(August 14, 2015) – A community reception to welcome a group of Palestinian and Jewish teenagers who took part in the Heart to Heart summer camp in Canada was held at the Toronto’s Darchei Noam Synagogue on Monday evening.
The Heart to Heart program brings a group of twenty Israeli teenagers to Canada every summer.
Half of our participants identify as Palestinian Israeli, and half as Jewish Israeli.
Upon arriving in Canada, the group spends two and a half weeks living together at Camp Shomria, an overnight summer camp near Ottawa.
“Thank you for joining us in welcoming this year’s Heart to Heart group to Toronto,” said Dalia Krusner and Jenny Issacs in the welcoming message to the community reception on behalf of the Heart to Heart team.
“Those of us at Camp Shomria this summer have had the pleasure to watch this amazing group of thoughtful, bright and passionate young people grow and change as individuals and as a group over the past two and a half weeks.”
During the group’s time at the camp, daily activities included team-building workshops, camping trips, and facilitated dialogue about the narratives, politics, and power dynamics that participants face in their daily lives at home.
The group also visited Parliament Hill in Ottawa, and spent four days living with Canadian host families while touring Toronto.
The time spent in Canada is a focal point for the group, but it is complemented by workshops for participants at the Givat Haviva campus and in their respective communities leading up to and after their trip.
According to the organizers, Heart to Heart was founded as a response to the structural inequity and racism in Israeli society.
“We do not believe that peer-education among Jewish and Palestinian Israeli youth is the entire solution to creating an equitable, shared society” noted the organizers. “However, we do believe that it is an important part of the solution.”
“As we head into our fifth year, Heart to Heart has equipped 80 program alumni with newfound perspectives and skills and the motivation they need to determine for themselves what a solution may look like, as well as how they can continue contributing to it.”
The community reception included a panel discussion with the participants moderated by CBC Radio’s Mary Wiens, an award-winning journalist and Specials Producer at Metro Morning. The teenagers spoke firsthand about the challenges they have faced together.
“Each and every one of them has taken this opportunity to meet “the other” seriously,” noted Dalia Krusner and Jenny Issacs. “The way they that they have come together has been inspiring.”
“The bonds they have created were developed not only through time shared and fun activities, but through being challenged and challenging themselves to think critically, to share themselves, to express and question their own and each other’s opinions, and to learn news things.”
“They examined difficult topics such as privilege and oppression, inclusion and exclusion, and how these dynamics play out in their own society,” the organizers added. “They rose to the occasion marvelously.”