Saturday, October 25, 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

.

Solano News

 
 
No new murder trial for Calkins, judge rules

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3

 
Optimist Club brings youth together for Halloween golf

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

Cut-a-thon to help fight cancer, abuse

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Fall Harvest Festival brings children back to school

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3 | Gallery

School board candidates forum set next week

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A4

 
Haunted hikes offered for brave souls at park

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Staying active may prolong your life

By Scott Anderson | From Page: B8

 
Suisun City police log: Oct. 23, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

.

US / World

Suspect arrested in death of 2 California deputies

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
KC-10 from Travis lands in Houston, smoke in cockpit

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

Reagan astrologer, Joan Quigley, dies at 87

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Jury says castrated sex offender should be freed

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Remains belong to missing Virginia student

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Dallas nurse receives thanks, hug from Obama

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

School gunman was Homecoming prince, students say

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Lava creeps toward road on Hawaii’s Big Island

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

NY, NJ order Ebola quarantine for doctors, others

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
Gunman in Canada attack complained about mosque

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Egypt declares emergency in northern Sinai

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Militant group said to be using chlorine bombs

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

Putin accuses US of undermining global stability

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
.

Opinion

Return Garamendi to Congress

By Daily Republic | From Page: A8

 
Editorial Cartoons: Oct. 25, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

SEIU shouldn’t own Board of Supervisors

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8, 1 Comment

 
Vote, and make a difference

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

Yes on Measure A

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
Spering best choice for county supervisor

By Daily Republic | From Page: A8

.

Living

Today in History: Oct. 25, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Oct. 25, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Horoscopes: Oct. 25, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A7

 
My mother-in-law wants me to convert to Catholicism, but I don’t want to

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A7

Hello Kitty turning 40, and the birthday bash will be ‘supercute’

By Mcclatchy-Tribune News Service | From Page: B8

 
.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B9

 
TLC cancels its ‘Honey Boo Boo’ series

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

P.D. James’ riff on Jane Austen comes to TV

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

 
.

Sports

Vintage rolls past Armijo, 55-8

By Mike Corpos | From Page: B1

 
Mustangs fall flat in rout by Wildcats

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B1

Royals beat Giants 3-2 for 2-1 World Series lead

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Vargas to take on Vogelsong in Game 4 of Series

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Falcons hang with Wolves in 34-8 setback

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Hamilton helps Vanden sink Vallejo, 35-0

By Nick DeCicco | From Page: B1

Unfazed, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh doing it his way

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Lloyd leads US women past Mexico 3-0

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Raiders’ Woodley, Young expected to be placed on IR

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Henley’s putting gets him lead at Sea Island

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Judge halts New Jersey’s sports betting plan

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Joe Maddon exercises opt-out, won’t return to Rays

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Jamie McMurray bests Chase drivers to win pole

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Attorney: NFL, Ravens not helping union in Rice probe

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

SCC women’s soccer team falls to Mendocino 3-1

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
This date in sports history for Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
.

Business

US official: Auto safety agency under review

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Ford profit falls in third quarter on truck costs

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Procter & Gamble taking out its batteries

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
UPS expects double-digit surge in Dec shipments

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

US new-home sales close to flat in September

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
.

Obituaries

Melvin Tate

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Mark Dean Lindsay

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

Dr. Robert M. Takamoto

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
.

Home Seller 10/25/14

Real estate transactions for Oct. 25, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: HSR2