Learning to Love Their Neighbors

SEPTEMBER 19, 2017

Musalaha Camp through the eyes of first-timer’s mom
By Hadassa

Even before I first joined a women’s group of Musalaha, I inquired about family activities, as I found it important to make reconciliation a family effort. Currently, family gatherings take place once only every two years, so I was excited to hear about the summer camps for Israeli and Palestinian kids aged eight and up – the ideal age group for my daughter. I was resolved to sign her up, no matter what, which turned out a bit of a challenge as she insisted on taking a friend with her and most of the people we asked already had other plans or were hesitant to send their children. Knowing my girl and her outgoing nature, I decided to take a leap of faith and register her anyway, praying that she would make new friends at camp. What a relief to find out later that a local friend had signed up without our knowledge – God is full of surprises! This was my daughter’s first time away from home for five nights, and we were a bit tense beforehand, as she had a rather tough time at scouts camp earlier this summer. She was excited to go though, especially since the Musalaha campers were hosted in a Kibbutz guest house with a swimming pool and large play area. 

On-site their wonderful counselors received them with little gifts and personal notes and were always there for them, so they became very close. My worries that there might be a language barrier were unfounded as all the counselors communicated in both Hebrew and Arabic and made sure everyone understood everything. On the contrary, the camp produced a keen interest for Arabic in my daughter, a language previously rather foreign to her. One of the experiences she keeps recounting excitedly time and again is the joint bilingual singing. She came home with some new songs and decided to learn Arabic as soon as she gets the chance in the Israeli school system. 

Another major highlight was the daily pool time. My girl loves water, so the pool was a real treat for her, but she enjoyed the other group activities, sports, games, and crafts, as well. Apart from fun times, Musalaha camps also introduce the young participants to the spiritual aspect of reconciliation. This year’s theme was the parable of the Good Samaritan, and during the week different workshops and role play focused on Jesus’ commandment “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 

Sadly, the reality in the Middle East is not a summer camp, and it was on a day of great hardship that we went to pick up the girls from the camp bus. Violence in the recent crisis surrounding the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem peaked, and lives were lost. In times like this, it takes a conscious effort not to give in to frustration and depression even for adamant peace optimists. I took comfort in my daughter’s shared experiences and allowed my heart to fill with hope as camps like this allow Israeli and Palestinian children from different backgrounds to connect and see their neighbor in a new light, or even for the first time at all. Let us be encouraged and continue to invest in a new generation of peacemakers.