Introduction and short-cut of

188 pleas for an Israelian - Palestinian Dialogue


In the last eleven years more than 17,000 children and young people from war zones and crisis areas have been invited-whenever possible with young people from among their "enemies"-to enjoy "Vacations from War."
 
For the summer of 2002 we also planned similar meetings for young people from Israel and Palestine, although at the time it seemed unlikely that we would be able to realize this project since violence was escalating almost daily. During the six months of preparation, it was difficult to find partner organizations in Palestine and Israel because of the skepticism we met on both sides. The time for speaking and negotiating was said to be over. Young people especially would be taking big risks since they would be denounced by both sides for "collaborating with the enemy." Or they would be denounced as "traitors of the fatherland" with very serious consequences. Then suddenly, despite the social difficulties and the risks, there were more young people than we could finance who wanted such "dialogue meetings." Young Israelis who promised themselves never to visit Germany went there to meet the "terrorists." And young Palestinians from the West Bank got around the curfew in a most risky and dangerous manner in order to meet their "occupiers." 
 
In the last three years a total of 370 participants from Israel and the West Bank met in summer camps and had an intense, painful and joyous time. While this year's last summer camp was taking place in a small German village, we heard about a discussion in Israel: The coalition Peace Now agreed with Mr. Peres not to call for dialogue with Palestinians any longer. In reaction, others objected and wrote to Peace Now saying that "withdrawing the call to talk with the Palestinians is tantamount to surrendering to despair, because without talking, we will never be able to resolve the conflict." ("Ha'aretz," August 13, 2004) 
 
I read this when I had just witnessed how important and productive such a dialogue can be, and I was motivated to make the unique experience public. 
 
In some of the "Vacation from War" seminars we asked the participants on the last day to write down in 15 minutes and spontaneously, without names if they wished, a summary of their true impressions of the two weeks' meeting. As you can read in the following 188 pleas, the peace dialogue has invaluable significance when people choose not to leave their existential needs to politicians any longer but try to influence their circumstances against all the barriers in their heads and on the street.
 
Please spread this documentation or publish your choices among these impressive comments of young people from Israel and Palestine who, after two weeks of living under the same roof, are crying for lives of peace.
 
Thank you for your attention, Helga Dieter
 
Some examples are following. Please read the attachement and spread or publish your choice. 
 
 

188 pleas for an Israelian - Palestinian Dialogue

Some short examples:

 
Eventhough it was not easy to meet young people -just like me- who oftenly see me as the "enemy", it eventually was very rewarding… These two weeks really affected me and truly I changed my point of view toward this conflict. It gave me the motivation really to try to make a difference. Thank you!
 
I'm writing by the name of the family of "Vacations from War". We spent here the most beautiful days in our life. It was a good experience for us because we learnt to live together side by side, Palestinians and Israelis -far away from the war stage. Like a family…We are discussing what's happening at home, the violence and destruction by each side and we pushed the peace-process forward. Thank for this sucessful program and for your good investment.
 
I'm 25 years old but until I came here I didn't know that I grew up in a settlement. It was confiscated from the Palestinians in 67. I really didn't know that. 
 
In a world like we are living in, where the strong wants to eat the weak we have no hope. As a Palestinian who lives in Israel I often meet them but I never met an Israeli to whom I could talk about peace. But now after I met this group new hope blooms in my heart that there is still a chance to talk. 
 
We suffered a lot here. This suffering was caused from both sides to both sides. I think that everyone should do his best to make a change of this miserable situation. This is the reason why I came here - believing in the power that we have in our hearts.
 
It was amazing since day one. But first I didn't notice that these would be the most wonderful days in my life...No fights, no hatred -nothing! This happiness grew more and more each day. I really won friends! Finally I hope we can keep in touch…
 
I came to this seminar with a message to the other side, but also to come to know many things about them. Really it was a hard experience for me but very useful at the same time as for each participant. 
 
I grew up in Palestine, in the West Bank in a Jewish settlement near a Palestinian city. I lived there during the first Intifada and the Gulf war. I could never imagine as a child that I ever would sit in a room with Palestinians or what the life looks on the other side. 
 
This seminar was the most significant time in my life; it will advance me and hopefully the others as well. 
 
This wasn't a simple experience for me as I'm Jewish and the past of the Jews in Germany is something that I still have problems to cope with. I found out a lot about myself. I found out what it means to be a minority. I found out what a racist society we are living in...
 
I came with a plan to fight. I'm going back with a plan to love.
 

