Friday, December 19, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Peace camp in US unites Israeli, Palestinian teens

By
From page C3 | August 03, 2014 |

It’s no surprise Noa Epstein worries about the safety of her husband, a reservist in the Israeli army called to duty as war smolders in the Gaza Strip. But, still carrying memories of a transformative summer camp experience nearly two decades ago, she knows there is another side to the conflict, and she is filled with concern for the Palestinians too.

As rockets fly, troops battle and casualties mount in Gaza, teens from both sides of the border are heading to Otisfield, Maine, for Seeds of Peace, a camp now in its 22nd year of fostering dialogue among its participants. Even years later, campers like Epstein say they feel the impact of their experience gently nudging them to consider their words, to have compassion and always, always to aim for peace.

“I learned to empathize with the other side,” said Epstein, 32, of Jerusalem. “I have friends who live in these places, in the West Bank and Gaza, that I care about, just as I care about Israeli soldiers.”

Though Mideast peace may seem even farther from reality than when Seeds of Peace began in 1993, its ardent supporters argue its impact is still great. The lakeside camp was built on the notion that person-to-person contact would cement relationships, which would in turn slowly lead to broader societal change. Peace has been elusive, but former campers have taken on a bevy of projects aimed at making it a reality.

Epstein made friends with Palestinians for the first time at the camp. Palestinians and Israelis came together to celebrate her birthdays. She crossed the border to do presentations in schools and even slept over at a friend’s house in Nablus, in the West Bank. She became fluent in Arabic and runs an organization that aims to bring Israeli and Palestinian students together.

“Beyond the cliche of finding the human face in the enemy, I really made friends who I trust,” she said.

Siwar Mansour, a 19-year-old Palestinian living in Tira, Israel, who attended Seeds of Peace five years ago, said it taught her to truly listen to others, to consider why they’ve taken a position, and to think before she responds. She witnesses the hatred constantly. “They should all die,” she once heard someone say of Palestinians. “Who cares about them?” she heard another time. She bites her tongue at the office, on the bus and in the mall, just as she does when the vitriol is unleashed on Facebook, taking a deep breath and mustering something surprising: hope.

“You find yourself believing that peace could actually happen,” she said of the camp.

After her camp experience, Mansour enrolled in a high school where she was the only Arab, got involved with two musical groups that aim for reconciliation, and, determined to make the fight for peace a career, is applying to university programs in international relations.

Eldad Levy, 31, of Haifa, Israel, arrived at camp in 1998 filled with anger over bombings on buses and elsewhere, and having never had a Palestinian friend. At first, he huddled mostly with other Israeli Jews and even questioned the motives of Palestinians who fouled him in basketball.

Slowly, the perspectives driven by nationalism, ethnicity and religion faded, Levy said, as people of all backgrounds became friends. When it was over, he remembers the heartbreak of saying goodbye. Not long after, when the outbreak of violence known as the Second Intifada came, he received a call from a girl he’d befriended from Gaza.

“I’m so sorry about this,” he remembered her saying. “I’m so sorry you have to go through this.”

Her compassion was startling to him. He stayed involved in Seeds of Peace and, for a time, worked for the program. Today, about half of his social network stems from it. Palestinians and Israelis alike came to his wedding and have come to love his daughter.

Levy continues to have the difficult discussions that began 16 years ago, sometimes angering those he’s close to when he questions Israeli leadership or expresses sorrow for Palestinian hardships.

Mahmoud Jabari, 23, arrived at camp in 2007, telling of the sight of tanks in the street and the sound of neighborhoods being shelled at night; of his childhood game of running from Israeli soldiers; of worrying his parents wouldn’t arrive home safely each day. He had no interest in hearing of Israel’s right to exist; he claimed all of Palestine.

For him, Israelis fell into two categories, soldiers and settlers. But sharing a cabin with them, having them listen to his story, changed him.

“I was sitting in front of someone who cared,” said Jabari, who later enrolled at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont. “And that was astonishing.”

The hardest part, Jabari said, was leaving the idyllic camp setting, where open-mindedness and respect reigned and anything seemed possible.

“You go back to a different reality,” he said. “Checkpoints, separation walls, military, settlements, restrictions of movement — and you become stuck between too many questions that sometimes you’re unable to answer.”

Tomer Perry, 31, of Jerusalem, said the deteriorating political climate has made dialogue far more difficult for campers today than when he attended in 1996 .

“The friendship you create in camp is really strained by the realities faced at home,” he said. “And then they start to think of this whole thing as an illusion.”

When a wave of violence like the Gaza war hits, it is particularly difficult, but not unfamiliar to the Seeds alumni. In the tragedy most closely linked with the organization, former camper Asel Asleh, a 17-year-old Israeli Arab, was shot to death by Israeli police during stone-throwing clashes in his village in 2000. He was buried in a forest green T-shirt printed with the Seeds of Peace logo — three children and an olive branch.

Amer Kamal slept in the cabin next to Asleh’s at in 1997. He’s still haunted by his friend’s death. Today, Kamal is 31 and living in Minneapolis. Watching the news of Gaza, he gets angry and sad.

“Sometimes you fall into that trap. That’s when you have to remind yourself what you believe,” he said. “Having friends from the other side helps in remembering.”

