It is refreshing, even hopeful to look at pictures of the Open House Peace Camp. This camp which has been running for 23 consecutive years is geared for 6-12 year olds. This summer, 70 Jews and Arab children from the towns and villages in the area are attending despite what is happening around them. Open House Center in Ramle, a peace education center, was founded in 1991 to further peace and coexistence between Israeli Arabs and Jews.
With experience and training, this oasis from war confronts fear, hatred, stereotypes of the ‘other’ that comes with living in a divided society. The children, families and staff will be challenged with confronting the fear of children being kidnapped, maimed or killed as the violence escalates. The children learn and through them their parents learn about the language, culture and music of each others heritage.
So far, one day of camp had to be canceled and some field trips suspended but this camp, thankfully continues. The war on the ground and the war of the press will certainly affect these families who are combating bombs and rockets with cooperative games, shared experiences and the fun of summer camp. You may wonder how will the current escalation of violence affect these children who are growing up amidst the pain and loss associated with war.
The Open House Peace Camp is a testament to those who believe there can be peace between conflicting factions. At Open House these children and families have the opportunity throughout the year to attend events and deepen their friendships. As a result, many of these campers come back year after year.
Their newsletter states: “We, at Open House feel for both sides, and we pray for both sides.” I believe their message is: peace begins with us.