 

DOCUMENTATION

Participants from Israel wrote in summer 2002:

1  I took part in a project with the purpose to bring Israeli and Palestinian youth together. In my opinion this is a very worthy good. This project has affected me very much in many positive ways. Eventhough it was not easy to meet young people -just like me- who oftenly see me as the "enemy", it eventually was very rewarding. The experiences I had in this project gave me more understanding about the Palestinians, their problems and their dilemmas... Here I learned many things about the history of my country concerning the Palestinian people. These two weeks really affected me and truely I changed my point of view toward this conflict. It gave me the motivation really to try to make a difference. Thank you
J. (17 years, male, Israeli, August 2002)
2  It was amazing since day one. But first I didn't notice that these would be the most wonderful days in my life. I've met the cutest and the most gorgeous teenagers. No fights, no hatred -nothing! This happiness grew more and more each day. I really won friends! Finally I hope we can keep in touch forever. Peace and Love 
H. (19 years, female, Israeli, August 2002)
3  I am very glad that I came to this seminar...Most Israelis don't understand the depth of the Palestinian problem. They are not aware.how the Palestinians live, of the fear and of the terror the occupation causes, the lack of a country and independence...Each and everyone of the Palestinians, who came to this seminar, has a heartbreaking story about what the occupation did to him or to his family. Many of them are so demoralized that they don't even concider peace or talk about it at this time..It took a lot of courage from the Palestinians to come to this seminar and meet their occupiers.
When I came here I wasn't sure about the exact reasons for the conflict -now I am!
Y. (20 years, male, Israeli, August 2002) 
4  I never in my life met a Palestinian person. The only time I saw them was on tv. All my life I was scared from people, who live near me and speak Arabic. I right away connected them to the hate they have towards all Israelis. Here I came to know that first of all they are Human Beings before any political masks. I got to understand here what is really going on in the Westbank. I feel a bit sad that ...we didn't become real friends. I expected them to see me as a Human Being before they see me as an Israeli. But for them it was hard and after I heard their stories I can't blame them... The seminar gave me a lot of energy going back to Israel and be political active. I would like to make things better. 
If there is another seminar try to organize less talking but more activities which combine both groups such as hiking, experience the nature, barbecue on the fire, parties...
I know this seminar costs a lot of money and efforts...but it is really worth it!
L. (male, Israeli, August 2002) 
5  I am a young Israeli who feels very much connected to his country, family and jewish history. At the same time I hate nationalism, racism and violence. I see myself as a member of the Israeli left, which supports peace and the end of the occupation in the Westbank and Gaza strip. The last two years were not easy for people with this identity. On the one hand my anger about the cruelty and the stupidity of the occupation and of my government's actions, on the other hand the extreme horror of the suicide bomgings and the extreme hatred and violence showed by islamic movements. This makes you unsure if there is anyone to talk to on the other side -maybe he wants the destruction of whole Israel.
In these two years I have continued to be active politically, demonstrating against occupation in the right-wing city of Jerusalem. I was active but always asked myself: Maybe I'm stupid, and anyway most Palestinians want all the land? Maybe peace-agreements cannot be reached today?
With these feelings I came to the seminar. The first few days were very frustrating. There was bad energy and atmosphere. The Israeli side (most of them) felt a little helpless. We were trying to talk to the Palestinians but mostly they ignored us, said extreme things and didn't even look at our faces. I felt that instead giving me more energy to activism, this seminar would simply take my energy and hopes away. What made me worry a lot is, that some of them were talking about the 48 borders and about all the land. If that's the case -we have no way -than war!
But things really changed. In the small group-workshops more and more interesting discussions arised with listening, -really listening to the other side. These were great expriences. I felt able to express the Palestinians my empathy for their suffer and my strong opinion against Israeli occupation, against Sharon, against brutal army-operations. At the same time it gave me the chance to express to them the horror of suicide bombing, -and what may be even more important, - the effect of these bombs on Israeli society, making it more right-wing and minimizing the real efforts for peace within us. I felt, that almost all of the Palestinians were really listening to me, believing me and learning from it. I also felt that they were very honest, told me what they had in their heart and mind, about their anger and suffer. I felt that they are also going through a process. I felt that me and them are learning more and more about the other side.
Maybe even more important there was a change with most of them socially. In the beginning it seemed that only one of them is very friendly, but then some other girls opened and also some of the boys. I felt that the connection to these people became personal and not just political. That's so important to feel! Also I heard from some of them clear words against suicide-bombings-a subject I feel is very important, since I need clear condemnations of these bombs in order to build trust with a person - like Palestinians need clear condemnation of the occupation from us!
It's not that everything went perfect. Some people staid unfriendly and radical until the end and very hostile. But at least I got hope from the fact that young people from both sides can meet, argue and even smile. This is important and that's why I want to organize similar meetings in the future.
