JERUSALEM | Being a Seed is a lifetime commitment—to a community of leaders, to striving for change, to developing one’s own skills and deepened understanding of conflict. Those commitments continue with the full year of regional programs awaiting new Seeds once they return home from Camp.
The first of these, on August 13, saw 54 new Israeli and Palestinian Seeds come together in Jerusalem to hear about each other’s experiences since the end of first session on July 19.
“Given how tense the situation is, it was a true moment of pleasure to witness how happy the Seeds were to see each other after almost a month apart,” said Seeds of Peace Program Director Bashar Iraqi.
“It was inspiring the way they managed to bring in all their difficulties and concerns while still showing care and warmth towards each other,” added another Seeds of Peace Program Director, Maayan Poleg.
The day began with the Seeds meeting separately by delegation. After catching up with one another, the groups talked about how they expected to feel and what they hoped to get out of seeing “the other” for the first time since Camp.
They also reflected on how the “the other side” is not only one voice, that within each group there are many narratives, feelings, opinions, and ways of behavior—and that Seeds have the opportunity to look at people beyond politics.
“I think we all came to this meeting today because we believe we can treat each other better,” said one Seed who is a Palestinian citizen of Israel.
The Seeds shared their experiences at Camp and returning home, as well as the things that have changed or that they have learned about themselves as a result of the program.
“I refused to think about the other side,” said a Palestinian Seed during the meeting. “Now I can’t not think about the other side when I think about the future. I want justice for my people and I want a better future.”
Afterward, the Seeds split into four binational groups, giving them the chance to share and hear about experiences very distinct from their own. “I come here with questions and doubts,” said an Israeli Seed. “But I know this is where I want to be and I know I want to learn more and hear more and share more.”
“I look forward to more Seeds of Peace meetings, so I can learn how to transfer my experience at Camp to my community,” added a Palestinian Seed at the re-entry meeting’s conclusion.
Regional programming in Israel formally kicked off four weeks later, when 70 Israeli Seeds gathered in Hayarkon Park in Tel Aviv to plan future activities on September 20. “There is something I can’t really explain about how special it is to spend time with these [Seeds],” said Israeli Seed Or. “It fills me with energy.”
The beginning of Seeds of Peace’s regional programs year wasn’t limited to Israel and Palestine, however. From August to October, each delegation held their own events bringing new Seeds together.
August 19, 11 new Indian Seeds came together in Mumbai for their first monthly meeting. There they heard from fellow Indian Seed—and GATHER Fellow—Nergish, who is a journalist for the Times of India. Nergish shared her experiences from the Fellowship, and advised the Seeds to start thinking of ideas they are passionate about to develop into projects in the future.
In the United States, 18 Los Angeles Seeds from 2016-2018 met on September 9 to start planning activities as a full delegation, as well as to participate in a group facilitated dialogue session. The Chicago and New York City delegations held similar events on September 20 and October 19, respectively.
Of all the kickoffs to the regional programming year, Egypt’s was the most adventerous. On October 10, 12 Egyptian Seeds boarded the sailboat Falouka and traveled down the Nile as they discussed how it has felt being back home in their first meeting since Camp.
Multiple Seeds talked about how difficult it was for them to explain their experience at Camp fully to their peers. Like the other Seeds, they expressed having developed more empathy and a deeper understanding of the conflict. But for many, the personal changes they underwent during Camp spoke for themselves.
“Before Camp,” one Seed said, “I was thinking to visit my father’s grave, but didn’t have the courage. After Camp, I got the courage to visit—and it really felt so liberating.”