American/UK & New York City Seeds reflect on Camp and plan program year

NEW YORK | Twenty-six new American/UK and New York City Seeds who graduated from the Seeds of Peace Camp this summer met for a day of planning and reflection on September 17.

The Small Hall Sessions program was held at the headquarters of Street Squash. The program gave the Seeds a chance to share about their experiences at Camp and their return home, as well as look ahead to Seeds of Peace programs in the coming months.

“Many of them talked about feeling that friends and family don’t truly understand the breadth and depth of their experience and longing for similar conversations as the ones they were having at Camp,” said Clarke Reeves, Seeds of Peace’s Programs and Development Manager, who organized the event.

“It was exciting to get feedback on what types of programs the Seeds were hoping to see and how we can make them logistically more feasible.”

The day also gave the Seeds an opportunity to learn about their respective programs—the American/UK Seeds took part in dialogue at Camp focused on the Middle East or South Asia, whereas the New York City Seeds focused on divides in the United States.

Six Seeds who were unable to attend the program in person took part in a phone call that followed the same trajectory as the in-person meeting.

MSNBC Hosts Help Seeds of Peace Celebrate 25th Anniversary
Associated Press

ARUNDEL, Maine | Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC’s Morning Joe are in Maine to help Seeds of Peace celebrate its 25th anniversary.

Speakers at the event Friday evening at Vinegar Hill Music Theatre in Arundel include two Seeds of Peace campers and executive director Leslie Lewin.

The camp was founded by the late foreign correspondent John Wallach, who brought a group of Israeli and Arab teens to a Maine lake in 1993 with a goal of finding common ground. Over the years, it’s expanded to include youth from other trouble spots – and even teens from the United States.

More than 6,000 people have graduated from the program, some of whom have become politicians, business leaders and journalists.

August 25 | 25th Anniversary Celebration for Seeds of Peace with Special Guests, Joe & Mika

Join Seeds of Peace and its inspiring young leaders for an intimate evening of music and conversation with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

The event, sponsored by supporter Tim Harrington, will include Seeds of Peace alumni and a musical performance by Scarborough. All proceeds benefit Seeds of Peace.

WHEN: August 25, 2017, 6-8 p.m.
WHERE: Vinegar Hill Music Theater, 53 Old Post Road, Arundel, Maine 04046

$250 (includes reception, 6-7 p.m.)
$100 (program and concert only, 7-8 p.m.)

Host Committee:
Jean Becker
Tim Harrington
Louise and Ralph Hurlbutt
Doro Bush Koch
Deb Lennon and Tom Nill
Kevin and Kelly Lord

Lead Sponsors:
Darcie Bundy and Ken Cohen
Barbara and Howard Goldenfarb
Tim Harrington, Vinegar Hill
The Leonard and Judy Lauder Fund
Doris and Eliot Minsker
The Jills

For more information about this event or to discuss event sponsorships, please contact Tracy Malloy-Curtis at Event sponsorships are available for $5,000 and include recognition in promotional materials, as well as admission for 4 to both the concert and VIP reception.

All proceeds benefit Seeds of Peace.

Egyptian Seeds raise funds for charity, Seeds of Peace

CAIRO | Ten Egyptian Seeds held a car wash fundraiser on August 18 and 19 at the Heliopolis Sporting Club in Cairo.

This is the eighth year that Egyptian Seeds have hosted such a fundraiser, the proceeds of which are split between charity and Seeds of Peace programming in Egypt.

“The car wash fundraiser is more than an opportunity to raise funds for programming and charity,” said Laila, one of the Seeds who organized the two-day event.

“It is also a chance for Seeds to connect and form friendships and integrate the newest Seeds into the Egyptian Seeds community.”

2017 Israeli, Palestinian Seeds and Delegation Leaders reunite in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM | Nearly 90 Israeli and Palestinian Seeds and Delegation Leaders recently returned from the Seeds of Peace Camp came together in Jerusalem on August 16.

The daylong reentry program, held at the Jerusalem International YMCA, brought together 72 Seeds and 5 Delegation Leaders, and took place three weeks after the group had arrived home from Maine.

“Seeing everybody is so important to me, especially after so much time away from Camp,” said one participant.

The Seeds took part in dialogue, a creative writing workshop, and a theatrical activity designed to help them share their experiences of returning home from Camp.

“I was really happy to have the opportunity to tell my dialogue group about how it was for me to return home,” said one Seed.

The Delegation Leaders also had the chance to discuss their Camp experience and explore different ways to stay engaged in Seeds of Peace’s work.

August 3, 2017 | Seeds of Peace Forum on Educating In a Diverse Democracy

The Seeds of Peace Forum on Educating In a Diverse Democracy is an opportunity to discuss the prospects, challenges and potential of education today for those who care about an American future that is diverse, humane, and just.

