Emek Hefer and Tulkarem: March 6-8, 2014
Tucked away in Kibbutz Ein Hahoresh, a group of 20 students ages 12-15 from the communities of Emek Hefer and Tulkarem, as well as six staff members, came together for a fun-filled weekend of outdoor adventure activities, making cross-cultural friendships and learning about the environment.
As an intern working on the Protecting Groundwater Project, I usually spend my days working from the Tel Aviv office. When I was asked to staff one of the GWN Youth Camps, I jumped at the opportunity to participate in another FoEME project and spend a few days in nature. I entered the weekend with a curious and open mind. As a native English speaker who understands Hebrew but has difficulty fully expressing myself, I knew that language would play an ever-present role in my experience at the camp considering half of the group spoke Hebrew and the other Arabic.
Once everyone arrived and settled in, we began playing name games and icebreakers. To bridge the language divide between the kids, two Hebrew-Arabic translators worked patiently and tirelessly to ensure all were understood. Over the course of camp, a mere 2 ½ days, I could see the students’ transition from spending time in self-selected groups based on common language and culture into a more interconnected and cohesive unit.
We spent the first night eating at the Kibbutz dining hall and venturing down to the nearby town of Netanya to walk along the tayelet to see the shore, enjoy the city center, and overall have a relaxing and enjoyable start of camp. On Friday, we rose early, proudly put on our bright green FoEME T-Shirts, and made our way to “Tza’ad Emek Hefer.” This 5k walk along the beach was an interactive educational event in which booths were set up at intervals to teach the many participating groups of kids about local environmental issues and our shared civic duty to protect her.
After hours walking beneath the beating sun, we spent the afternoon resting and making art projects with recycled materials such as newspaper and plastic bottles. That night, we played some more games to get to know each other on a deeper level, and had a lot of fun learning the traditional Palestinian dance of debka.
Between the various activities, I took the opportunity to speak with many of the kids about their experiences at camp, and get to know the rest of the staff. Set against the beautiful and peaceful natural backdrop, I was able to build personal relationships with populations that until now never had the opportunity to really interact with. I formed a particularly close bond with another staff member, Rawan, who is from Ramallah and works for Seeds of Peace. Throughout the course of the weekend we laughed together, shared stories of our daily lives, families, and life goals and ambitions, and developed a deep friendship that I know will last beyond camp.
On Saturday morning, we woke early to bike as a group along Nahal Alexander, the beautiful yet polluted stream that runs through both Tulkarem and Emek Hefer. Along the way we stopped to learn about this common water source, took water and snack breaks, and enjoyed biking throughout the luscious green fields with endless yellow flowers in bloom as Spring rolls in.
The ride, consisting of our staff and kids all traveling together, was propelled by a shared interest in strengthening our connection to each other, to peace and to the environment; it symbolized the power of joint action towards a common goal. In the closing ceremony, everyone shared their favorite moments and what they will take away from their time at camp, and I was really moved and invigorated by the students’ words of new friendships, transformative experiences, and of a newfound sense of hope that peace is possible. I truly am privileged to have participated in such a unique, engaging and powerful experience.
This post is contributed by Daniella Aboody, FoEME Intern at the Tel Aviv office.