt Kids4Peace is trying to bring a change. The most important thing the program has provided me are the skills to speak my opinions, and how to speak in general— public speaking, debate, and listening. 

We do a lot of good things—our projects in the community, for instance. I think it’s really a positive thing to learn about people of other faiths, of beliefs, other cultures, because everyone comes from a different background. 

If everyone would truly follow their own religion, their own faith, and truly live the morals they are taught, we would have peace. Because all religions teach these things. The problem is, people think like scribbles, illogically, I mean, and they don’t even follow their own values that they claim to believe in. 

You need both to be working, from the civic side and the leadership. Politics in today’s world, do rule everything. They are the ones making the decisions and laws. We need the politics to work, because even if the people take one step forward, the government has the power to take two steps back. The government has control—but the people do have an effect, if they want to take it on. 

I think there are a lot of people in this world who don’t think, they just believe what they have learned from others. But telling your story shows them and gives them an experience that is stronger than their illogical misinterpretations. 

Peace does not have one single definition. I see it more as a sequence of morals and values. In my definition, there are two types: negative peace and positive peace. Negative peace is the absence of conflict, the absence of war. Positive peace is people living together in harmony. Turning harm into harmony is my greater meaning of peace. It’s non-judgement. It’s love, it’s thinking.

To read more about Kareem and other youth leaders in Kids4Peace, purchase our book Raising Generation Peace at http://k4p.org/book

“When you have a community, like Kids4Peace, where you can observe others in their religious traditions, and see how they practice their faith, you learn about it from a place of non-judgement. And when people are interested in other cultures or religions, I think it brings people together — because I think people naturally like to learn and understand.”

  • Ezra – Jewish-American participant, 14 years old

A peacemaker needs to be able to understand and then explain a conflict using only the facts. They also need to try to understand (this is vital to the first step) the thinking of both sides involved. 

I come from a community where most people are in favor of a two-state solution—where Israel shouldn’t rule Palestine, and Palestine would have their free and independent government. But I feel that what gets lost all the time, with all the numbers or the political issues, is just how people are truly suffering in Palestine. And in Israel as a whole, with the Jews who want to see Palestine free. I’ve learned a lot about how the conflict affects both sides, and makes life hard.

I believe Kids4Peace has a real power for change—because I’ve seen the growth and change in myself. Kids4Peace gave me an opportunity not only to explore my own religion through meeting other Jewish kids who practice Judaism in a different way than I do, but to learn and listen to Christians and Muslims, and learn how their faith informs their life. Previously, I had met and knew many Christian-Americans, but I hadn’t had the opportunity to meet and become friends with Muslim-Americans. In many ways, I found we were similar—they play soccer like me, they go to school and they like it some days and don’t like it other days. But I also found differences—for instance, those who pray five times a day, was something new for me. Or Christians who pray on their rosary several times a day. 

I found that many of the Muslim kids families’ stories were also different than mine—many of them had emigrated to the US much more recently than ours, and lived with or near their large extended families. My family came to the US in the 1920’s, and our extended family lives quite spread out, and I only get to see them during Hanukkah or Passover. But no matter what our family histories are, I discovered we all feel American. We all feel a deep sense of being in America and building a future here. 

I see my religion, and the other religions in the world around us, as very beautiful. I think there is a lot of knowledge and truth and skills that can be learned from all different religions. When you have a community, like Kids4Peace, where you can observe others in their religious traditions, and see how they practice their faith, you learn about it from a place of non-judgement. And when people are interested in other cultures or religions, I think it brings people together — because I think people naturally like to learn and understand. 

My generation can help create peace because it has never been more necessary, and we have the resources to do it. I think the problems we face are acute issues that many generations have struggled with, so we come to the problems with real understanding and clarity. We know what’s wrong and what needs to be done.

To read more about Ezra and other youth leaders in Kids4Peace, purchase our book Raising Generation Peace at http://k4p.org/book

“I know a lot of people who have lost all hope for peace because they say it’s a conflict that can never be ended. That was the moment I knew I had to do this work…”

  • Ayala – Jewish-Israeli participant, 16 years old

Being the nice and nerdy girl I was, I said “OK!” when I joined K4P in the 6th grade because my parents suggested it. At first I wasn’t too psyched about it—it was nice, but I didn’t think much about it. I mean, what 6th grader says, “Yes! I want to be a peace builder or learn how to solve national problems?!” 

