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No International Campers Will Attend Seeds of Peace Camp For 2nd Year Due To Pandemic, Mideast Violence

Ken Shulman
Two Palestinian campers share a moment at the Seeds of Peace camp in Otisfield, Maine.

The Seeds of Peace Camp in Otisfield, Maine will not be bringing in international campers for the second year in a row because of the ongoing pandemic and the escalation of violence in the Middle East.

Instead, executive director Josh Thomas says there will be two camp sessions for 165 youth from the United States. Campers learn to address conflict, examine identity and privilege and develop leadership skills.

Around the world there are more than 7,000 alumni of the program. Many of these "seeds" live in Israel and the Palestinian territories which have come under attack over the past week. Thomas says the camp community is hearing heartbreaking stories from them and bracing for difficult days ahead.

"We had a seed in Gaza whose home was destroyed. We have many seeds across Israel who are experiencing violence in the streets, unprecedented levels of intercommunal violence. And a lot of people who are huddled in their homes fearing rockets that are falling from overhead," Thomas says.

In recent weeks, Palestinian seeds had been working to prevent forcible expulsion of families from their homes in East Jerusalem. In a written statement, Seeds of Peace says it stands firmly with them and all who are engaged in the nonviolent struggle for equality and justice and joins with those calling for an immediate end to military attacks and rocket fire.

The camp is also joining the call for an immediate end to military attacks and rocket fire between Israelis and Palestinians.

It first started peacebuilding efforts in 1993 when a group of Israeli and Palestinian teens were brought to Otisfield for facilitated conversations in conflict resolution.