Shar­ing Our Home­land: Pales­tin­ian and Jew­ish Chil­dren at Sum­mer Peace Camp

Trish Marx; Cindy Karp, photographer
  • Review
By – September 1, 2011
Shar­ing Our Home­land tells the sto­ry of Pales­tin­ian and Jew­ish chil­dren at a sum­mer peace camp, and how the camp is work­ing to give chil­dren from two dif­fer­ent cul­tures and reli­gions a glimpse at their sim­i­lar­i­ties. The goal of the camp is to cre­ate a foun­da­tion for peace in a time when con­flict remains rife. In cre­at­ing the book, author Trish Marx hopes to give read­ers insight into the con­flict between Israelis and Pales­tini­ans and to con­vey a mes­sage of under­stand­ing and hope. When she first heard about Givat Haviva’s Menashe Sum­mer Peace Camp, Marx was eager to spend time there. A fre­quent vis­i­tor to Israel, she had active­ly sought exam­ples of Pales­tini­ans and Jews try­ing to live togeth­er peace­ful­ly, with respect for one anoth­er. At the camp she aspired to doc­u­ment what she saw in pho­tographs and per­son­al inter­views. Cindy and I knew we were doc­u­ment­ing just one sto­ry about a very com­plex part of the world where there are many com­pelling sto­ries,” she writes in her author’s note. What took place at Peace Camp was impor­tant, how­ev­er, because it offered a mes­sage of peace and hope not often heard from this region.” Her book briefly describes two fam­i­lies: that of a Pales­tin­ian child named Alya, who lives with her fam­i­ly in the Arab vil­lage of Meis­er in north­cen­tral Israel, and that of Yuval, an Israeli Jew­ish boy who lives in a moshav called Maor, a short dis­tance away. In a two-page his­to­ry, Marx out­lines the cir­cum­stances that bring these chil­dren so close to each oth­er phys­i­cal­ly, but pre­vent them from meet­ing. It’s a cur­so­ry his­to­ry les­son to say the least, and not nec­es­sar­i­ly one that juve­nile read­ers could absorb. But it’s pre­sent­ed neu­tral­ly, with­out the author show­ing a bias for one side of the con­flict over anoth­er.

As they pre­pare for sum­mer peace camp, both chil­dren are appre­hen­sive as they won­der what kids from the oth­er side’ will be like. Is friend­ship pos­si­ble, they won­der? We hear about the activ­i­ties and see the chil­dren hav­ing fun swim­ming and play­ing games togeth­er. One day emer­gency response teams come to the camp to explain to the chil­dren what they have to do each day to keep all the cit­i­zens of Israel safe. Both Yuval and Alya have expe­ri­enced vio­lence and fear in their lives. The camp takes the chil­dren to see a kib­butz, and give them a chance to bake chal­lah. They also vis­it an Arab vil­lage where they make anoth­er bread called taboon. Marx and Karp fol­low the chil­dren home on the week­end and doc­u­ment their prayer rit­u­als and Sab­bath cer­e­mo­ny.

Shar­ing Our Home­land points to the com­mon­al­i­ties shared by Pales­tin­ian and Jew­ish chil­dren, and high­lights the extent to which the Menashe Sum­mer Peace Camp cre­ates a place of under­stand­ing and friend­ship between two cul­tures and reli­gions oth­er­wise bisect­ed by its antithe­sis. Marx is cau­tious not to take sides or make her dis­cus­sion overt­ly polit­i­cal, and she does an excel­lent job in the book, mak­ing it a good edu­ca­tion­al resource for a school library. For ages 9 – 12.
Lau­ren Kramer is a Van­cou­ver-based jour­nal­ist, wife, and moth­er with a life­long pas­sion for lit­er­a­ture. Born in Cape Town, South Africa, she has won awards for her writ­ing and report­ed from many cor­ners of the world. Read more of her work at www​.lau​renkramer​.net.

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