JERUSALEM | In December 2002, over 120 Seeds gathered in the desert at Kibbutz Yahel for the reincarnation of the annual Seeds of Peace Yahel Winter Workshop. The Yahel Winter Workshop had been discontinued since the start of the Intifada over two years ago. It was last held in 1999.
Through the organization of the Seeds of Peace Center for Coexistence in Jerusalem, Palestinian and Israeli Seeds from 1994-2002 made the trip from Haifa, Afula, Jerusalem, Beit Jala, Ashdod, Hebron, Taibeh, and all places in between to Kibbutz Yahel, just north of Eilat in the Negev. Selected Seeds from 1997 and prior acted as staff members. The idea was to give the Seeds a meaningful and fun experience together and to recreate some of the feeling and wonder of Camp.
The theme of the weekend was “leadership.” There were four main elements of content programming, most of which centered around this theme. Seeds from 2002 participating in the year-round coexistence programs had “coex” discussions with their groups. Other Seeds did presentations about Seeds of Peace to the school near Yahel attended by five area kibbutzim. Everyone participated in a discussion examining the people they think had the greatest positive impact on the world—on the global, communal, and personal levels—and concluded that discussion with them stating the impact they hope to have on the world.
Specific Leadership Workshops allowed the Seeds to either work on a project designed to have a positive impact on others, or to help themselves develop a new skill important for them to acquire as leaders. Seeds taught each other Arabic and Hebrew, learned some of the basics of mediation and negotiation, created a memorial that will be given to Israeli and Palestinian parents whose children have been killed in the conflict, practiced public speaking and delivering presentations, and wrote messages of hope and courage to people the Seeds themselves know who are experiencing a painful time.
There was also “fun” programming. The greatest pleasure for the Seeds, of course, was the chance for them to see each other and hang out together. To that end, activities were planned to foster laughter and appreciation. At night the first-ever Seeds of Peace Talent Fire was held; in front of the bonfire, Seeds performed acts both serious and funny. One of the highlights was a Hebrew and Arabic rap.
On the last night of the workshop, a cook-out was held around a bonfire, and, similar to what happens at Camp, in the middle of a campfire story, music started blaring and out from the desert came two sets of headlights and, engines revving, two vans drove closer to the bonfire. Out jumped ten blue- and green-draped spectacles, yelling and cheering and running around waving flags and banners like mad. Welcome to Color Games at Yahel Winter Workshop!
There were many things to be remembered and treasured about these Color Games at Yahel, especially the spirit and humor with which the Seeds approached the Games. The Seeds were, plain and simple, enjoying themselves—it took all of five seconds during Choose Up for them to break into their old teams of yesteryear and start the cheers—and they gave their all to every activity, milking them for all they were worth. Perhaps the greatest pleasure was watching the Coaches in action—the Coaches were predominantly older Seeds. Each team had a Staff Coach, but the bulk of the Coaching staff was 1998 or 1999 Seeds.
This 2002 Yahel Workshop was nothing short of a miracle. You only need to open up any newspaper to see everything going on outside of the bubble we created to understand how truly miraculous it is. This workshop clearly demonstrates that by giving the Seeds that bubble to go to, they will be refortified and refilled to deal with strength and courage with their reality outside that bubble. Yahel was the biggest “fill-up” of the year. It was a beautiful way to end the year.