For some, it was overwhelming, confusing even, others appeared very confident and in control. I was somewhere in the middle. But as a counselor, I just kept smiling for hours.
Sport and art activities alongside daily dialogues of discussing the conflict came one after another. I was making art with people who weren’t sure what to do or never used clay before, they ended up creating marvelous things.
When I was really happy about someone’s work I became a bit childish or overly joyful. It happened at meals too, when we shared pudding. It happened everywhere if I wasn’t too tired.
I was yelling Yallah and Khalas on everybody here and there because it was incredibly more effective than English. But English was everywhere and people stuck to it more than I was expecting, even those who struggled with it.
After hard dialogue sessions, however, people run back into the shells of their native tongues. Frustrating and aching in Arabic or Hebrew, crying and seizing each other in small groups.
We as counselors were there to listen and bring back the English, alongside with trust. Trust is so fragile to maintain. It wasn’t easy and sometimes I felt bare and useless in the face of someone’s hurt or anger.
Who am I to convince them to “trust the process”?
Back when I was a teenager, I felt like my “side” was lying to me, even using me. But I didn’t know much about the “other side”. Later on, I was angry with the “liberals” for twisting Jewish history. Eventually, I learned that being a person means more than taking sides, seeing the world in black and white or being angry. I learned that each person, everywhere, and on each “side”, has a story.
We cannot ignore people’s stories because they will catch up to us in the end. Because in Israel/Palestine we are all connected and taking sides gets us farther away from peace.
Our hatred and fears, our conflicts, are not bound to last forever, but they cannot solve themselves.
The process is long.
Historical facts, myths, and world views aside, being so far away from home in an environment that challenges your basic beliefs and constantly pushing you out of your comfort zone, is hard at any age. Being there in the forest with those brave kids, I cherished them.
Soon, the spirit of togetherness dominated the camp and every person had a meaningful place in our young community.
It was beautiful, yet filled me with sadness.
How far away is this place from home? Sometimes it felt so far, too far. How will these kids face home? Home is cruel, home is anguish. But home is also home.