OTISFIELD, Maine -- Along the shores of Pleasant Lake in Maine, 95 Israeli and Palestinian teens are trading rockets for racquets. They're enrolled in Seeds of Peace, playing together and confronting each other in group sessions called "dialogues."
Carmi, an Israeli, says, "In our dialogue, I asked a question, and I said, 'So anybody here who doesn't think Israel has a right to exist may raise his hand.' And all the Palestinians raise their hand."
Lana is a Palestinian. She says she used to wake up at 5 a.m. just to clear the checkpoint to get to school.
"I think that Israel should exist, but not on my dream, not on my land," says Lana. "In my dialogue, do you know what Israeli told me? He told me Israel has a right to an army to protect her civilians, but you Palestinians have no right to do that."
The camp, which runs solely on donations, was started in 1993. So far 5,200 teens have attended, including Hashem who came four years ago.
"For eight days, I could not even believe Israelis were human beings," says Hashem.
He is now a relief worker in a West Bank refugee camp. But when asked if he stayed in touch with the Israelis he met at camp, he said, "I can't talk with them now because all of the seeds that I know are now soldiers. I can't collaborate and have relationships with people who serve within this entity, which is the Israeli forces."
Carmi will also someday serve his time in the military.
"I think we can solve this conflict. I believe there will be peace." Carmi says he does have hope.
When Lana is asked what she hopes to accomplish at the camp, she says, "I want them to understand Palestinians are not terrorists."
The goal of Seeds of Peace is to open these young minds. So that these seeds may return to their homes and perhaps grow into peaceful leaders.
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