 

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Recent Articles

  • Enter your email address to subscribe and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • .

    Solano News

     
    Sondheim’s ‘Woods’ holiday showcase for Missouri Street Theatre

    By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Groundbreakings, ribbon-cuttings play role in civic life

    By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Frankye Kelly ready to spread holiday cheer

    By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

     
    Celebrate the magic of Christmas

    By Tony Wade | From Page: A2, 1 Comment

     
    Santas have busy week at schools

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3, 1 Comment

     
    Safe streets task force work nets 3

    By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3

     
     
    Solano College approves officers, meeting schedule

    By Susan Winlow | From Page: A4

    Longtime Suisun harbor master to retire

    By Ian Thompson | From Page: A4

     
    Mosquito abatement district board has opening

    By Ian Thompson | From Page: A4

     
    Fairfield police log: Dec. 17, 2014

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

     
    Suisun City police log: Dec. 17, 2014

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

    Police arrest 2nd suspect in Fairfield credit union robbery

    By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A12 | Gallery

     
    .

    US / World

    Spy’s parents search for son after Cuba-US deal

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    Hope and some fear in Cuba amid thaw with US

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

    Next steps on Cuba: Normalizing could take awhile

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    Sony hacking fallout puts all companies on alert

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

    Sony film took aim at North Korea’s biggest taboo

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    Timeline of the Sony Pictures Entertainment hack

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

    Digital dilemma: How will US respond to Sony hack?

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    Rubio, other Congressional Cubans step up Obama criticism

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

    CHP, Oakland in tiff over plainclothes officers at protests

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    Local emergencies in Northern California counties after rain

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

    California’s top utility regulator defends record

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    ‘Pretty horrible’ scene; car slams into crowd

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

    San Francisco Bay Bridge fasteners not in danger of failing

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    Police: Drunk man shot while entering wrong house

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

    Tsarnaev appears in court for 1st time since 2013

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

     
    President signs legislation ending Nazi benefit checks

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

    2 states challenge Colorado marijuana legalization

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

     
    ‘Prison Houdini’ set to make his 1st legal escape

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

    Top Islamic militants killed; more US troops going to Iraq

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

     
    Feds sue NYC over Rikers Island jail violence

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

    Russian sailors leaving France without warship

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

     
    Putin: West wants to defang, declaw Russian bear

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

    European court rules obesity can be a disability

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

     
    Suspected Islamic extremists kidnap 185 in Nigeria

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

    .

    Opinion

    Another look at school bonds

    By George Guynn Jr. | From Page: A11

     
    Editorial Cartoon: Dec. 19, 2014

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

    News of the day strikes a chord

    By Bud Stevenson | From Page: A11

     
    America’s response to the torture report shameful

    By Clive Crook | From Page: A11

     
    .

    Living

    Today in History: Dec. 19, 2014

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Community Calendar: Dec. 19, 2014

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

    Horoscopes: Dec. 19, 2014

    By Holiday Mathis | From Page: D8

     
    Should I use Child Protective Services threat to get back rent?

    By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: D8

    .

    Entertainment

    Week in preview Dec. 19-25, 2014

    By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

     
    Sweet ‘Night at the Museum’ bids farewell to Robin Williams

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    Review: ‘The Hobbit’ wraps with a Middle Earth melee

    By Jake Coyle | From Page: B2 | Gallery

     
    Craig Ferguson to end 10 years as host of ‘Late Late Show’

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

    Eric Idle brings ‘Not the Messiah’ to Carnegie Hall

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

     
    Entertainment calendar Dec. 19, 2014

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: B4

    .

    Sports

    A’s trade All-Star catcher Derek Norris to Padres

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

     
    Warriors beat Thunder 114-109 after Durant injury

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

     
    A’s acquire lefty De La Rosa from Arizona for cash

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

    Raiders defense depleted by injuries

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

     
    49ers’ Harbaugh mum on reported offer from Michigan

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

    49ers’ Aldon Smith hopes to build off tough year

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

     
    Column: Thaw in US-Cuba relations warms up MLB

    By Jim Litke | From Page: B8

    Rivera: Newton ‘probably’ will start vs. Browns

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

     
    Bears bench QB Jay Cutler for Clausen

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

    ‘Hands Up’ players to attend Ferguson Christmas party

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

     
    Celtics trade Rondo to Mavericks

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

    Rodriguez boys open Les Curry Tournament with victory

    By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B8

     
    39 bowl games and a reason to watch every one

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

    Signups for Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

    By Paul Farmer | From Page: B9

     
    This date in sports history for Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

    Sports on TV/Local sports for Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

    By Paul Farmer | From Page: B11

     
    .

    Business

    Roomiest Subaru Legacy debuts for 2015

    By Ann M. Job | From Page: C1

     
    Dow industrials have their best day in three years

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

    Ford expands drivers air bag recall nationwide

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

     
    Constantly changing online prices stump shoppers

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

    .

    Obituaries

    Lisa Dee McHughes

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

     
    Dominic C. Scolaro

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

    Ernest “Ernie” Moretti

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

     
    Travis Curt Price

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

    Jennie Ponce Reyes

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

     
    Patricia “Pat” Anne Stringfield-Pierre

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

    .

    Comics