Shared living in Jerusalem even in times of enhanced tension

Shared Living In Jerusalem Even In Times Of Conflict
Shared living in Jerusalem even in times of conflict: Jerusalem's Jewish & Arab Children Enjoy Summer Camp Together at Ein Yael

 

This is no ordinary summer.

 

But beneath the shadows of tension and tragedy that have overcast relations between Israel's Jewish and Arab sectors while spreading worry over the nation as a whole, sixty children in Jerusalem shine as a beacon of light and hope in anxious times.

 

The Jerusalem Foundation has worked for nearly 50 years to support the values of shared living in Jerusalem, to build bridges across the city's population spectrum. As one facet of its coexistence efforts, the Foundation sponsors an annual summer camp program at Jerusalem's Ein Yael Living Museum, where children of all ethnic and religious backgrounds enjoy the unique resources of this experiential outdoor museum – and make new friends from different communities. 

 

During the period of July 1 – July 17, 2014, Ein Yael hosted three groups for its annual coexistence summer camp (one of several camps hosted by Ein Yael each summer). Each group consisted of 20 children, half Israeli Jews and half Israeli Arabs, between the ages of 5 – 11 years old. The Arab children were from the Jerusalem neighborhoods of  A-Tur, Silwan, Beit Hanina, Beit Safafa, and students from the Max Rayne Hand in Hand School for Bilingual Education, while the Jewish campers came from the Jerusalem neighborhoods of  Katamon, Pisgat Zeev and Armon Hanatziv.

 

The camp session began under the specter of the three kidnapped Israeli teenagers. The Ein Yael administration expected cancellations and tension as a result – but were delighted to find a reality in which the news did not penetrate the camp's positive atmosphere, and Jewish and Arab campers got along beautifully.

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When the situation became even more stressful, with rocket attacks on the entire country, including Jerusalem, several parents (both Jewish and Arab) initially kept their children at home. But with the passage of time, nearly everyone returned to their daily routine at Ein Yael, enjoying the range of activities in a happy and congenial environment.

 

Under the direction of their counselors and the camp coordinator, campers enjoyed two-and-a-half weeks of activities in the spirit of Ein Yael, participating in nature programs, handcraft workshops, sports and recreation, including a "fun day" with all of the Ein Yael camps. The children particularly enjoyed the "getting acquainted" games and the workshops in archery, crafting musical instruments, horseback riding, and pottery.

 

A highlight of the program was the fact that until meeting each other at Ein Yael, most of the Arab children had never interacted with Jewish children and vice versa. Yet by the time camp drew to a close, each one knew a few words and how to count to ten in the other language!

 

Towards the end of the school vacation period, Ein Yael will host an additional session of the coexistence camp, with hopes for an equally enjoyable, and far more peaceful, time.

 

From the camp coordinator:

"Now that the first camp session is over and the children have gone home – now I can stop and be awestruck: That ever so quietly, in one of Jerusalem's most beautiful venues, three mixed groups of Arab and Jewish children spent nearly three weeks together, happily and peacefully, despite all that was going on in the country around them. Their counselors and I would sometimes watch from afar how during ball games, the children would count amongst themselves, once in Hebrew, once in Arabic, once in English… and appreciate that we were in the

presence of one small corner of sanity…"

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