עודכן ב: מרץ 27
The Ocean to me has always been a special place; a place from which some of my fondest childhood memories originate and one to which I religiously return every summer. It was mainly for this reason that I was excited for the opportunity to volunteer at the Minel Bahar camp today. The camp has made great progress in fostering a relationship between Israelis and Palestinians but in addition to this I was excited to share one of my greatest loves with those who had hitherto never experienced it.
I arrived along with the rest of the volunteers at the Metzitzim Beach bright and early; as soon as the main spot was chosen we began the tedious task of blowing up water floats. Once this was done we held a meeting where we introduced ourselves and reviewed the safety guidelines and expectations. After the meeting was over we sat, waiting in anticipation for the kids. The sky was totally clear and sun had almost finished its ascent to the peak of the sky. As I stared at the moderately calm blue waves I wondered what the kids would be like, and how the next few hours would transpire.
After about 15 minutes, we heard some joyful shrieks, which were closely followed by a group of the first few Palestinian kids running up to the shore. One of the volunteers stopped them and quickly directed them to the sunscreen volunteers, who distributed sunscreen to each child and made sure each was equipped with a floatie. A few minutes later the mothers arrived with the younger children. They were covered from head to toe in many layers of dark clothes while the younger girls were dressed in pants and shirts. As the children rushed to the water shrieks, laughter, and Arabic filled the air. The mothers were more hesitant to enter the water and instead eagerly photographed the scene. Volunteers played with the children, splashing water and playing tag through the waves. Mothers, children, and volunteers alike were grinning as they enjoyed the wonderful scenery.
I truly enjoyed playing with the children, learning their names, and picking up some Arabic along the way as well. There are really two main lessons gleaned from this experience; the first is the most obvious and the one I’m sure we have all heard before. The why-can’t-we-all-get-along argument, the one reinforced through clichés and blanket statements, which invokes images of hippies and tie-dye peace signs, and which is consequently often dismissed as naïve and idealistic. Today I saw the dreamy mystique of the idea fade away, the more I played with the children and spoke with their mothers the more I realized that Palestinians and Israelis are actually not all that different. We oftentimes simplify the Israeli/Palestinian conflict; we claim there is no one to negotiate with, and no one on the other side that wants peace. But in reality this notion is more idealistic and naïve than its alternative; while it may be easier to see the conflict as black and white, both Palestinians and Israelis need to recognize that there is a strong desire for peace on each opposite ends.
The second lesson is a more general one about the nature of helping and doing good. As our world is becoming more globalized we are increasingly aware of those in need in faraway countries. Famine, war and disease are creating terrible circumstances, and people are living in states so unimaginable they test our basic human notions of life. The push to help those parts of the world, to volunteer abroad, and to exact change is one which is valiant and well intentioned. However, it makes it easier to forget about problems in our very own backyards. Helping others is a privilege for those who have time to give, but it is not a privilege limited to those who can afford a plane ticket. Brightening someone’s day can be as easy as sharing a deep passion, and as simple as a trip to the beach. Tamar, Volunteer from the USA