This event is part of a two-week pilot course, “Educating In a Diverse Democracy,” ​which is taking place this summer at the Seeds of Peace Camp from July 29 to August 13.

WHERE: Portland City Hall
WHEN: Thursday, August 3, 10 a.m. to noon
Lunch will be provided at noon

The forum will include a panel with Josh Starr, Executive Director of PDK; Xavier Botana, Portland District Superintendent of Schools; and Doris Santoro, Associate Professor and Chair, Education Department, Bowdoin College​.

Optimism survives on 25th anniversary of Seeds of Peace
Associated Press

Despite seemingly fraught tensions between Israeli and Palestinians in the Middle East, a summer camp in Maine still brings youth together to build hope for the future.

OTISFIELD, Maine | Middle East peace is no closer today than it was a quarter century ago when Seeds of Peace brought the first Israeli and Palestinian teens together in the woods of Maine. But the latest group to spend time together sees reason for optimism.

Husam Zarour, a Palestinian from East Jerusalem, said Israeli and Palestinian youth have inherited an untenable situation but that it’s their job to fix it.

“We are born in this place and running way is not a solution. We should not give up. We should face this issue and try to solve it,” the 16-year-old said.

The lakeside camp that’s celebrating its 25th anniversary was created when the late foreign news correspondent John Wallach brought a group of Israeli and Arab teens in 1993 amid clashes over territory and Palestinians’ desire for an independent state. The hope is to find common ground so that one day, there can be lasting peace.

Over the years, more than 6,000 graduates of the program have become politicians, business leaders, teachers, journalists, nonprofit leaders and parents. Many of the Arab-Israeli friendships that took root in Maine have endured despite violence in the homeland.

Yet peace remains as elusive as ever.

“I don’t think our founder was under the impression that we were going to create the peace treaty overnight,” executive director Leslie Lewin said while watching the teens play soccer. “We’ve got a lot of work to do but we feel like we’re making a dent.”

The 67-acre camp has expanded its reach over the years, bringing in teenagers from other trouble spots such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, India and Pakistan. These days, there’s also a separate camp for US teens aimed at healing some of the nation’s divisions.

The three-week camp, which wraps up this weekend, relies on the same formula used since the beginning. Built on respect, trust, and communication, teenagers raised to see each other as enemies learn through dialogue sessions that they have a lot in common despite differences in culture and religion.

Noam Gabay, a 15-year-old from Tiberias, Israel, said former foes that he knew only from news accounts were transformed into something he couldn’t fathom before.

“I didn’t think we could be friends,” he said.

The only Maine summer camp protected by state police provides a safe haven for the teens, some of whom have had friends and family killed or jailed.

Each day, there are discussions in which the teens share their stories, followed by group challenges where campers are thrust into in trust-oriented activities. They also join in traditional summer camp activities like boating, swimming, games, drama, art, and music.

Ynon Reiner, 14, of Kiryat Ono, Israel, described working with a Palestinian teen on a ropes course high above the ground. They had to pass each other to get to the other side. Complicating things, Reiner was blindfolded and relying on instructions of his Palestinian peer.

“You’re suspended in the air. Someone is telling you what to do. You don’t care if he’s a Palestinian. You’re 6 meters [20 feet] high!” Reiner said.

Through angry and tearful discussions, the campers learned about each other’s suffering. They also learned about common goals.

“We both deserve a peaceful life. We both deserve a happy life. And we want this for our kids. We don’t want our kids to live in the same way we lived,” Zarour said.

But the campers know it’ll take time and hard work to bring a lasting peace.

A camper said one of the counselors likened the peace process to an architect designing a beautiful cathedral back in the days when construction sometimes took hundreds of years.

“Architects would commit to a plan even though they knew neither they nor their grandchildren would see it. This conflict is so complicated. If no one has solved until now, then it will take time,” said camper Noga Kaplan, a 15-year-old from Haifa, Israel.

Read David Sharp’s article in The Christian Science Monitor ››

Americans play crucial role for Seeds of Peace
Lewiston Sun Journal

OTISFIELD — Mathias is experiencing a temporary athletic prowess at Seeds of Peace this month. The 16-year-old from New York City is one of the more experienced basketball players at the camp, which makes him one of the better players.

“Usually, in regular settings, I’m not considered good at sports, but coming here to Seeds, I’m one of the best,” Mathias said during Monday’s Play for Peace basketball clinic. “It’s really funny.”

Among the 181 campers at Seeds of Peace are kids from Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, India and Pakistan. There also are American campers. They might seem like outsiders in their own country, but they play a crucial role in the camp.

The Seeds of Peace brings campers, who are often called seeds, from countries of conflict together to try to understand each other by living together for three weeks. The major conflict of the camp is that between Israel and Palestine. So where do the Americans fit into that?

