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It could be a scene from any summer camp: a group of teens paints each others’ faces and puts the final flourishes on signs, while clapping along to battle chants against the idyllic backdrop of a leafy campus courtyard. Badges hanging from their necks boast small national flags, and a cacophony of accents represents more than 20 countries.
Like other camps, friendships at Project Common Bond spark fast and strong. But here that connection stems from a deeper, darker place. Each camper, between 15 and 20 years old, is in attendance because he or she has lost a family member to terrorism. They’ve had parents killed in 9/11, uncles and cousins murdered on both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict, and experienced firsthand the violence in Northern Ireland.
But for one week each summer, they leave their often-turbulent homelands behind and come together to discuss the far-flung conflicts that have touched each of them so personally. Together, they reveal their histories, teaching and learning from the shared tragedies of the past.
This year, the week is especially tough for kids coming from both side of the Israel/Palestine conflict. Just a few days before they arrived at camp, Israel launched a ground operation in Gaza and the death toll climbed to 340. As the week played out, casualties tripled. For the Israeli and Palestinian campers, being in a comfortable Pennsylvania suburb was often a guilt-inducing respite from the escalating conflict their families were facing at home.
Avisar, who sports a green handkerchief and a face streaked with green paint, is from the city of Holon, near Tel Aviv. In three years he’ll have to begin his mandatory army service, a role he feels conflicted about: it’s his patriotic duty, but it’s not representative of his wish for peace.
There have been arguments between campers with conflicting viewpoints in the past, camp leaders say, but these disagreements are prime for use as a teaching lesson within small groups. But this year, when it comes to the Israeli and Palestinian campers, there has been nothing but respect between the campers, according to Avisar, even as their two countries are increasingly pit against each other.
“[The Palestinians are] really nice people…I thought there would be more anger at me,” Avisar says. “I came here like I don’t know how the Palestinians and Algerians would react to me, I thought at least one kid would be angry at me, but no—it’s good.”
“It’s not fair to tell only your side of the story,” Avisar says. “We’re not all the same—some people from our side think all of them want to kill us. No, it’s nothing like that. I’m trying to bring the idea of peace by looking [at] both sides of the story, and by accepting each other.”
originally posted by: hopenotfeariswhatweneed
a reply to: Kangaruex4Ewe
i have to say what i have been reading on ATS over the last couple of weeks has really got me down....this is a nice reprieve from all the hate....S&F
originally posted by: Not Authorized
a reply to: Kangaruex4Ewe
Cherish these children. They are the future leaders. They need protection from the hate.
originally posted by: g146541
Propaganda feel good piece...
These kids will return home then join the "military" and become fully indoctrinated or just get bombed into infinity while they sleep.
Go ahead and flame on, because you know I speak the truth.
If only they would invest more into camps and relations then they did on bombs..
Until then, this is just fluff.