JERUSALEM | From December 27-30, 1999, Seeds of Peace organized a four-day workshop for over 85 Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian Seeds at Yahel in the Negev desert, right along the border with Jordan (north of Eilat and Aqaba). The theme of the workshop was “Looking at Identity” and the participants were challenged to prepare themselves for presentations, workshops and fun.
The first day was dedicated to travel, as the Seeds gathered at the Center for departure and the staff held pre-workshop orientation and informational meetings, while we all enjoyed pizza! Arriving at night, the Seeds were reluctant to go to bed, having both rekindled friendships from the summer and initiated new ones on the bus ride. Not only did this excursion bring together the different nationalities, it also brought together Seeds from 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999, thus providing a unique opportunity for them to mix with others that have shared the same Seeds of Peace experience and a similar element of identity.
In the morning of Day 2, the participants were separated into three multi-national groups—one went to give presentations about Seeds at a local school, the second went to meet and discuss their coexistence experiences with a group of Arab, Israeli and American graduate students working on an environmental project nearby, and the third attended a poetry workshop. Each of these activities offered the Seeds unique opportunities for expression, while allowing them to explore the meaning and significance of what they are accomplishing together in various ways.
After an afternoon trip to nearby sand dunes—for sledding and fun—the Seeds convened in the early evening for an identity workshop. Separated into multi-national groups of eight, each Arab and Israeli participant was asked to share with their group something personal to them from their culture, religion or family tradition. In one group, a young lady presented her family’s Shabbat candlesticks that were brought by her great-great-grandparents to Israel from Lithuania, while her friend from Gaza presented a family portrait and photo album showing Palestinian life in Gaza from the early part of this century.
These, and many other such presentations, generated interesting and meaningful discussions and allowed the Seeds to learn more about each other and their personal histories. New friendships were solidified during these sessions.
That evening Color Games was proclaimed, setting off 24 hours of fun, friendly competition, and intense creativity. The tradition of Color Games goes back seven years to the founding of Seeds of Peace, when the competition was initiated as a means of fostering teamwork, while blurring the nationalist lines of identity. This was the first time the Color Games was organized away from Camp, and judging from the results, it was a huge success!
The third day at the workshop was thus dedicated to basketball, soccer, art projects, chess and backgammon, team songs and skits and intense fun. At the end, smiles, hugs and cheers for all were shared, and the Seeds reflected on their experiences at the workshop. The final day (December 30th) was dedicated to cleaning up and traveling back to Jerusalem, in plenty of time before New Year’s Eve celebrations started.