by Sherri Mandell
Sep. 2, 2003 -- Camp Koby and Yosef, which my husband and I created in the wake of our son's murder, ran camps for hundreds of Israeli children who lost parents or siblings in terror attacks, or who themselves had been injured.
With the summer over, we have worked with almost 600 children, helping them to go on in joy.
Our camps have art, music, and drama therapy, specially trained counselors and staff to enhance healing moments with the children, teaching them that pain can be touched, endured and shared. Our goal is to channel and transform pain so children can continue to grow into productive, energetic citizens.
In most Palestinian summer camps the philosophy starkly contrasts the intent of our camps. As reported in The Jerusalem Post, at summer camp Palestinian children learn to fight like soldiers; the camps have names honoring terrorists who have blown up buses; the campers march around like guerrilla fighters and swear allegiance to killing Israelis.
One reporter heard this childhood chant: "We don't want flour; we don't want sardines; we want bombs."
Meanwhile, in an exceptional camp explicitly founded as one that does not teach Palestinian children violence, the director states that he is, instead, teaching the children "solidarity." In other words, there is a still a political agenda, even if explicit violence isn't on the menu.
As an Israeli mother who lost a child to terror I know how immense grief is and how much work it is to deal with loss and keep it in a place that is surrounded by love and kindness. The pain is simply unbearable. But in my work with over 150 Israeli mothers this year, all of whom have lost children or husbands to terror, I have heard only a handful talk about anger.
The media assume that Israelis who have been struck by terror walk around filled with hate and anger and calls for vengeance. But it's not true. We walk around filled with sadness and despair. But that despair does not motivate us to hate or kill. We Jews translate our pain into sadness and a desperate need for coping, personal growth, and memorializing our children.
That is the message we transmit to our children.
Conversely, too, many Palestinians teach their children to translate their pain into anger and vengeance. And though many argue that the Palestinians are powerless and in despair and thus forced to resort to vengeance and violence, the short-lived hudna showed us that Palestinian powerlessness is a myth.
The Palestinians can control their so-called desperation. Their calls for vengeance, their hatred is a choice. And their leaders keep choosing hate. You can see that hate expressed blatantly in Palestinian summer camps.
What is supposed to be a time for innocent adventure is instead manipulated into a period of political and moral indoctrination of the worst kind. And it is the children who are being manipulated; some would say, abused.
Camp songs might be dismissed as irrelevant, yet if the Palestinian children are singing songs of hate, those are the songs that will fill these children's hearts for decades.
There is a chasm between the Israeli and Palestinian cultures, and though some want to ascribe it to politics, the tragic truth is that no political solution can dampen the flames of hatred that have been kindled in Palestinian society. The hate is too deep, too insistent, and too accepted.
Few journalists want to touch the story of Palestinian hate. Major media like The New York Times and The Washington Post avoid our camp - perhaps because it reveals the deep- seated difference in the two cultures.
Israelis are trying to process their grief - the Palestinians are exploiting theirs.
Do not underestimate the power of pain. Unprocessed grief can last for decades. The cynical exploitation of pain - in summer camps, schools, and in the Palestinian and international media - is a prime saboteur of any attempts at peace - and may be so for generations to come.
Israelis are working to cope with their pain. Palestinians nurture theirs, inflame it, and worship it.
The writer is co-director of the Koby Mandell Foundation's Healing Retreat, a therapeutic program for bereaved mothers and widows of families struck by terror.
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