by Victor Rehart and Georg Langhans-Sorg
NAZARETH, Israel — From July 1-15, the 14th annual English immersion summer camp took place at the Al Gharbij neighborhood community center of Nazareth. It was the first year forPEACE collaborated with Kamel Barghouti, the volunteer Community Center director and his assistant, Elias Haddad, to plan and run the forPEACE camp curriculumwith volunteer camp counselorsfrom the United States, Germany, Nigeria and Israel. Additionally, we were fortunate to have specialists present workshops on public speaking and life skills. The camp experience was summed up by two of our German soccer coaches, Victor Rehart and Georg Langhans-Sorg, as follows.
"During these two weeks we had an opportunity to get to know Israel as a country in better detail, while we were also given a deeper insight into the culture of the Arab minority in Israel. We lived in Arab host families, who welcomed us in their homes and families. The families were extremely gracious and extended themselves greatly to ensure our well being during our stay in Nazareth.
Our responsibility in the camp revolved around teaching English through sports, especially soccer. From Monday through thursday the children were divided into age groups ranging from Pre-kindergarten through Grade 7, as they rotated through four stations per day. The children aquired English vocabulary and speaking ability through classes in mathematics, dance, general academics, art, crafts, music, American holiday traditions and computer lab. On the week ends the director of the Community Center, Kamel Barghoutiarranged for various activities for our group as well as the children and their parents. We were given an opportunity to explore Jerusalem, Akko, the North and had time at the Nazareath Swimming Pool as well as Luna Gal at the Kinneret.
Classes were divided into 1 hour blocks. Our very able Arab junior counselors, mostly High School girls and boys from Nazareth and the surrounding villages, helped us during our class time and escorted the children between stations. We cannot say enough in praise of our wonderful local junior counselors who allowed us to break through the language barrier. They quickly became not only our translators but more so our friends and helpers. We felt our efforts were appreciated by the children and soon an atmosphere of trust and friendship was built between us and them.
The immersion in Arab culture was a new and inspiring experience for us. We were grateful for the many activities our host families invited us to share in. Amongst other events, we were priviliged to learn about Arab customs through attending weddings. We exchanged cultural impressions. Anyone interested in learning about economics and politics will look at the Middle East in a new light after such an experience. The reality of life here is much more complex and multifaceted than they media make it out to be.
The camp ended with an evening ceremony complete with the American custom of potluck dinner. Parents and students attended as well as the mayor of Nazareth and members of the Nazareth municipality. We felt good when we heard the praise our camp received for its structure and content by the locals. The camp was a precious experience for us as it expanded our own vision while giving us the satisfaction of providing the children with a wonderful opportunity and experience".
Visit forpeace2012.shutterfly.com to view, download or print photos from the camp.