A joint summer camp for special needs Jewish and Arab children has been taking place for the last 25 years in the community of Rosh Tzurim. Although joint Arab-Jewish summer camps take place in a number of communities across Israel, what makes this project unique and inspiring is the fact that Rosh Tzurim is a religious settlement in the Etzion Bloc. Similar camps also take place in Alon Shvut and Kfar Etzion in the Etzion Bloc. The camp takes place during the nine days preceding Tisha B'Av, the day on which Jews mourn the destruction of the First and Second Temples and fast. This nine-day period is traditionally devoted to repentance and acceptance. All the community’s residents — young and old alike — come together to make this summer camp a special experience for the children, most of whom have serious disabilities.
All the residents are volunteers and organize activities free of charge to the participants. This year, for instance, the children took part in a chocolate workshop, horseback riding activity, cupcake baking class and a performance by “clown doctors.” Despite the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli youth in June 2014, followed by Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip and rockets being fired into Israel, the residents of Rosh Tzurim thought it was important to organize the summer camp as usual.
The summer camp is organized by ILAN, the Israeli Foundation for Handicapped Children. Most of the children who participate have extensive special needs, and each boy or girl is assigned three adult teens from the community who escort them and assist them during the weeklong camp. This year, too, the summer camp was made possible thanks to the generosity of the residents of the settlement who again donated money to the tradition that has become their pride and joy. They feel it is important to show that coexistence between Jews and Arabs is possible, even in a settlement community.
The summer camp in Rosh Tzurim is open to children from Jewish and Arab towns across Israel, as well as Palestinian children from the West Bank. For many this is the first time they meet someone from a different faith. As part of the cooperation and the warm relations that have been fostered over the years, some of the counselors remained in touch with the children after summer camp and visited them at their homes.
Read more at Al-Monitor.