We went to see Moana the Disney animated movie yesterday with the girls and were happy to witness the new paradigm promoted through Moana. The young Polynesian girl character, the tribe's chief's daughter, Moana, becomes aware of her power and potential to lead, and claims the leader's role for herself guided by her inner voice.

I had never been to a Kids4Peace event before but witnessing it through the lens of the Moana character I found many shared principles that guide both Moana and Kids4Peace.

Primarily, I see crystal clear that in both Kids4Peace and Moana the characters are empowered to be all that they can be, so that they become forces of change and contribute their share in their respective communities' well-being.

Her grandmother, the wise woman crone archetype is supportive of her throughout this journey and invites her granddaughter Moana to recognize the power that lies within her, in leading her people, and being chosen by the ocean to return to Nefiti the Goddess, her stolen heart, for balance to be restored in Moana's Polynesian island.

And while on the bus to the Kids4Peace event, I had the chance to meet Omri now fifteen who has been active with the organization from the age of twelve. Omri whose family lives in Beit Safafa an Arab village in Jerusalem, told me how his English teacher at school had recommended that he join the Kids4Peace program for him to primarily improve his English hand in hand with exposure to his Jewish neighbors in Jerusalem. Omri went on board then and he seems happy with his decision today. Omri today is capable of having a conversation in English, and sharing his ideas eloquently to say the least. Omri has gone a long way, and is fully aware of his ability to influence and contribute towards cooperation in his native village and city.

I knew that the YMCA Jerusalem Chorus would be part of the program that evening and was looking forward to being in the space of this amazing group of Jewish, Christian and Muslim Jerusalem youth. A space that through the universal language of music connects the east to the west, and creates a polyphony of Arab, Israeli and international musical traditions that blend in a one-of-a-kind musical tapestry.

But prior to the YMCA Chorus performance two young bereaved brothers a Jew and a Muslim whose families are part of the Parents Circle Families Forum moved us all as they spoke from a place of seeing past one's private victimhood, and pain of loss, from the place of communal loss and victimhood that stems from not seeing each other for who we truly are. Yigal and Arab, spoke about how losing their respective sister they could have chosen hate for the other but rather sought to build bridges of hope, bridges of communication and cooperation among our respective communities. They transcended their personal victimhood and through the Parents Forum were empowered to lead, give lectures and speak up at every occasion on the need to create bridges of communication and understanding between their respective communities.

Eliana, a Jew, Marianna, a Christian and Mira, a Muslim youth all in their teens engaged with Kids4Peace also stood up before the full auditorium and spoke up for what the program had given them. Their friendship and respect of each other were apparent in their body language and beyond their words. And so was their belief in themselves, in their abilities, and in their budding leadership.

Kids4Peace defines itself as a grassroots interfaith youth movement dedicated to ending conflict, inspiring hope in Jerusalem and creating a movement for change. But what I saw was a movement who is dedicated to empowering the youth in its realms to claim their power, become cognizant of their unique voice, and give them the tools to cultivate, inform and share their voices in Israel and beyond. In a sense Kids4peace is a leadership hub, for young Jerusalem youth that empowers its members to speak up for the possibility of coexistence in Jerusalem.

Kids4Peace partnership with the Parents Circle Families Forum and the YMCA Jerusalem Chorus contributed to the success of the event and to inspiring its Youth to become leaders by exposing them to different leadership models and styles.

USAID funded the event by a grant under USAID's Conflict Management and Mitigation program, a worldwide effort to bring together individuals of different backgrounds from areas of conflicts in reconciliation activities.

Ben and Jerry's donated many kilos of ice cream to the event, thus also being a partner in Muslim, Christian and Jewish kids' delight and shared enjoyment.

And the grand finale to the event were a Palestinian Christian girl Adan and a Jewish boy Omri H. who shared the amazing opportunities they had enjoyed with Kids4Peace this last summer in Washington DC in the framework of the Global Institute program. How they got up at 6:30am every day to a day packed with meetings with politicians and people of influence. They told us how they learned to speak up, and be a player of influence despite their young age, and how this strength they have acquired with their involvement with Kids4Peace will serve us all, as they will be the leaders of tomorrow. And like Moana, these kids know that they are not only the leaders of tomorrow but even of today to the point that is possible.

Being in the midst of these empowered kids was inspiring. I am happy I joined them at the event, and only wish that more 6th and 7th graders from all of Jerusalem's neighborhoods join them, to –like Omri, Eliana, Marianna, Mira, Omri H. and Adan, learn better English, learn to listen to each other, and to weave together webs of cooperation and understanding among us, webs of cross cultural and inter faith connection for the good of all. And like Moana, may they learn to listen to the inner voice, to the voice that knows that they can lead and assume roles of influence, responsibility and power, whether they were born as boys or girls.


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