More than 40 teenagers, some Jewish Israeli, some Arab from Palestinian Territories in Israel, and others from the United States, all learned about conflict resolution in San Diego while living with 34 host families.
They applied for the Hands of Peace non-profit that operates in Chicago and San Diego. Their mission is to create a space to talk openly about the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict and how to find ways to find peace back home in the Middle East.
“I think it’s hard because some things we don’t want to hear,” explained 16-year-old Jewish Israeli, Inbal. “And because some things on both sides are hard to say, and sometimes you just want to leave; go like, ‘I don’t care!’ But we do care, and that’s why we are here.”
This is her second time involved in the program. She said her group has spent the last three weeks doing things together, including co-designing and painting peace murals at an art gallery in Carlsbad. The city granted the non-profit $500 to provide them the space.
“The painting is of a person that is chained by anger and stereotypes… he is like aspiring to get to peace and friendship,” described Inbal.
She said when they are not doing activities together, they spend most of their time together talking about each other’s pasts.
“I live in an Arabic village,” said 18-year-old Palestinian, who lives in Israel, Antonios. “I don’t get in touch with ‘JI’s.’ Jewish Israelis.”
Now he calls the Jewish Israelis among the group, like Inbal, his close friends. “Back home it’s, I am Palestinian and we have to stick with our roots and JI’s are bad,” he said.
But that is no longer how he feels after participating in the Hands for Peace program for the second time. He plans to go back home again to his family and friends and share with them his conflict resolution ideas.
“I want them all to know what I know, and I want to feed them from my knowledge from what I learned from this program,” said Antonios.
The program ends on Sunday. There will be a farewell celebration at La Costa Canyon High School from 4:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. They will showcase their four colorful peace murals at the farewell celebration.