The Middle East Peace Camp (MEPC) is a collaborative venture of representatives of the Arab and Jewish communities, as well as others committed to peace in the Middle East. The camp was created in 2002, following September 11th and the deteriorating situation in the Middle East by a group of concerned mothers of diverse backgrounds (American and Arab Christian, Moslem and Jewish) who believed in Gandhi’s approach that, “If we are to have real peace we must begin with the children.”
For 12 years, MEPC has been the gathering place for children who might not otherwise be given a chance to meet. As the camp has grown, we have watched our campers meet and befriend one another, play and learn with each other through our creative activities and engage with our dedicated counselors and teachers. Strong friendships have been formed, meeting at camp and staying friends through college and after. The camp is now run by parents, volunteers, and youth who grew up in the camp.
Camp Through the Years…
2002 Theme: Peace begins with the children:
We began with games showing our inter-connectedness and a promise for Peace. The children and counselors wrote messages of Peace on the leaves of the Peace Tree, a project of the Arab Center of Washington, which represented the bonding of the Arab and Jewish communities. Â They created Peace Cities, made a peace cloth that became part of the Cloth of Many Colors that was exhibited in Washington D.C. Other projects included Middle Eastern culture in many forms, an archeological dig for Arabic and Hebrew words and Mosaics. The camp ended with the presentation of The Peace Play for parents and guests. The Peace Play was about how Peace was restored through the children.
2003 Theme: ‘We are more the same than we are different':
Science experiments were conducted to illustrate that human DNA is 99.9% identical between any two individuals and so, ‘We are more the same than we are different.” Another major project was about team building through self awareness and the importance of communication. The campers participated in a full day of team challenges focused on the qualities of a peace maker and also had fun with a clown, photography, audio project, tie dye, and many guest presenters.
2004 Theme: The Environment: ‘We are all connected together':
This year’s theme is the environment and global awareness. Campers will learn about local and Middle East environmental issues and how our actions affect the Earth and, therefore, humanity. MEPC will visit the IslandWood on Bainbridge Island, where the campers will get first hand experience of a sustainable environment. At the camp they will build their own global village and participate in the “Global Olympics”. As part of their leadership program, counselors will participate in Compassionate Listening training. Senator Maria Cantwell visited our camp. Both of our U.S. Senators sent us letters of endorsement for the camp.
2005 Weekend Camp. Theme: Counselor Organized: Best of MEPC
When the MEPC organizers said they wanted to take a year off, the counselors wouldn’t allow it! This year we took the “best of” all of our past camps’ programs and condensed it into a weekend camp. Congressman Jim McDermott was able to stop by for a few minutes and we received a surprise visit by Israeli and Palestinian clergy who just happened to be in town and heard about us. This is the year of the Olive Tree Peace Mosaic that artist and MEPC organizer Beth Mamoud-Howell designed and all the kids, parents, friends of MEPC and our visitors helped create. The beautiful mosaic is permanently installed in Kay Bullitt’s home–the birth place of MEPC. The unveiling of the finished mosaic happened at Camp 2006.
2006 Theme: Family Camp: Five Year Anniversary
This year’s camp was a one day inter-generation camp for all the MEPC members and friends from 1-101! Grandparents and elders were cooking food, knitting, getting henna designs and seeing old friends and making new ones! Unveiling the Olive Tree Peace Mosaic was fun and included some new MEPC rituals and food. The campers and counselors participated in all their favorite activities: crafts, sports, dancing, music and were also tested on their MEPC knowledge with a game of MEPC Jeopardy. South African teenage drama students from the townships visited us this year and entertained us with dancing and singing. This year the campers, counselors and parents made us promise to go back to a full week of camp next year. We agreed.
2007 Theme: Merging cultures Emerging future: Joining Hearts and Hands
For six incredible years, MEPCers have come together in peace and justice. This year, we want to look at our own traditions and really move to the next level and create our own culture which can be a culmination of Arab, Christian, Jewish, Muslim and peace and justice traditions.Â We will use history to help us and with the aid of the “MEPC Time Machine” we will venture back in time to ancient Canaan to learn about the roots of Arabic and Hebrew and then travel forward to the “Golden Era” of Spain during the Middle Ages when Christians, Jews and Muslims lived together and the sciences and arts flourished. Traveling back to modern times we will exam and discuss current events and how the media relays its news. Look for the MEPC Newscast at the end of the week.
2008 Theme: The Summer of Wind and Water–New Location: Magnuson Park
Wind and Water are integrated into our lives in many ways and levels everyday. We use wind and water to live and grow, for travel and transport, for fun and recreation, and in our traditions and history. At MEPC this summer, we will play and experiment with wind and water as well as look at the life and destructive forces of these elements. If it’s sunny, all of us will go swimming. If it’s rainy or breezy, we will incorporate the wind and rain into our games. MEPC’s regular games, sports, arts and crafts, singing and dancing will also be part of the fun this summer and we will spend time learning about each other through our cultural traditions. MEPC will take full advantage of our new location. We have Kite Hill, the Dog Park, a playground, fields, an art installation: The Fin Project: From Swords to Plowshares, the Sound Garden, and so much more!
Programs over the years, during the year
- Mayor Nickels declared October 23, 2003 Children’s Peace Day with the dedication of the peace sculpture at the Peace Garden of the Seattle Center.
- Waging Peace Festival: campers and staff performed the MEPC Peace Play
- September 11th interfaith event: Campers sang our MEPC song, and staff gave presentations
- Children’s Gathering for Peace, Hiroshima for Hope.
- Interfaith Annual Meeting: Presentation
- MEPC Annual Reunion
- Participation in an international retreat for Peace Camps focusing on Middle East issues.
- Hosted film and presentation about Oasis of Peace, a village in Israel where Palestinian and Jews live together. Followed by guest speakers Adi and Laila. Jewish and Palestinian young women who grew up together as best friends in the Oasis of Peace village.
- The Middle East Peace Camp for Children sponsored a Vigil for Peace on August 3, 2006 at Seattle’s Peace Garden, next to the MEPC Peace Sculpture. Our candle lighting vigil included singing with Mary K. McNeill, counselors speaking for peace, writing messages for peace as we faced the tradegies between Israel and Lebanon.
- Co-sponsorship of local community and arts events, films and speakers related to shared values and issues.
- Stand Up for Peace Comedians, Dean Obeidallah and Scott Blakeman MEPC Benefit Show
- Local, national and international outreach and support to other organizations and projects with a similar mission
- Produced a You Tube singing performance with other local singing groups, including Mark K. McNeill and Pat Wright.
- Singing for the Dalai Lama at the Seeds of Compassion conference
- Peace Vigil at Seattle Center; Peace Garden, next to the MEPC Peace Sculpture in Jan. 2009