umm al fahm park 298.88.
(photo credit: Orly Halpern)
Jason White dreams of playgrounds, though his dreams are anything but childish. White, a Californian who has spent much of his life in Israel, founded Playgrounds for Peace earlier this year on the premise that "children who play together can learn to live together."
Playgrounds for Peace aims to take land set aside as buffer zones between Jewish and Muslim neighborhoods and build playgrounds on them, rather than empty spaces or isolating fences and walls.
Fundamental to the Playgrounds philosophy are "proven theories of social modeling, conflict resolution and public diplomacy to operate in a historically divided region," says White on the organization's official Web site.
The playgrounds will be specifically geared toward children aged one to 14, an ideal audience for White's project in that they are "old enough to pick up the basics of play and sport, but young enough wherein many prejudices have not yet been cemented."
Land for the first park has been donated by Ramat Rahel on a hilltop that was formerly a no-man's-land in 1967, when it was surrounded by trenches and a minefield on its southern border. The land overlooks Bethlehem to the south, the Judean Desert and Dead Sea to the east and Jerusalem to the north. The village of Sur Bahir is only meters away.
The site also includes a Park of Olives, an artistic and environmental project symbolizing "strength, fertility and peace."
Future plans include playground sites in the Neveh Ya'acov, Pisgat Ze'ev, French Hill, Ramat Eshkol and Pat neighborhoods.
Playgrounds for Peace is a registered charity with 90% of all donations going toward the purchase of playground equipment and building expenses. The organization is a non-political, non-profit charity focused solely on "the provision of creating public playgrounds along the Israel-Palestine border."
The organization will be giving a presentation in Jerusalem at the Ramat Rahel municipal treasury office on November 9 at 9 a.m.