“In our orientation, we talk a lot about it, because that’s sort of the biggest question mark, why are we here, right?” Daniel, a 17-year-old from New York City, said. “As someone who’s not directly involved on a day-to-day basis, for the most part, in the conflict, like why are we engaged in these discussions?”

For starters, camp counselor Catherine Strauch points out, the United States plays a large role in the Middle East.

“America’s been very involved since the beginning,” Strauch, a one-time camper from Exeter, said. “So I think it’s really important to have that voice, and also for Americans to hear not just what is politicized about the Middle East, but, like, actual people’s stories.”

But the United States’ involvement isn’t like those of Palestinians or Israelis, and that can be overwhelming for the American seeds.

“I feel a little bit out of place because I’m in a room full of people who experience this every day, who really live there,” Mathias said.

That uneasiness doesn’t compare to that the campers who live with the conflict have coming together and talking and sharing a bunk together.

“Their role is really important for the dialogue and for the experience outside. They’re basically the unbiased side sitting in the dialogue listening to both sides, maybe helping both sides to talk, communicate between them,” 17-year-old Palestinian Husam said.

“I really feel as though, without a third-party participant, a lot of these dialogues would be much harder,” Daniel said. “And I found that I was able, even though I’ve never been to the Middle East and am neither Israeli or Palestinian, Egyptian or Jordanian, that I was able to make a big impact in allowing others to see the bigger picture, whatever that means.”

Mathias said that the Americans do have to spend a few days proving themselves.

“An American, in dialogue, does have some sort of an extra burden, that they need to show to the group that just because they’re an American doesn’t mean that they don’t understand what’s going on, that they don’t have any concept of the daily lives of the people involved,” he said.

The Americans also gain perspective of the world that they probably wouldn’t otherwise.

When Sarah Brajtbord attended Seeds of Peace in 2006, the then-17-year-old from Dallas, Texas, did so with a certain outlook and vision of the world.

It was changed by three weeks in Maine.

“It was like I had these blinders on, and it just opened up my worldview in ways that I really hadn’t anticipated,” Brajtbord, now the Seeds of Peace camp director, said.

Darling Kittoe of Chicago attended the international session as a camper in 2012. She came having developed what she believed was a strong knowledge of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

After hearing stories of her fellow campers, her outlook was changed, and she struggled to find her role until former camp director Wil Smith told her, “Before you can make peace with someone else, you have to go to war with yourself.”

Kittoe, now a camp counselor, started challenging her own beliefs and sharing her own stories.

“What a lot of Americans bring, is a new perspective, and just like a new outlook on how to view conflict and how to view dialogue, in general,” Kittoe said.

The American seeds can take what they learn back to their own communities. That’s what Kittoe did. She created dialogue about the Middle East conflict, but also applied what she learned to her own community.

“One of the main things I did is try to create awareness about different socioeconomic statuses,” Kittoe said. “So it didn’t have a lot to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or any sort of Seeds issue, but it was my way of encouraging people to talk and share their stories and maybe create some sort of understanding.”

Read Lee Horton’s story at the Lewiston Sun Journal ››

Pro basketball players bring support to Seeds of Peace
Lewiston Sun Journal

OTISFIELD — They may not know them, they may not love basketball, but they appreciate the basketball stars showing up.

Former NBA players Brian Scalabrine and Matt Bonner and Detroit Pistons rookie Luke Kennard were among the professional basketball players who led Seeds of Peace campers through basketball drills and games as part of the camp’s 15th annual Play for Peace basketball clinic Monday.

“You don’t have the opportunity to meet NBA players back in Israel, for example,” 15-year-old Yoav of Israel said. “And I think it is amazing for some campers here that they really follow those players.

“I mean, I don’t really know them, but it’s exciting even for me.”

Also attending the camp Monday were Pistons Ish Smith and Henry Ellenson, New Orleans Pelicans assistant coach Darren Erman, a former Seeds of Peace counselor and WNBA player Sue Wicks of the New York Liberty.

“They know they’re famous in American basketball, which is like a big deal, so they really look up to them, physically and metaphorically,” said American camper Mathias, age 16, from New York City.

The campers from seven countries — Israel, Palestine, Jordan, India, Pakistan, Egypt and the United States — attend Seeds of Peace for three weeks. They spend much of that time in what is called dialogue, or discussions between campers from other countries, including those that are in conflict with each other.

The campers also spend time playing together and doing activities to get to know each other.

That includes the basketball clinic.

“It means everything to them. It’s fun,” Erman, who was a counselor at the camp in 2003, said. “This camp is a very great camp; it’s very intense, too. I mean you’re talking about dialogue with people when you come here, you kind of look at them as the other side, the enemy, whatever, and now you’re dialoguing every day, and it’s really intense. You’re living in the same bunk together and is really, really intense for them.