But things changed for me in the 8th grade, when we had a scavenger hunt in the Old City. We had a mission to go to a Christian religious souvenir shop, five youth and one counselor, and we had a list of questions we had to ask the owner. Our last question was: how do you think peace can be achieved in Jerusalem? And his answer changed me forever. 

He said, “I don’t think there can ever be peace. I don’t believe Jews and Arabs can live together side by side in Israel, and I don’t see any solution unless one of these sides disappears, and leaves forever.” We were all shocked. We stood there and we couldn’t even speak. And then he said, “My religion says, there can be no peace in this city.”

 We walked out stunned. We couldn’t argue with religion. We’d been taught over the last three years that faith is great, that faith brings us together, that faith will bring peace. But there stands this person who says they can’t believe in peace because of their faith! 

It led to this long discussion outside his shop. We talked about what to do in these situations, and what we were all feeling. I thought, my, that man must be miserable not believing in the possibility of peace. What if we could change his mind? What if I could change his mind? And I think, looking back, that was the moment I said, I’m staying in Kids4Peace, this is why I’m doing this, this is why I’m committed. I have to, for these people who have lost all hope… it made me so sad. Sad for our country and sad for our city. I know a lot of people who have lost all hope for peace because they say it’s a conflict that can never be ended. That was the moment I knew I had to do this work… it really just impacted me.

The most important thing I have learned in Kids4Peace is how to tell a story. How to tell my story. This is important because everyone has a story, and everyone should be able to communicate their story to the people around them. 

Stories are a very powerful tool—because they make people seem human. And in a place where people are dehumanized everyday, we should be able to tell stories because that is one of the greatest ways humankind communicates and understands each other. If you can’t tell your story, you can’t show who you are. You are you because of the stories that brought you to this day. I can’t tell people I’m in Kids4Peace without the WHY, and that why is a story. And if you don’t know how to tell your story, communicating is much harder.

To read more about Ayala and other youth leaders in Kids4Peace, purchase our book Raising Generation Peace at http://k4p.org/book

“The whole aim of Kids4Peace has been this education. We want to share hope, share what they believe in, and educate other youth. It’s a train, like passing generations, passing from one generation to another. That’s why we start at a younger age—if you are taught for thirty years that Arabs are dangerous, that Jews are dangerous, it’s really hard to change those ideas. If you start at a younger age, with kids who are still just learning, there’s hope of understanding.”

  • Anton – Palestinian-Christian participant, 19 years old

I always tell people I am Christian, but that I am Palestinian as well, and while I support the Palestinian side, I am a peace builder. I always include that last part when I introduce myself, as a big part of my identity. I don’t agree with the fighting—I believe in talking, understanding, and learning from the other side. 

Unless we share our sense of hope, our power of hopefulness, no one will know that we have done this work or why we do this. If other people can learn about this, they will be affected, become involved, and we can expand the hope that we create together. Kids4Peace dialogues are mostly about listing and learning new things—for me, I’ve been through these dialogues for years, learning so much from Jewish kids. Everyone teaches everyone—this is very important.

At first, the point of Kids4Peace was to have fun. When I started, I didn’t know that the fun was really learning about the other side. When we played sports, when we hung out, when we played games, we were learning about each other and building bridges. Then, you continue, and you start having less fun, but you become more interested in hearing about other perspectives. You get really interested in the learning part. Every meeting I learned something new. Heard something new. Understood something new. 

Now as a leader, I work with Jewish kids, we plan together, work together, and still I am learning. The whole aim of Kids4Peace has been this education. We want to share hope, share what they believe in, and educate other youth. It’s a train, like passing generations, passing from one generation to another. That’s why we start at a younger age—if you are taught for thirty years that Arabs are dangerous, that Jews are dangerous, it’s really hard to change those ideas. If you start at a younger age, with kids who are still just learning, there’s hope of understanding. 

