Jerusalem Peacebuilders has created a series of video and transcribed testimonials detailing our work and the power of faith to change the world, ourselves, and further the hope and promise of peace in Jerusalem. Please read these powerful stories and learn why we have a passion for peace and witness the fruits of the next generation of young leaders and peacemakers in the USA and Holy Lands.
My First Day at JPB
Hello, my name is Amna. I am from a small town located near Kfar Saba in Israel. I can clearly remember my first day at JPB. It was a new place filled with different faces, minds, cultures, and nationalities. The program was the most beautiful period in my teenage years and was an inspiring adventure. I was only 16 years old when I left for New Haven, CT. There, I learned a lot about life, responsibility, giving, and assistance. I practiced cooperation and the acceptance of differing opinions. My character changed through that experience, and I believe I changed those around me.
Today, three years later, I am now 19 years old. I am writing as a young leader and woman wishing only good things for JPB's newest young leaders. Remember to be creative and support the growing JPB family. I am excited to see others live the same adventure that I experienced at Jerusalem Peacebuilders!
A Gift from God
Jerusalem Peacebuilders (JPB) is simply a gift from God to me, it is an unforgettable experience which helped me to see the world from a different angle which is full of appreciation for others no matter what they believe in. JPB taught me about hope which is engraved in my heart and soul forever. I learned that we should never lose hope.
In the summer program, the staff gave each participant a bracelet which has a word on it, and they told us that this word should be our message to you. The word on my bracelet was Hope, and after that day I wear a hope necklace and I feel so much powerful than before. I’m so thankful for JPB because through them I learned a lot of things about myself, about leadership and about the kindness that we are able to share in our universe. They taught us that each human is a unique story which has a voice that can lead to huge change in the world.
A Better Reality is Possible
"This summer was the best and most intense two weeks of my life. A challenging, rewarding, eye-opening experience. Two weeks of fun activities, hugs, and laughs, but also serious discussions and workshops about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. From the high ropes course to mask-making, from swimming in the pond to horseback riding, from intense dialogue sessions to group hugs, and from crying together because of our reality to crying from laughing after a late night joke in the cabin; we always felt connected and loved. Panel presentations, learning about the beautiful values of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, doing Kiddush for the first time in a year, sitting by the fireplace, playing badminton and so much more.
We are the proof that a better reality is possible. We are the proof that changing the status quo is not just a dream. We are not naive. We are not saying it's easy, but it is definitely possible. Thank you so much for this life-changing opportunity, for all the love and care, and, of course, thanks to everyone who made these two weeks the best of my life!"
Nicholas completes the Hero's Journey at Acer Farm
Seeing the Sides of a Story
"With JPB I learned that peace isn’t absence of conflict, it’s the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means. JPB made me see the future differently because it changed me and the way I think, such as living without pretending, loving without depending, listening without defending, and speaking without offending.
JPB made me see how much we don’t appreciate nature and what it offers us. Last but not least, JPB taught me that to each story has two sides, that we can’t listen to only one side and judge it. We must see the whole picture because this is how we learn and grow."
Wouldn't Trade it for the World
"I'm Lucy and I'm 17 years old going on 18. I live in Netanya, Israel. I first heard of JPB at a MUN conference (model UN). At the end of the conference, I was announced as one of the JPB scholars!
I decided to come to the JPB summer program because I feel that it will be an amazing experience and a way to create new friends for life. This is so important because the people I will meet at the JPB program are very different from me and have very different opinions. If I spend a week or two with them I will learn to accept and appreciate other people's opinions and ways of life. I will be exposed to different perspectives and share my own. I believe that joining this program can change the way we think about the conflict. I'm so excited to be part of this amazing experience and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world."
A World Without Fear
"My name is Nancy, I am from the Negev. I love to identify myself as a female Muslim Arab who's an advocate for women's rights all around the world. I first heard about JPB in a program called "Debate for Peace", through which I participate in several Model UN conferences during the school year.
I just loved the idea of having young adults and teens from different cultures and religions and put them together to get to know each other's lives. I think it's highly important for any human being to be open to the world we're living in, to know how to respect others no matter what. JPB is the perfect program for that.
At first, I was a bit hesitant about the whole "going abroad to meet new people" thing, but then I just realized that if I wanted to make a difference in this world, I had to take actions that supported my cause, so... I went for it!
I sincerely hope that someday we could get to a point where we all live together without fear; without having to think about what other people would think just because of our societies and environment disagree with what we do or say."
Nancy and friends make Challah bread at the Interfaith Citizenship Institute
Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone
"My name is Ghenwa, I'm 17 years old from the holy city of Nazareth and I'm proud to say that I am Palestinian.
