The Open House in Ramle - a peace education center in Ramle, Israel
 

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Summer Peace Camp in the Midst of War


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At this time, when rockets are falling all over the country from the south and from the north, and the airplanes are on their way to bomb Gaza, we pray and hope that a lasting ceasefire will come into effect immediately. We at Open House feel for both sides, and we pray for both sides.

Once the latest round of warfare ends, we will still be faced with long- term challenges: addressing how ongoing conflict influences the individual and collective psyche, especially of children; how our children in this region differ from children who grow up in more “normal” circumstances; more specifically, how the recent kidnapping and killing of children influences their basic sense of trust.

In the midst of this extremely difficult reality, we held our annual Summer Peace Camp with 70 children, Jews and Arabs, who are joyful and happy to be together. One day the camp had to be suspended according to security instructions; 10341654_677625512315303_746141165370789427_n some field trips were canceled, because if the siren caught you on the road, everyone had to get off the bus as soon as possible and crouch at its side below window level with hands protecting their heads–quite a complicated procedure, not to mention its emotional repercussions.

As in past years, our camp took place at the mixed Jewish-Arab village of Neve Shalom/Wahat as-Salaam near Ramle, where the shelters are good.

Our program director, Vivian Rabia, had her hands full, not only with running the camp, but also with the constant phone calls and SMS messages from worried parents that needed immediate attention.

The OPEN HOUSE Story and Summer Camp on Israeli TV

IMG-20140714-WA0033Hearing about our Summer Peace Camp, Israeli TV’s Channel 10 asked us for an interview. To their studio came Matan Rimon, a ten year old, in his third year at the camp; Sabine Rabia, twelve, in her fifth year with us; Vivian Rabia, Open House program director and Arab camp coordinator; and Dafna Feldman, Jewish camp coordinator. The interview was called “Peace begins within (or amongst) us—”Hashalom matchil betocheinu.”

When asked how his Jewish classmates react to his attending a Jewish-Arab summer camp, Matan replied, “There are children in my class who do not understand why I am not beaten (by the Arab children) and why I am not afraid of them; but there are also those who understand.”

And when she was asked why she kept returning to the summer camp year after year, Sabine said that when, in her first year, she saw how the counselors treat the children, she realized that there can be peace between Arabs and Jews. “We are all human beings,” she affirmed.

Vivian also had an opportunity to tell the background story behind OPEN HOUSE and its peace-oriented activities.

If you understand Hebrew, you’re welcome to see the interview in the embedded video below. We apologize for any advertisements shown in this video (it is coming from Channel 10).

The interviewer on Channel 10 called our Summer Peace Camp “an island of sanity,” and Vivian agreed.  In a way, that is a sad description; yet, as Matan said, if there were more opportunities like this camp, peace could hopefully come in his generation.