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Menders Summer Camp 2006: "Leading The Way Together"

From July 23 – July 27th, seventy-eight young Palestinian boys and girls came together from all over the
country for an active nonviolence summer camp. The camp was held in the peaceful hilltop school, Talitha
Kumi, which overlooks Beit Jala and Bethlehem to the East and the hills of Hussan and Battir to the West.
Most of the children had hardly ever left their local towns before due to the dangers and difficulties of
movement for Palestinians, therefore most of them had never had the chance to get to know children from
other areas. Many of the children had never participated in joint activities with boys and girls. Yet they not
only overcame all their prejudices and inhibitions, but became fast friends in a truly united national group
of Menders.

The camp was funded through a grant from the Naseej project of the Save the Children Foundation as a
continuation of a grant from the Ford Foundation to develop our Menders throughout the West Bank in a
project called “Leading the Way Together”. It was coordinated by Osama Abu Karsh, from MEND’s group in
Ramallah and by Yakuob Rujoub from MEND’s Izariyyah group. They started by bringing the children together
to Ramallah for a preliminary meeting to hear what they would like included in the camp and to have them
all sign a pledge of commitment to active nonviolence.

The children came from Jenin, Qalqilya, Tul Karem, Ramallah, Jerusalem, Jericho, Izariyya and Hebron, some
of them traveling for fourteen hours to reach the camp. Sadly, the group could not come from Nablus as it
was under military closure and Gaza was also not possible. The camp programme focused on drama and
music and media, both in themselves and in relation to active nonviolence, which was also of course an
integral part of the training programme. The children were divided into three groups and every evening
one group entertained the others with performances based on their learning in the camp. These included
skits on violence against women and violence in schools as well as songs (some about the war in Lebanon,
which was going on at the time) and dances. Children who had been trained in participatory video were
filming as much as possible throughout the camp and their work is currently being edited into a short film.
They also learned about the print media and have almost completed a newsletter about the camp. In their
enthusiasm for their new found connections with each other they have set up a yahoo group and keep in
touch constantly via email. Now they are preparing to meet with their friends and schoolmates in their
home towns and share with them their inspiring experience of getting to know their fellow Palestinians and
of learning together as boys and girls in a safe and respectful atmosphere. They will distribute the
newsletter, talk on the radio, show the film and also be organizing some national nonviolence activities as
they develop into a national youth movement for nonviolence.

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