Sowing 'Seeds Of Peace'

In Day 3 of the weeklong series, The Early Show Goes To Camp, it's Harry Smith's turn to spend a day with some extraordinary campers. The following is his report.
I traveled to Maine where, for the past 13 summers, a camp called Seeds of Peace has been bringing together some unlikely bunkmates: Kids from regions of conflict around the world.

It pretty much looks like any other camp, with all the summer sports activities you can cram into a day, like tennis, baseball, and basketball.

But the kids at this camp are different. They come from parts of the world where conflict is part of the rhythm of everyday life.

Starting with Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian kids back in 1993, the Seeds of Peace camp was created with a bold notion that future generations might be friends, not enemies. Kids from ten regions of conflict attend this summer session.

"I'm from Pakistan," says Khadijia. "I'm 15, and I'm Muslim."

"I'm from India," says Ishani. "I'm 14 years old, and I'm a Hindu."

"I'm 16 years old," says Liron. "I'm Jewish, and I'm from Israel."

The campers are not all dreamy idealists. Many harbor deep distrust. Some family and friends wonder why they would want to get to know someone they should hate.

Rawan is Palestinian. She says her image of Israelis is one of guns and violence.

She says, "I always would say, 'Why did they do that? Why? How? Why?' I want to understand them. You know, if I can live with them for a couple weeks, I will understand them."

Tal is from Israel, and he says, "I'm telling you, I was afraid before I came here. Not afraid afraid but, you know, I had my thoughts. I had my, like, `pre-things' that I had about stereotypes about the Palestinians and other people."

Prejudices?

"Prejudices," he says. "That's a good word. It's changed. It has changed."

At a ropes course, Rawan and Tal are teammates. An Israeli boy and a Palestinian girl have to work together, trust one another to successfully complete their journey from one side to the other.

Rawan says she trusted Tal.

"That's the first thing about friendship," Tal notes. "Always trust. Seriously. That's the first thing."

I thought I'd give it a try, so Tal and I climbed together. It's not easy, maintaining that trust when you're 25 feet above the ground.

But it turned out that Tal did a great job, and I had a great time.

Imagine bunking with people you were always told were your enemies, dining with them, dancing with them, and learning to lean on one another. Imagine if you discovered that you really weren't that different after all. They have a saying at the camp: Governments negotiate treaties, peace is made by people.

"The first thing I will have to change is the thoughts of my friends," Tal says. "I promise you. I will go home and I will continue. You become smarter and you can pass it on to your friends, to your family, to your grandsons."

In the idyllic setting, it's easy to dream. "I agree," says Rawan.

But can the connections made at camp stand up to the challenges of the real world back home?

"It's really hard to live with that: After a week, it's all going to end," Rawan says. "We have to learn. There's no other choice. We have to learn how to live together. There's no other choice. That's all that we have to learn: How to live together."

The camp also offers daily dialogue sessions, which are mandatory for every camper, run by a mediator and closed to the media. In these sessions, the kids can talk about anything they want, but they're also expected to listen to their campmates, whether they agree with them or not.

Stay tuned to The Early Show Thursday, when Hannah Storm and her daughter spend a day at soccer camp.

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