Britain hosts Windows Israel-Palestine summer camp

By Rachel Fletcher, August 1, 2008

A summer camp bringing Israeli and Palestinian teenagers together has been held in Britain for the first time.

Edinburgh's Merchiston Castle School was the venue for the two-week camp for Tel Aviv-based cohesion project Windows for Peace - Channels for Communication.

Fifteen 13-16-year-olds took part - six Jews and nine Palestinians, among them Christians and Muslims.

Windows founder and director Ruti Atsmon said that "many of the Palestinian kids' parents are refugees, or internal refugees in Israel whose own parents were uprooted. Many of the Jewish kids' grandparents are Holocaust survivors. They are dealing with a lot of personal and family stories that relate to the conflict."

The teenagers spent the camp in activities such as role-playing, art projects and outings. Topics discussed included human rights, discrimination, living under occupation and fear of terrorism.

Ms Atsmon acknowledged that participants might have been primarily motivated by wanting to have their own views heard. But she stressed: "We want to provide them with skills for communication, listening and understanding. We hope they can listen, reflect and absorb, even if they don't agree."

The Windows camp was brought to Britain through the efforts of counsellor and life coach Brenda Beecham - wife of Local Government Association vice-chairman Sir Jeremy Beecham - and former teacher Judith Sischy, who now heads the Scottish Council for Independent Schools.

They spent 18 months organising the project, approaching individual donors and Scottish education and diversity trusts to raise the £40,000 funding.

"We were flabbergasted at how easy it was to raise the money," Lady Beecham said. "People were very interested."

The summer camp has previously been held in Italy, France and Spain.

Last updated: 8:31pm, July 31 2008