T. (25 years, male, Israeli, August 2002)
6  I hadn't taken part in any political oriented activity for two years. I was at a point of frustration and desillusion that is very common in Israelian society these days. I came to Germany mostly to satisfy my curiousity how Palestinians view the Intifada and the collaps of the peace-process. I had prepared myself for an exchange of political ideas. I was astonished that the Palestinians were more focussed on the emotional side of the conflict -how they feel under Israeli occupation. "Occupation"-this is a word that had escaped my daily conciousness for a long time. I couldn't believe how so much of their attention is infact focussed on what is evidently so fundamental -their lack of equality, not in national-political terms (at least not as much), but in basic human terms. In their freedom of movement, their right to personal security and their right to dignity. These issues brought me to realize the underlining basis of the conflict -the oppression of one side by the other.
What was also very important for me was to reconnect to the conflict in personal terms. Situations -such as ours- tend to cause a seperation in feeling between yourself and what goes on on the field of battle. You forget how people feel who get hurt, who sacrifice, who are scarred from the conflict. Meeting the Palestinians and hearing their life-stories while they are sharing mine reaffirmed my commitment to try to change things.
NN (Israeli, August 2002)
7  The last two years were on the one hand so hard and meaningful but on the other hand like being in a closure in your own state and in the army....I saw Palestinians only on tv in violent events. So I came to this seminar with a lot of fears from the so called "unknown" in order to meet people whom I don't really trust. The first few days were hard, mainly because of the company which was foreign-both Israeli group and Palestinian group, nevertheless the fact that this meeting takes place in Germany, which was very hard for me to digest.
When the real talks started I discovered a whole new world that the other side lives in, not only the different social and economic situation but a different history, a completely different perspective about the situation and a very hard and violent reality. My feeling now at the end of the seminar is that I learned a lot and that I managed to transfer some of my ideas to them. But there is still so much to say and to hear, so I hope this process wouldn't end now, that there will be a continuity. It was a great experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
NN (Israeli, August 2002) 
8  When I first heard about this seminar I jumped on the opportunity. Since a long time before I felt confused, I tried to be political active but ..didn't know and understand enough, I couldn't find my exact direction. The seminar seemed to me like a fantastic chance to change all this -and in retrospect- it did! I now feel better equiped and stronger when turning back to political activities. Throughout the seminar my opinions and feelings changed constantly as a result of the ever changing dynamics of the process. The partial hostility I felt coming from the Palestinian side in the first days,-by which I was curiously surprised-, quickly changed to a warm and smooth atmosphere with most of them. Thinking back...there are many issues in my mind.but also faces, sounds and feelings, personal stories and personal views from the real people of the other side.
The other aspect of the seminar -the fact that it took place in Germany and the German experiences that accompanied it, was also quite interesting for me, but at times seemed distanced and unconnected to the real and hurting issues we were dealing with.
To summerize I would say that this seminar was probably one of the most meaningful experiences live had for a long time. I hope and believe my time here will carry me forward in the future and hopefully the others as well.
NN (Israeli, August 2002)
9  I met people who were "foreign", whom I, however, wanted to meet. I have become a real friend, bosom friend, a friend in heart and soul. 
I don't take any sides. I made this decision when I felt the strong impact in the two weeks. 
It is my strong will that the teenagers of the same age who want to live like me shall get this fundamental right for their entire lives. I will not make my feelings known by way of demonstrations but bear them in front of people and at eye-level, honestly and truthfully. 
NN (Israeli, August 2002)
10  Thank you that you have made it possible for me to meet Palestinians for the first time in my life. It is funny that we had to go to Germany to do this. However, this is our brutal reality. 
Sometimes the seminar was hard and sometimes sad but also outrageous from time to time. It was nevertheless important for me to encounter the reality directly - a reality which I try to avoid in Israel - in order to understand that the situation in the Middle East must change and, that sufferings of both sides are simply too big. …. 
This seminar has given me more hope: so much readiness of many people to achieve peace. This kind of meetings and dialogs should continue to take place.
L. (17 years, female, Israeli, August 2002)
11  On the second day of the seminar five relatives from a Palestinian participant were killed by Israeli soldiers. Less than a week later six Israelis were killed by a Palestinian terrorist raid. To break this wheel, one must meet. This is what 24 people have done, far away from the events. The walls of "you are Israeli and you are Palestinian " were quickly broken through. We have become human beings again. 
It was wonderful and at the same time hard. Hard because we have heard of enormous injustices which the Israelis caused the Palestinians, and because I realized that peace lies still further than I had imagined. 
Wonderful because, when people meet and friendships arise, living together seems possible. 
Thank you to everyone who has made this possible. My respect.
NN (Israeli, August 2002)
