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December 24, 2004 - Image 11

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-12-24

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Waging Peace

Seeds of Peace film shows the pain of learning coexistence in a combative world.

Special to the Jewish News


he July 2002 session at Seeds
of Peace International Camp
in Otisfield, Maine, was not
going well.
Teens from the two major areas of
conflict invited to the three-week ses-
sion — the Middle East and India-
Pakistan — did not seem CO be bond-
ing as completely as in past years.
The preceding spring had seen an
escalation in violence in the Middle
East, with a surge in suicide bombings
and the resulting lock-down at
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's head-
quarters. Afghanistan was under heavy
aerial bombardment in a fruitless
search for Osama Bin Laden, while a
build-up of troops at the border
between India and Pakistan led to
fears of imminent nuclear war.
And, as the non-profit, non-political
Seeds of Peace camp began its 10th
year, its beloved founder, John
Wallach, lay dying in a hospital bed.
Filmmaker Marjan Safinia was on
hand to record it all.
Her 92-minute documentary, Seeds,
was aired Dec. 13 at the Birmingham
8 Theatre, raising about $250,000 for
Seeds of Peace and its worldwide activ-
Florine Mark, co-president of the

Seeds of Peace Detroit Chapter, called
the movie "breathtaking."
"It gave me chills," Mark said. "It
said exactly what we are trying to say,
that there is hope for us through these
young people. "
Bloomfield Hills' Gil Silverman,
who chaired the Dec. 13 event with
his wife, Lila, spoke of his visits to the
Seeds Center in East Jerusalem, which
works year-round on the concepts of
mutual respect and cooperation epito-
mized by the camp.
"What we're trying to do through
this organization is have a long-range
effect on eventual peace," Silverman
said. "I've given up on my generation,
on my kids' generation; it's my grand-
children's generation where peace will
be waged."
The film was not financed or cen-
sored by Seeds of Peace officials or by
anyone else. Unscripted, it shows
campers airing some ugly stereotypes
and giving way to raw emotions. Yet,
by its bittersweet ending, the very kids
who were shouting words of hatred are
pulling together on the same side of
traditional camp color wars and
admitting that, yes, the "other" has a
right to a country, a right to exist.
In the film, Seeds' camp director
Tim Wilson tells his campers they
have a choice — they can sit down
and talk together or they can continue

Michigan Seeds of Peace Chapter co-chairs Tim Attalla of Northville and. Florine
Mark of Farmington Hills receive the Community Leadership Award from Seeds of
Peace President Aaron David Millet:

Brad Simmons, director of the Office of the Chairman and CEO at Ford Motor
Company, talks with Dustin Frankel, 18, of Cleveland about the teen's experiences
at Seeds of Peace camp.

"This is the hard solution," Wilson
says. "Killing, bombing people is the
easy solution."

Points Of View

Seeds of Peace has been featured in the
New York Times, USA Today,
Washington Post, Time magazine,
Christian Science Monitor, Wall Street
Journal and People magazine as well as
on television programs Nightline, 60
Minutes, Today Show and Good
Morning America.
Since its 1993 beginnings, the
organization has received full support
of every United States president and
every Israel prime minister. The gov-
ernments of more than 22 countries
have actively supported Seeds, select-
ing young people from its high schools
to attend the camp's three-week ses-
sions. In 2003, the U.S. House of
Representatives unanimously passed a
resolution honoring the organization.
As shown in the documentary, one
Palestinian teen at a no-holds-barred
coexistence session of campers from
the Middle East did ask belligerently
why Israelis don't return to wherever
they came from. Meanwhile, at an
Indian/Pakistani coexistence session,

an Indian teen said Pakistanis were
money-grubbing. ),
In both cases, teens from the oppos-
ing area of conflict were quick to
point out the fallacies in the other's
Among the 150 people at the
Birmingham 8 were numerous former
Seeds of Peace campers. Each is
known as a Seed.
University of Michigan student Amy
Witt, 19, originally of Chicago, said
attending the camp made her "feel
more aware of being a Jew, more aware
of the importance of Israel."
Seeds camp can have this effect on
people, agreed Seed Shira Kaplan of
Herzliya, now 21. "It actually has two
diverse effects," Kaplan said. "It can
make you feel stronger and it can
make you feel challenged."
"So they [people who criticize Seeds
for encouraging Jews to question
Israel] have a grain of truth. It could
be true for one or two.
"But most people go back to their
home country re-affirmed in their
national identity, and committed to
being one of those who sits down and
talks, not one of those who throws


WAGING PEACE on page 12




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