Jewish and Arab children at joint summer

Jewish and Arab children at joint summer camp For the last two weeks 165 Jewish and Arab children from the Wadi Ara-Menashe area have been participating in camp activities in the shadow of the Givat Haviva Peace Tree hewn by Arab and Jewish youth last summer. A normally quiet corner of the Givat Haviva campus was turned in to a pulsating day camp for 2 weeks by the children and their Jewish and Arab teenage counsellors, some of whom participated in the Peace Tree project exactly the same time last year. I caught up with the children at work and play during a day of making music with thick bamboo sticks that they had fashioned in to musical instruments and decorated with electric pencils. Learning to use the sticks to bang out a musical beat in the mid-morn heat, the children were seriously in to having high volume fun – together. Definitely giving peace and co-existence a chance the Arab and Jewish children are from moshavim and Arab villages in the area of Givat Haviva that belong to the Menashe Regional Council. A close on-going working relationship promoting co-existence projects has built up between the two organizations over a long period of time involving many hundreds of local youth and educators from both the Jewish and Arab sectors.

Last year Shaked Ronen (18) from Moshav Sde Yitzhak, Mazen Arda (17) and his cousin Alaa Arda (16) from the village of Meiser were amongst 25 Jewish and Arab teens that sculpted the Peace Tree from a 100 year old eucalyptus tree blown over in a heavy storm the previous winter. In the shade of the tall pine trees in the corner of Givat Haviva, they are continuing to pull together to build bridges over the divide between their different communities. While I was chatting with Shaked, Mazen and Alaa, a few 8 and 9 year-old boys and girls gathered around to listen in on the conversation and were more than willing to huddle together for a photograph with their camp leaders. Some of the children wore tee-shirts they had designed themselves during a previous days camp activities and white doves of peace were very prominently displayed on most. With the focus this year on environmental issues and road safety, other children were wearing tee-shirts designed by the local council with luminous yellow strips around the sleeves and various logos encouraging caring about their shared planet and its inhabitants. The fruits of the physical labor of Shaked, Mazen and Alaa, who all worked with the same children in camp last year before undertaking the Peace Tree project, are now being reaped as the children relate to each other as just that while also seeing their young leaders as people they can trust immaterial from which community they might hail. The much admired Peace Tree stands tall and proud in the centre of the green lawns of the Givat Haviva campus grounds casting a giant and protective shadow over Arab and Jewish children, youth and adults who embrace the messages emanating from therein. Givat Haviva, The Jewish-Arab Center for Peace Tel: +972-(0)4-6309266 Fax: +972-(0)4-6309305 BPI-info