I heard about JPB through my school. JPB recently started to teach there. At first, I thought it was going to be just another program with an instructor lecturing and waving goodbye at the end of the class...but I was wrong. I fell in love with JPB from the from the first session, it was nothing like any other program I ever attended. And I will never forget it!
The main reason why I joined JPB is the subject. With JPB we talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an important subject that needs discussing, and us Palestinians are passionate about this topic but we don't always get the chance to express ourselves. JPB gave us this opportunity and I'm really grateful for it. JPB also gave us the opportunity to develop both our speaking and thinking skills and our ability to resolve and understand conflicts. These skills are very important if you want to become a better peacebuilder, and I think that everyone could and should be a peacebuilder if we want to make the world a better place. And I must add that speaking skills are very helpful if you're a shy person like me :)
I understand why some people would be afraid to step out of their comfort zone and join JPB.... but I feel sorry for them. They have the perfect opportunity to be better persons and make a change in this world, in our world.
Life is all about stepping out of your comfort zone, trying new things, meeting new and different people, learning new things, JPB has all of this in one place! Another amazing experience was the retreat in March. It was one of the most amazing things I took part in and I would love to have that experience again!
I would like to say THANK YOU to all the staff members of JPB. Thank you for your hard work. JPB wouldn't exist without you, and even if it did, it wouldn't be as good!"
Real Peace is Inner Peace
"All I have ever wanted in my life since I was very little is to feel normal. Being a Palestinian was hard, but being different in the way I talk, dress, also think was even harder. I mostly understood everyone who told me their own stories, but no one ever understood what I really felt. People tried to make it easier for me by comparing their pain to mine, like they had ever felt it before. It was too hard and painful at the time. I even reached a point when I decided to let go and take my own life. But I survived, and I am here today, flesh and blood, because I was able to change. I finally learned to accept my identity, and I am not willing to give up anything: any of my problems, and conflicts from the past, present, and future. I know now that these conflicts have made me who I am today.
I participated in Jerusalem Peacebuilders to share my knowledge and my lived experiences with those who need it after me. I participated because I want to make a change, starting now. It is my responsibility as a part of a community, as leader, peacebuilder, and also as a human being.
Mahmoud and JPB teens meet with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry at Christ Anglican School in Nazareth
In this program, I have learned a lot, and it has given me new tools I can use today and in the future. I learned that the real peace is the inner peace, which is the peace between you and yourself. I learned that the more you know yourself the more you know others. I learned that home is not a place, home is a feeling.
Beyond JPB, I am participating in a program called MEET, which brings together young Israelis and Palestinians to develop skills in business entrepreneurship, computer science and also deepen understanding (in other words human psychology). In this program, my cohort is developing a project that addresses stereotypes between Arabs and Jews.
I never felt that earth is enough for me, I always looked for more. I understand that humans were born on earth, but that doesn't mean that we have to die on it. We have enough doctors, engineers, teachers, etc... but still not enough astronauts. Usually when people hear about my big dreams, they respond with the are you insane look: “there are no Palestinian astronauts, it is good to dream, but don’t dream too big”, then I answer back : “yet! there are no Palestinian astronauts yet, and I will be the first one”. I believe that sometimes you have to put others priority before you, and make everyone’s need a dream for you, a dream you work hard to achieve.
I am Mahmoud, I am here for a reason, and I am here to change this world. It is an honor to share my story of becoming a peacebuilder with all of you."
A New Window to the World
"I joined JPB because I wanted to meet new people that I would never get to interact with otherwise, and going overseas to do so seemed like an adventure worth taking. JPB offered me a new window to the world. It presented the opportunity for me to apply all the skills I learned in my Diplomacy class. One of the strongest memories I have from last summer is the last day of the program. We all read our poems in front of a large audience at Christ Church Cathedral in Houston. We also read a poem we all wrote together. At the end we all hugged. It was such an emotional and empowering moment - we had created such an amazing family in just ten days. The program changed me and I even encouraged my classmates to make friends with "the other side". It can happen.
If you are afraid, it is normal. I remember I was afraid at the airport, but there is nothing to be afraid of. You will connect to new people, make new friends and learn about different cultures and religions. It will change you and the way you see the world.
Sadly, in our society, we don't know each other, we don't know anything about each other, and it is a big issue. We can't have a relationship before we know each other and we need to have a relationship before we can make peace. It is not such a scary step and it will lead to good things!"
Nothing But Love and Positivity
“My name is Yousef Hassan and I am from a small village near Nazareth called Mashhad, I am 16 years old and I go to the Christ Anglican School in Nazareth. I heard about JPB at the school and decided to join its in-school program. Like most of the participants, I joined because I want to find a solution to the violence happening around us. As a Palestinian, I find it really hard to have my message heard because I am a minority in this country. I also joined because I want to show the other sides, the Israeli side AND the American side, the truth about being a Palestinian that lives in Israel and to show them that it is not as easy as they may think it is.
