Reconciliation youth camp 2016
This is a youth exchange between Israeli, Palestinian and European teenagers with the goal of reconciliation in the Middle East. For the Israeli and Palestinian youth the goal is that they get to know the other side (or the enemy) and to find out that they are normal cool teenagers, just as they themselves are. The EU teenagers learn about the problems in Israel and the West Bank and a bridge is made to recognize stereotyping and discrimination in their own environments.
How is this done?.
For 10 days these kids take part in a youth exchange in The Netherlands. They are doing many activities together where the mixed teams of Israeli-Palestinian-EU teenagers work together. They take part in each other’s cultural activities (e.g. Shabbat celebration).
They also listen to each other’s stories and some of these stories are heart breaking.
What do we want the participants to learn?.
Basically there are two levels. The first level is the friendship level. Here is where the teenagers from the Middle East discover that ‘the enemy’ consists of cool teenagers, just like they themselves are. The EU teenagers get to know friends from the Middle East and get to know a bit of their backgrounds. The second level comes after a few days when we think that they are ready for it. It starts off with showing them the documentary of the 2004 camp where the differences of the Palestinian and Jewish realities are made very clear. This will provoke both sides and we then need to guide the discussions that follow in such a way that deeper understanding of the pain of each side is better understood.
Arriving at this second level means that their ideas about ‘the enemy’ are changed. What they always heard and took for granted is no longer true. These are life changing moments for the Jewish and Palestinian teens! After this we do workshops on identity for them to realize who they are themselves and within a group. We prepare them to go back into a world that has not changed and where their new views are not accepted by the majority.
The EU teenagers learn not only a lot about Israel and Palestine, but also about stereotyping, discrimination, dehumanization and down to demonization. They can recognize these situations.
How is the camp financed?
The camp is financed through gifts of individuals and churches.
These reconciliation camps have also been held in 2004, 2007 and 2012.
Examples of feedback we received of the participants were:
“I learned that it is wrong to hate”
“I now look at the world different”
“Now I have friends on the other side”
“I was scared at first, especially because one girl has the eyes of a soldier, but now we are friends”.
During the camp they built ties of friendship, understanding and trust across borders with barriers so big that they are almost impassable. When they are back into a world that has not changed, they keep in touch by reunions, visits, Facebook and email. Tabitha encourages these contacts by going to Israel and visiting them. Some of these teenagers become like ambassadors and prepare the teenagers that will participate in the next camp.
The overall result
We firmly believe that these friendships will bring peace between individuals. For them it makes a big different. The Middle East is an oven of hatred are these drops of peace will cool that oven just a little.