Since joining the Kids4Peace family, I have grown in more ways than I could have ever imagined. Kids4Peace is an interfaith youth movement for Jewish, Muslim, and Christian Israeli and Palestinian youth. Last summer, I worked at Project Harmony Israel, an integrated Arab-Jewish day camp hosted at the Hand in Hand Bilingual School in Jerusalem. Since working there to provide a space for Arab and Jewish youth to play and just be kids in the midst of the Gaza War, I knew I had to come back and continue doing the work I had begun. In leaving Jerusalem last summer, I felt guilty that I had the privilege to leave this conflict whereas my Arab and Jewish campers could in no way escape it. I am glad I made the choice to continue this effort through an internship position with Kids4Peace based in East Jerusalem.
My favorite part about my work here is that my colleagues are both Israeli and Palestinian whereas last year, I worked only with other Americans. It is exciting and interesting for me to learn about what life is like for my Israeli and Palestinian coworkers who are living within this conflict and also doing work in it. I think am learning the most from them. Before coming here and after my summer here last year, I thought I had a good idea for a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but since speaking with my colleagues, I have learned about the complexities of approaching a peaceful end to this war. Through their experiences, I am gaining a perspective on the situation in Israel/Palestine that I would not have understood otherwise without this dialogue.
Other than learning about the big picture of the work I am doing through my colleagues, I am gaining an incredible understanding of how an NGO is run. Since the staff is so small, I have been given many great opportunities to do real purposeful and meaningful work. For example, I am working with the director of Kids4Peace on creating a platform for Israeli and Palestinian youth to search for integration, coexistence, or interfaith programs that fit their interests. In addition, I have designed a budget for one of the overnight camps that Kids4Peace runs, allocating grants from USAID, the US Consulate, and the European Union. Most excitingly, I got to write a letter to Natalie Portman, who is one of Kids4Peace’s biggest donors!
As an intern at Kids4Peace, I have learned to stay on top of all of my responsibilities because I know that my boss is not constantly checking up on me. Rather, she expects me to do the work I am assigned without holding my hand. I know this will help me in the future when I become a professional. I am also learning about how to work in a diverse environment. It is an interesting experience to fulfill my duties as an intern alongside half my colleagues who are observing Ramadan. I have become much more sensitive to people’s backgrounds and the way that their personal lives play a role in their job performance. In the future, I would like to go into education policy and my motive is to desegregate the American public school system and narrow the achievement gap. Lofty goal, yes. However, if I want to do this type of work in the future, it will be an important skill for me to understand how to work with people who come from different backgrounds from mine.
-Leah Susman, ’18