This program is unlike any other. It is not only about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but it also teaches us, the "kids", a lot of other things about conflict resolution and life in general. My JPB family taught me to forgive, move on and look into the future. The last thing I would like to add is that I am very excited for this summer and, so far, I have not received anything from this program but love and positivity."
"Hi my name is Nadia Abu Ata and I’m a Arab-Christian born and raised in East Jerusalem and I was a participant in Jerusalem Peacebuilders twice and then I got to be a junior counselor. And that has impacted me differently than most people because I got to be on the receiving end and the giving end. I got to be a participant and I got to learn what it meant to be a leader and how to leader other people and how what characteristics I should have as a person and how I should develop myself but then it wasn’t just ink on paper, I got the chance to be a junior counselor which meant that I’m also/ I was helping facilitate the environment, the proper environment, for other individuals younger than I was to share their thoughts and feelings and hopes and dreams. Listening to other people who I was in their place a few years ago made a difference in me because it showed that no matter where you find yourself right now you’re going to be in a different place in a few years regardless of whether you see that now or not.
Now that I’m finished with the program, I’m continuing with my academic career. It’s actually just at the start right now. I am studying for my standardized exam to actually get into Hebrew U. I’m currently just doing a few courses in Hebrew, mathematics, and physics in hopes of getting into the university with the major that I want next year. And I hope to continue working with Jerusalem Peacebuilders and nurturing this love of leadership and seeing where this journey takes me. Both with my academic career and with my work with Jerusalem Peacebuilders"
Nadia speaking to diplomats at the UN in New York
Something Bigger in Every Person
"Hello everyone my name is Jiries Elias and I am a Christian from Jerusalem. I’m 19 years old. I’m studying at the Hebrew University currently for a business degree. I hope to get accepted into law school next year. I’ve been with Jerusalem Peacebuilders for 3-4 years now both as a camper and as a counselor. I’ve acquired some skills. Public speaking skills, leadership skills, peacemaking skills, how to look at a person and see him as a human being and not with all kinds of stereotypes before I get to meet him. This was a great experience for me and. I hope more people will take advantage and be part of this experience because it changes your personality and builds it for you, helps you become a better person and a better peacemaker. Next week I will be giving out a speech in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, about the gaps in Arab and Jewish education in Jerusalem, and I hope that this will be a great starting point for me to get into politics one day and maybe bring a change from within.
From Jerusalem Peacebuilders I have made a lot of friends. Not just friends that come and go and not just friends that are like me, but different people with different identities. Jewish kids, Muslim kids, and for me as a Christian kid that was not something that was with me my entire life. When I met these people in this camp, I learned how to see them in a way that built friendships. I saw them as people that could help me and that I could help and that we coexist and work together in order to bring peace to make a meaningful change. Something wider in each and every person and something bigger than just talking. Real actions. Now I am still in touch with a lot of them. We still talk together and go out sometimes. This peace making project, this utopia we’re trying to build together, starts with one person then another and chain a lot of people that are tied up and hopefully one day will be in the same path."
Jiries addressing Israeli lawmakers at the Knesset on national television
The Stone that the Builders Rejected
by The Rev. Canon Nicholas T. Porter
"Pilgrimage to the Holy Lands changed my life. It was in Jerusalem; inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We had been praying, when we stopped beside Golgotha and its open limestone side. Our guide explained to us that the church is set inside a stone-quarry pit, and the hill is an artificial one created by the quarrying of all the limestone around it.
But why was this hill of stone left? A closer look at Golgotha provided the answer. The stone was spoiled, damaged by water seeping through large cracks. Unfit for building and masonry, the cutters left it behind. It was then that our guide read the 22nd verse of 118th Pslam: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the keystone. This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes.”
It was then that something like scales fell from my soul, and I realized all of it was true. I mean really true. The spoiled stone of Golgotha was the fulfillment of Psalm’s ancient prophecy. Christ Jesus had lived and died and lives now because God loves us. It was all true; and the only question remaining was: how in the face of this truth, was I, Nicholas Porter, going to respond?
My response has led to who I am today, and each step of the way I remained engaged with the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and helping others become connected to the poor and dispossessed in our Lord’s Land. Today I have the privilege to direct Jerusalem Peacebuilders – a ministry that promotes interfaith leadership and peace education among Israelis and Palestinians.
Today, I help heal lives, and it is all because of pilgrimage to the Holy Lands and the day when the stone that the builders rejected became the keystone of my life."
Fr. Nicholas leading Christian worship and a teaching on forgiveness