In a remote part of Maine shrouded with trees, 14- and 15-year-olds from the Middle East, Asia, Europe, and the U.S, many of whom have long considered each other “the enemy,” spend three weeks side-by-side united by one goal; to open their minds and their ears to each other. At the Seeds of Peace camp, the teens eat, interact and engage in dialogue with people from countries some of them are banned from visiting.
While it may be a “summer camp,” executive director Leslie Adelson Lewin said it isn’t about s’mores and campfire sing-alongs. It’s about being a catalyst to global change.” Campers agree.
“I do really want to see where she comes from and meet her family and sleepover on her couch. Those little things that friends can do because they’re friends,” Habeeba, a 22-year-old Egyptian, told Newsweek. But, those simple bonding moments so many people take for granted aren’t possible solely because her friend, 22-year-old Adaya, is Israeli.
In public, Seeds of Peace campers are only identified by their first names because, for some, the release of their full identity could put them in danger.
Blossoming out of emails about ordinary teenage girl topics like crushes on boys, Adaya and Habeeba’s seven-year friendship began when they were bunkmates at Seeds of Peace. Their relationship has defied discourse, stereotypes and distance but without the camp, their nationalities would have likely kept them from meeting.
“I walked into camp with a lot of hatred and lack of understanding and respect,” Habeeba told Newsweek. “I wanted to prove a point and walk away. I wasn’t looking to listen or learn.”