“And this basketball portion is a way of having fun. And they see 6-9 giants out there, you can’t help but have fun.”

Scalabrine has been a constant presence of the Play for Peace basketball clinic. He was making 14th appearance in 15 years Monday.

“There’s a lot of basketball camps, and we’ll bring in kids, you know, like kids that aren’t as fortunate, kids from the inner city, just to kind of tell them, you can be successful, if you work hard, if you do the right things, those types of messages,” Scalabrine said.

“This message (at Seeds of Peace) is completely different. I think the biggest thing for us is we’re about supporting them. We’re learning as well, but it’s not about, ‘Listen to me, this is how you’ll make it,’ it’s about like, man, that’s crazy the stuff that you have to go through, and we sympathize with you.”

That support means something, according to 16-year-old Husam, of Palestine. The campers don’t always recognize the players, but they realize the players’ stature within American culture.

“Some people really don’t believe that they are actually making a difference,” Husam said. “But when they see that people come from outside, famous people come from the NBA and other places to show that they support in what they’re doing, it does make a huge difference for each person and how they feel towards what they’re doing.”

Kennard was making his first appearance at Seeds of Peace, having been drafted by Detroit in the first round (12th pick) of last month’s NBA Draft after two seasons playing at Duke University.

He heard about the camp from Arn Tellem, a Seeds of Peace board member and former sports agent who now runs the Pistons’ front office.

“He asked me if I would want to come, and after he told me what it was all about, I couldn’t turn it down,” Kennard said.

The players spend the day at the camp, eating meals and attending dialogue. Scalabrine and Bonner both brought their families Monday.

“I think me and my wife and my family get more out of coming here and helping out than the kids do, I believe,” Bonner, a two-time NBA champion with the Spurs, said. “It’s just a very positive, uplifting thing, an inspiring place to support and be a part of.”

Read Lee Horton’s article at the Lewiston Sun Journal ››

Pistons inspired by visit to Seeds of Peace camp
Detroit News

Summertime is camp time. For many NBA players, it’s a time to give back to young players.

This time, it’s more than just basketball.

At the Seeds of Peace international camp in Maine, the focus isn’t on drills or making baskets, but on inspiring the next generation of leaders to deal with conflict. The camp, in its 15th year, attracted about 180 teenagers from the U.S., Palestine, Israel, Egypt, Pakistan and India this week, as well as several NBA players, including the Pistons’ Ish Smith, Henry Ellenson and rookie Luke Kennard.

For the campers — some of whom had never played basketball and didn’t know who the NBA players were — the basketball drills were a break from Seeds of Peace’s main objective of facilitating dialogue between different cultural groups about conflicts and making change. The participants were selected by their countries’ governments as leaders and rewarded with the trip to Otisfield, in southwest Maine.

Smith said the experience was an eye-opener for him.

“When you see how impactful you are because you can dribble a basketball, it’s pretty special,” Smith said. “Our game has gone global and just because we can do some things on the floor and play some basketball is how many look up to us.

“For me, I learn more from them than they learn from me. It’s been a great experience.”

The Pistons players, along with former Celtics player Brian Scalabrine and the WNBA’s Sue Wicks, participated in discussions and worked on some of the drills, but the takeaways for them were more from off the court.

Seeing the level of conversation, problem-solving and conflict resolution left a lasting impression, especially with those who aren’t too far from the same ages – Ellenson is 20 and Kennard is 21.

“We can’t really compare to some of the situations they’ve been through and knowing they’re just a few years younger than us,” Kennard said. “Being here and listening to them and the conflicts they’ve been through, it’s inspiring.

“I want to listen to them more than talk to them. It’s inspiring to hear their joy and laughs they have. It’s an honor and an experience just to be here with them.”

Arn Tellem, vice chairman of Palace Sports and Entertainment, is a board member for Seeds of Peace, but also attended the camp in the 1960s, when it was a boys camp. Tellem, a former agent, brought many of his former clients — including Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, Joel Embiid and LaMarcus Aldridge — when they were rookies, as an introduction to their service in the community.

Even for the boys and girls who weren’t familiar with the players, it was good to spend time with star athletes.

“If you saw the enthusiasm on their faces and to see what it means to spend time with an NBA player, you realize all the good things and the potential the NBA to do all over the world, and that’s why these programs and others like it are so important,” Tellem said.

It also made an impact on Ellenson, who mad a memorable moment while eating with the campers as they shared their experiences.

“These kids are from different parts of the world and there’s hate between different cultures in their countries. In the dining hall, each table was doing a dance,” Ellenson said. “They got Luke and Ish and me up dancing and it shows how together it gets these kids and seeing from a different perspective — instead of just stories they’ve heard of each other and experiencing it.

“It was one of the most fun things ever. We wish we went to summer camp instead of basketball camp.”

Read Rod Beard’s story at The Detroit News ››