(KUNM Airdate: 9/30/05)

This month the series on peacemaking and nonviolent conflict resolution spotlights the remarkable Creativity for Peace Camp in Glorieta, New Mexico. That's where 32 teenage girls from Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel spent time in the summer of 2005 learning leadership skills as well as the art of reconciliation and peaceful co-existence. Part of this program features excerpts from autobiographical monologues created by some of the girls and presented to an audience in Santa Fe.

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(Transcription Courtesy Rogi Riverstone)

CAROL BOSS: What's the inspiration for the Creativity for Peace Camp?

RACHEL KAUFMAN, Director: It's based on the phrase from Knudson that an enemy is someone whose story you haven't heard. So, once they've heard the stories, and they find the commonality of fear, the commonality of losing a loved one, once they see the other -not as an enemy, but as a human being - the all the doors open to understanding.

BOSS: You're almost finished with the second group of teenage girls that have been here for this summer. Is there a particularly powerful, moving moment that you can share with us?

KAUFMAN: For this group and the last group, we've had the same moment. We had girls from Palestine, two girls, who really expressed that they wanted to meet the Israelis, but they hate them. And the only reason they were coming to camp was to tell the story of their suffering. But they didn't like Jewish, Israeli girls at all. Just about four days ago, when an Israeli soldier killed four Arabs, we were in a dialogue, crying, for three hours, about this. And a Palestinian girl, she was really crying, she said, "I don't hate you all any more. I love you. You're my friend. How can I hate you, when you're my friend?"

And one of the other things that happened, on the other side, is, on the first day, a couple of girls from Gaza were talking about the killing of innocent civilians. Two of the Israeli Jewish girls said, "My army does not kill innocent civilians." They really believed that. That's their reality. Then, about four or five days later, one of the Israeli Jewish girls started crying, listening to the stories of the kids from Rumalah and Gaza. She said, "I really didn't know what was happening. And I'm so sorry. When I go in the Army, I'm going to try and change it, so we're not killing children."

So, it was major shifts: from hatred to friendship, and from not knowing what's really happening on the other side to knowing. And that girl, of course, has to sit with the pain. Like she says, "It's so painful, now, to hear your truth, because my truth was different."

We can do these dialogues. They cry and they scream and they yell. And then, in the next minute, they're playing their music and dancing and having lunch or shopping. They like boys; they like music and they like shopping.

But their lives are not that easy. It's very hard. You sat and listened to them tonight. It's not a normal, teenage life. Normal teenagers don't worry about being blown up or run over. We have a girl here that was chased by a tank. This is not a normal life. We have one girl who lost three friends to suicide bombers. It's very sad to grow up this way. So, I'm really happy that they can have some happiness.


SABREEN, PALESTINIAN TEEN: Sometimes, I feel that my pen is my land. When I write, I try to write from my heart. My pen is the land I go to when I feel full of anger, happiness, longing. I let the pen slow down on the sheet, to leave behind the imprint of my feelings. But it doesn't mean that I don't need a physical land, where I can feel safe. Safe to feel the warmth of the soil and the depths of the sun embrace me when I cry. And, because of the occupation, I hope - I wish - to have a land, a wide land. And clean authority and a beautiful nation with ease of movement and freedom. To my mind, it could only happen through the younger generation, our generation.

I would need many notebooks to write about checkpoints, as they are the worst thing I have ever experienced in my life. When I left Gaza and came to America with my friends to attend the Peace Camp, we had to pass through a number of checkpoints. Each time, it felt like I was being robbed of my self-respect when the soldiers spoke to us, slowly, forcefully and with a teasing insolence that was so humiliating. They asked us to take some of our clothes off. And it felt like someone drained my soul. If they weren't so concerned about world opinion, I'm sure they would have asked us to undress completely standing naked in front of everyone. They treat you worse than an animal. And you can't even know who's giving you orders. The guard speaks down to you from a tower, high above the ground: so far up, that you can hardly catch his eyes if you squint. For me, it is the worst feeling in the world, to have to encounter such difficulties and endure such humiliation, just to leave Gaza and wait, for hours on end, to pass through the checkpoint. This endless waiting is hardest on those who are ill and in need of medical treatment abroad. And some prefer to die from the sickness, than languish at the checkpoints. I hope that, one day, my land will be free, so that I can live in it in peace - and without checkpoints.

SHOSHAN: ISRAELI JEWISH TEEN: I live in Israel. My home is built on the side of a hill, beside a mountain. The life in the place where I live is disconnected from the reality. It does not mean that I don't know what is happening in Israel and around the world. It just means that the place where I live is where I felt most safe in all the world.

Last year, my mother and her friend collect money and bought three hundred school bags, notebooks, pens and pencil boxes with much effort. We filled them with the notebooks and the pencil boxes. And when it was all ready, a group went to a village near the refugee camp, and give the bags to the Palestinian children.

Four months later, I went back with my mom to see how else we could help. On the way home, we saw all the children with the bags that we have give them, returning from school. {Weeping} It was a very moving experience for me. As soon as I saw the children, I felt I have make a difference in the world. When I'd helped the children, I felt like it is small act. But, when I saw them went with the school bags on the back, I understood that the small act was greater than I had thought. These are the poorest children in the village. They have no money for school bags, notebooks and most other needs. So, often, they just don't go to school, don't get an education and cannot get ahead in their society. I felt I was not giving from a place of pity. I was offering them a chance for growth and a better life. I felt I was giving more than school bags. I was giving them hope: hope that they could get an education, and also hope by knowing not all Jews are bad. Their only contact with Jews is soldiers, whom, of course, they see as the enemy. I wanted them to know that there people who care about them, and some of these people are Jews.

I have a huge fear that the war will never end. It make me think a lot about what "country" mean to me. Actually, I felt that I had no country. I don't feel that any country is mine. I can live anywhere. I don't care. {Weeping} Many feel that the land of Israel is theirs. But, in the truth, no land belongs to anyone. All land belongs to the world. If all the people will begin to understand that nothing in this world belongs to them, peace will came sooner. Peace starting with the understanding that land belongs to everybody.

LOZIAN, ARAB ISRAELI CHRISTIAN TEEN: My name is Lozian. I am a Christian, and a girl that lives in Israel, in a small village in the north. Where I was born is a Jewish land, but the Arab Israelis live here and believe it is our land, too. I live, with my big family, peacefully in my village. But when we want to go to other places in Israel, we are afraid, because of the bombings that happen in Israel all the time. I hope that the nations soon come to an understanding and find a peaceful solution, because Jerusalem belongs to them equally.

I think that each letter in the word, "peace," has a meaning. "P" means "people." "E" means "equality." "A" means "acceptance." "C" means "communication." "E" means "education."

There are so many meanings to the word, "peace." For example, there is a peace between a person and himself. This is a peace that is setting you with yourself. Peace between people is every day. It is meeting new people, and how you view them and behave towards them.

We all need to have hope for peace, because it will be a wonderful thing in the world, especially between Israel and Palestine, and also in Iraq, and any other place that is not peaceful. I feel that peace is the most beautiful thing in life. And when peace will come to the world, all the sadness will go away from the people.



WEBSITE: The Creativity For Peace Camp

WEBSITE: Project Life Stories