By Yolande Knell
Maine, United States

Going to summer camp is a rite of passage for many young people in the United States.

It offers a chance to have fun outdoors while making new friends away from home.

The international camp set in woods by a glittering lake in Otisfield, Maine follows the same tradition but it also has a lofty ambition: to sow the seeds of peace in the Middle East.

Every year the youth organisation, Seeds of Peace, brings 340 teenagers to this remote site. Most are from Israel, the Palestinian territories and other parts of the Arab world.

"Seeds of Peace is the best experience that ever happened to me," says Nadia Tibi, 15, from Israel. "I've met people I never thought I would meet."

As she speaks, Nadia stands arm-in-arm with Majdoline Shahed, a 17-year-old Palestinian from Jerusalem.

Together the teenagers shout in support of their team-mates competing on the playing field. They wear matching blue t-shirts and face-paint.

Opportunities to meet

For the past three weeks Nadia and Majdoline have slept in neighbouring bunk beds.

Each day they eat together, do joint activities and attend dialogue sessions with counsellors to discuss their experiences of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
"This is the only place that you can be with people from different cultures and countries and talk very honestly," says Majdoline.

Seeds of Peace was set up by the late American journalist John Wallach in 1993.

He saw there were few opportunities for young Israelis and Palestinians to meet and believed this encouraged them to grow up seeing each other as enemies.

The camp has seen highs and lows reflecting progress and setbacks in the Middle East peace process.

The first 46 boys who travelled to Maine were together when news broke of the Oslo Accords.

"We were euphoric," remembers co-founder, Bobbie Gottshalk.

"We thought the weight was off everyone's shoulders and now we were just going to work on making the peace happen."

The campers were invited to attend the signing ceremony in Washington after they impressed First Lady Hillary Clinton during a White House tour.

"Then things started to unravel."

'Nearly destroyed'

On Ms Gottshalk's table in her cabin at the camp sits a photograph of Asel Asleh, a popular Arab-Israeli Seed.

He was shot dead by Israeli security forces at the start of the second Palestinian intifada in 2000.

"It nearly destroyed us," she says. "But you know young people have a spirit about them, an optimism that just can't be quelled that easily."

Outside camp director Leslie Lewin speeds across the waterlogged grass in a golf cart on her way to inspect a rope course.

Constant rain has been the latest challenge at the camp.

Yet Mr Lewin is convinced the past three weeks will have a life-changing effect on the teenagers who are about to go home.

"For so many of these kids, coming here is what it took to hear the other side of the story.

"I think that this basic level exposure has a really strong impact on the future."

Security restrictions make it hard for former Seeds in the West Bank and Gaza to meet Israelis they befriend at the camp in Maine.

But where possible, workers in the region arrange follow-up events and dialogue sessions.

"Things don't end after you leave camp. Actually you have more to do when it finishes," says Mirna Ansari, a second-year camper.

She has stayed in touch with an Israeli friend she met at camp two years ago through the Internet.

The girl also visited her family in Ramallah. "She really enjoyed it," says Mirna.

"Now I do think that there will be peace between Israel and Palestine. If we as teenagers believe that, then when we grow up we will work on it."

Views: 32

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

I got this from the BBCnews website. If anyone know how to put photos onto a discussion can they tell me because I can't work it out and have tried for the last ten minutes and I want to murder my computer now. Cheers.
go to add image

applied an image > brows > ..
That was actually quite simple....

Cheers Jafra.
Thanks Max - I am sitting here at my desk looking out at an empty camp (last week was the last summer camp session until school groups begin again) and this lifted my spirits. Camp is a magical place - it is a cliche' but it is true.
I am glad I lifted your spirits. Being British I don't understand these summer camp things and to be honest they sound like hell to me. When it comes to summer I don't want to be running around I want to lie in a hamock in the garden, a glass of wine in my hand and pretend that I am a millionaire. Sure, when I was younger I would have loved it but not now. Still tell me more about these camps.
Check this out -
Let me know if the link doesn't work and I can email this to you. The author is also involved in bringing I/P youth to camp in the US. Summer camp is about relationships. Sometimes that happens in the "running around" but there are also plenty quiet times. Campfire was always my favorite time of day. The camp I am at now had a number of staff from Britain - even a Welshmen! This year they did much of their international recruiting in Belfast. I was really bummed I didn't get to go on that trip! The story you posted is exactly what I want to be involved with.
OK - the link didn't show up - I don't know what I am doing wrong...
Can you find me the link? Ask Roni or Paul they are the technology wizards here (I am the donkey so I haven't got a clue).

If you are interested in getting involved in Seeds of Peace then this link will be of some use:

The author does a camp similar to the SOP camp.

Here is my camp -
Wrong attitude Amiera.

Not one day. Soon.

No, I know what you mean. I think the same way but there are lots of things like this. Do you know the hand in hand school? The truth is there are a lot of these type of things going on but they do not get enough coverage nor are they well organised. How many people on this website are doing similar things but are unaware of it? The answer is a lot.
Very true.

Which NGO are you working with?

Yeah, some people are stuck in their ways. I find such people so boring. They are quite fun to take the piss out of though.
Ah here we do differ. I always think it is important to laugh at idiots and boy there are some real howlers here on mepeace. It is amazing how people can become consumed by their own simplistic arguments, which they present as if it had the complexity and craftmanship of a Shakespeare Play and then go beserk when you point out to them that they are more or less arguing for a flat earth theory and no you are not going to have an aguement about the precise definition of a three letter word.. I always find the tantrums most amusing but then after I have stopped laughing I realise such people are just boring. What is amazing is how similar many arguments are. I have been here longer than you and it is incredible how certain themes are repeated over and over again. Nothing beats self-righteous rage.

I have always been very concious of the difference between how people in the conflict talk compared with their supporters elsewhere in the world. In Israel and Palestine where I was last week there is a saddness that is difficult to describe.



Latest Activity

Ambassador For Peace liked Ambassador For Peace's profile
Oct 9
Gerald Deazon posted a status
Sep 13
Datastat Research Center posted events
Sep 10
Robert Roberts posted a blog post

6 great online resources that help students write a good thesis

All through a child’s educational period, all students are required to acquire essential knowledge,…See More
Sep 6
Gerald Deazon and Eva are now friends
Aug 30
Datastat Research Center posted events
Aug 24
Datastat Research Center posted events
Aug 15
Datastat Research Center posted events
Jul 30


"Like" us on Facebook

Promote MEPEACE online



© 2018   Created by Eyal Raviv. Supported by One Region, One Future.   ..

Feedback | Report an Issue  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service