I am optimistic because over these years I’ve seen with my own eyes how we’ve grown and changed people, and taught them. I still have hope even with the bad stuff, even with continued conflict, discrimination, and hurt—I really believe hope is expanding between people. We are a small start at Kids4Peace, and I believe that can spread to the rest of Jerusalem, and then to the region, and then beyond to the whole world. I love to meet my peace-mates in other places like America—kids who aren’t Jewish or Muslim, or religious, but who are involved in peace work and are interested in our work here.

Even if the progress is slow—Kids4Peace started with just 14 kids, now we have thousands of kids involved—progress does grow. If I had never been in Kids4Peace, and never had Jewish friends, and started working a job where it was my first time to interact personally with Jews—at this age, 18 years old—it would be so much stress. I wouldn’t know how to talk with them, or interact, because all I would have was what I learned in school, from the media, and from other people who didn’t know better. It prepared me to have interactions, so now I know how to build these bridges. 

To read more about Shali and other youth leaders in Kids4Peace, purchase our book Raising Generation Peace at http://k4p.org/book

“I’m always feeling in the middle of it. I would often find myself needing to help explain to my Jewish friends in Kids4Peace what my Arab friends meant in certain discussions. The Jews actually laugh with me and tell me I’m the most ‘Arab-Jew’ they have ever met. Sometimes I get in these conversations and I feel like I’m really on both sides— defending one side in one sentence and the next moment, defending the other side!”

  • Shali – Jewish-Israeli participant, 15 years old

One of my best friends in school told me about Kids4Peace, and several other of our friends too, and we were all accepted. 

I speak fluent Arabic—because of my school, the Hand-In-Hand school, and I have been there since first grade. Most of my friends now are Arab—I get along with the Arabs. So, because of my language ability, for the first few years in Kids4Peace, you could say I was the bridge between the Jews and the Arabs. They didn’t know how to speak to each other—so I was able to help both sides talk to each other. 

When you meet Arabs at a very young age, and they meet you, there’s no difference—we’re all children and we can be friends.

While I understand both sides it’s hard to say which side I fall on. It depends. Honestly, during the political discussions at Kids4Peace, I find myself confused to which side I should support. Because, while I am Jewish and I am Israeli, I don’t automatically take that side—because most of my friends are Arab, I can see and understand their narrative. I can see the whole picture. 

I’m always feeling in the middle of it. I would often find myself needing to help explain to my Jewish friends in Kids4Peace what my Arab friends meant in certain discussions. The Jews actually laugh with me and tell me I’m the most ‘Arab-Jew’ they have ever met. Sometimes I get in these conversations and I feel like I’m really on both sides— defending one side in one sentence and the next moment, defending the other side! 

I think that meeting with Arabs who don’t know Hebrew (unlike the Arabs at my school), has allowed me to improve my communication skills in more ways, and make friends with people who don’t already come from families that would send their kids to Hand-In-Hand. Their opinions are a lot more raw, or different, than what I’m used to. It’s been so interesting to be around these very different opinions and be exposed to their lives and perspectives. 

I don’t know where I stand—except that I AM the most ‘Arab-Jew’—this is my story. To be an Israeli-Jew, but to have most of my friends from the other side, and speak Arabic, and be part of their culture… this is my story, to be part of both sides.

To read more about Shali and other youth leaders in Kids4Peace, purchase our book Raising Generation Peace at http://k4p.org/book

“The conflict is not about religion for me—it is a political situation. We don’t need to get into the religion part—we all know we have different religions—it’s the political situation that needs to be fixed.”

  • Omar M – Muslim-Palestinian participant, 16 years old

On a sunny afternoon in October 2018, Omar led a tour through his Jerusalem neighborhood, sharing stories about his life and the conflict, and his expereince in Kids4Peace. We are walking on Al-Mutanabi street heading into my neighborhood, Al-Suwana.

Do you see the white paint crossing out part of the sign? Because we are in an Arab neighborhood, people here don’t want a Hebrew name here. They spray paint over it, and it’s horrible. 

