Too often, media headlines are filled with Arab/Palestinian and Jewish/Israeli conflict and tragedy. Here’s a resonating anecdote filled with images of real-life kids from both sides of the religious/political/historical borders, enjoying a real-life camp where “… they will have the chance to meet and come together – not as enemies, but as campers, as children, and maybe as friends.”
Alya lives in the Arab village of Meiser in north-central Israel; she and her Muslim family are Israeli Palestinians. Yuval, a young Jewish boy, lives in the Jewish community of Maor just a short distance from Meiser. “Alya and Yuval are like children who go to camp anywhere. But in other important ways they are different. They are from two separate ethnic and religious groups who share the same land but who have been in conflict for the past one hundred years.”
For two weeks, children “who live in the midst of this ongoing conflict” will gather at Menashe Summer Peace Camp, sponsored by Givat Haviva, an educational organization that promotes Jewish-Arab Peace. “[N]o matter what language he or she speaks – [everybody] just calls it Peace Camp.” Friendship is hoped for, but the one thing all the children will learn is to respect each another.
Based on writer Trish Marx‘s visit to Peace Camp in 2005, this inspiring title alternates between glimpses of both Alya and Yuval’s everyday lives at home with their families, with key elements of their shared Palestinian/Israeli history, and most importantly their experiences at Peace Camp. In addition to the expected swimming, special crafts, and sleepovers, Peace Campers have some uniquely (surprising!) shared events, including an emergency rescue re-enactment complete with police, ambulance, and bomb squad in attendance!
Such is the children’s reality today … but a future of hopeful change is certainly in their hands: “In a country filled with tension and conflict, the campers have learned to take the first steps toward sharing their ancient homeland. And it happens every year, year after year, at Peace Camp.” Now if only we could get the adults – especially the so-called leaders – to spend a few weeks learning with/from the children …
Readers: Children, Middle Grade