This has been freshly painted. Here there was a picture of a mosque, but the Israeli ministry has painted over it, just two days ago. The person who drew it will draw it again next week. Back and forth, they will redraw it. Wherever there is a smudge of white paint, you should know there was a Palestinian drawing before, of a martyr, of a poet, of a hero for the Palestinians. 

My mother’s grandfather was a very well-known Imam. Religion for me is how I live, you can never use Islam as a motivation or for bad purposes. But a lot of people come, they take only specific parts of the Koran, and they take what they like. That’s the problem we have today. These are the bad guys in Islam.

The conflict is not about religion for me—it is a political situation. We don’t need to get into the religion part—we all know we have different religions—it’s the political situation that needs to be fixed.

I think one thing that has helped me stay safe is my strong English. I have learned English from my grandfather and at the Jerusalem school. My grandfather had a British English accent, and so I have both a bit of British and a little American. One time there was a stabbing and I could have been in a dangerous situation, but I was able to get through the crowd using my English. Travel isn’t that important to me. I have a lot of friends here, and have fun here, this is my city and my home. 

Remembering the past can help us to overcome and build a new future together. 

Remembering the past can hurt us because of the family we lost, and when I say family,  I mean every free Palestinian. 

I am so happy to be in Kids4Peace. I’ve achieved a lot, I did things that I never thought I would do. This tour, is one of the proofs that things are changing for the better.

To read more about Omar M and other youth leaders in Kids4Peace, purchase our book Raising Generation Peace at http://k4p.org/book

I’ve found a balance and difference between understanding the other side and agreeing with the other side. That’s the thing—many people are scared to understand what the other side is saying because they think that means they need to agree, but to be able to see beyond that, is what is important.”

  • Maya – Jewish-Israeli participant, 15 years old

I live in Baka, a neighborhood south of the Old City in Jerusalem. It’s a pretty Anglo, Orthodox, religious area. My family is not typical—I think it’s pretty uncommon for the conflict or peace issues to be brought up at the dinner table in other homes. I like that in our family, we discuss together and build an ideology as a family from these different perspectives because my father fought in the Israeli army and my mother has worked for various social organizations, so it is natural to talk about it. My mind is not set on one way of thinking… I feel I am pretty open-minded.

When I started at K4P I thought I was ready to go, to talk about the politics and everything. But I suddenly understood, everything was going really slow because we had the barrier of language, and I finally saw we had no way to communicate because they couldn’t speak Hebrew, we couldn’t speak Arabic, and no one could speak English that well. So very quickly it became divided and we separated into groups of Jewish kids and Palestinians.

At first this was really frustrating. I felt we were not talking about anything serious, everything was just under the surface, being careful and no one wanted to offend anyone. I was very critical about the program at that point, because everyone was just trying to make it seem like it was peacemaking, but I knew the conflict was all still hidden. Then I realized, some kids were not ready and not willing to talk about it. They weren’t aware enough, or they just couldn’t face it yet. 

Our first political discussion that really made a strong impact happened years after we first met—it takes that long to really bond, and even then, not everyone spoke. We started talking about Jerusalem, and what it meant to all of us, and it was during the time that there were terrorist attacks in the city. We need to expand to open communities, deeper into the left-wing Jewish communities and the open-minded Palestinians who want peace, and then beyond both of them. 

A few years ago I was talking about serving in the army, and instead of just getting defensive and telling me I shouldn’t join, a few of the Palestinian girls started asking me questions. I got to tell them about different jobs in the army, and have a conversation for the first time.

But I want to say, having these conversations has not made me all, tippy-toe, and peace-y, and not necessarily made me more liberal or less, they didn’t make me convinced of everything on their side— but it makes me research these issues. Sometimes the experience has actually made me pro-Israeli and made me want to defend myself with even more heart, but on some topics, it’s the other way. I’ve found a balance and difference between understanding the other side and agreeing with the other side. That’s the thing—many people are scared to understand what the other side is saying because they think that means they need to agree, but to be able to see beyond that, is what is important.

To read more about Maya and other youth leaders in Kids4Peace, purchase our book Raising Generation Peace at http://k4p.org/book