12  My participation was accompanied by much scepticism due to pessimism and out of the feeling that I have no power or influence. Fact is that comprehensively getting to know the others in our leisure-time was more important and deeper than the workshops and conversations: Names, faces, points of view, political opinions, private matters and more.
NN (Israeli, August 2002)
13  The seminar was very very important. We all came to change the situation but in the last days I felt how I changed myself and I recognized the same process with my friends. All the people understood, there is just one solution and this is peace: We have to compromise! Another important change for me is: From now I'll care about the situation much more than before. I'm going to do practicle things because just if we become practicle, things can change.
NN (Israeli, August 2002)
14  Although I've been here for two weeks I now have difficulties to write and I don't know why. I think that the program is great. The experience of meeting the "others" is so important. We use to see "them" in the t.v. or in newspapers but not as real people -that are so like us! The human encounter is so powerful. I want to say thanks to the people that think and do such big things. I now experienced that it makes a difference!
(NN, Israeli, August 2002)
15  I came here with confusion. I was sure that the Arabs and the Israelis can't speak together. I go back with the experience that we can speak together and therefore we can make peace. Thank you that you gave me the chance to see that.
(NN, Israeli, August 2002)
16  This project made me think and feel different about the situation and about myself. As I can see my point of view is now much more open-minded. I've adopted a different perspective on the world. I'm very happy that it happened to me to receive this kind of opportunity.
(NN, Israeli, August 2002)
17  I didn't believe that the occupation is more an emotional than a political problem for the Palestinians: The violation of elementary human rights like freedom of movement, dignity and security .
(NN, Israeli, August 2002)
18  It was difficult for me that the Palestinians couldn't consider me a human being but only an Israeli. But now that I have listened to their personal life-stories I cannot reproach them for it any more.
(NN, Israeli, August 2002)
19  This seminar was the most significant time in my life; it will advance me and hopefully the others as well. 
(NN, Israeli, August 2002)
20  The attack on Gaza in which relatives of a participant died was a critical moment in the process. For the first time we Israelis needed to hold together as a group because we felt powerless. It was a difficult situation for everyone. The Palestinians were locked in their pain. The Israelis didn't know what to do -- whether they had a right to say anything, whether they were welcome, or whether they should rather keep their distance. The situation was new and shattering for everyone. The whole group finally made up its mind simply to express its honest, deep, human regret about what had happened. The Palestinians accepted and appreciated this, and they were more open after this. The occurrence arose a new confidence. For the Palestinians it was a new experience to see Israelis who were not indifferent to the problem.
K. (20 years, female, Israeli, August 2002)
Participants from Palestine wrote in summer 2002:
21  In my opinion this seminar was really perfect in almost everything: the groups, the leaders, the program and the place... I liked the discussions which were really successful, we shared our thoughts and believes. Maybe it won't help the country but at last it gives me some hope towards peace, which wasn't existing before coming here.
F. (25 years, male, Palestinian, August 2002)
22  I'm writing by the name of the family of "Vacations from War". We spent here the most beautiful days in our life. It was a good experience for us because we learnt to live together side by side, Palestinians and Israelis -far away from the war stage. Like a family. We are very grateful that you give us this chance here in Germany. We are discussing what's happening at home, the violence and destruction by each side and we pushed the peace-process forward.
I wish I can get the chance to come back to Germany to meet my new big family again.
I want to thank the staff, we bless their huge efforts.
Thank for this sucessful program and for your good investment.
H. (17 years, male, Palestinian, August 2002)
23  I lack the appropriate words to thank you. These two weeks we spent together were one of the most pleasant and interesting events ever.The idea of Arabs and Jews meeting together in a different country for discussing their situation is very efficient...We hope that you'll continue helping us to solve this conflict by doing more of these meetings.
Thank you again, may God bless you
K. (18 years, male, Arab Israelii, August 2002)
24  It was my first time that I talked to Israeli. I learned so much about their society and the way they think. Before I had some horrible thoughts about them. But after the several meetings some of my thoughts have changed. I found out that they know about our tragedy and I really liked that they confessed their responsibility for some issues.
I did really have fun here, I hope to meet more Israelis the coming years
N. (17 years, female, Palestinian, August 2002)
25  I met some great people, I have made some very close and precious friends. It was very exciting for me to see the changes that happened in the group. And in the end -almost a peace-agreement...
R. (18 years, male, Palestinian, August 2002)
26  I wish these beautiful days would last forever. I feel proud of myself and of the other Arab people because of our ability of convincing the Jews that we are not people seeking destruction but people seeking freedom and justice. ...We are seeking the same destination: Peace! I wished, peace would somehow fall down from somewhere making life as beautiful as here.
K. (18 years, male, Palestinian, August 2002)
27  It was great having discussions between Jews and Palestinians and at least reaching for a peace settlement nearly. Be sure, that I won't forget these two weeks and the fun we had together. Unfortunately there were some difficulties and problems between us but together we almost had a solution to everything and that is a very good experience, which I hope that it will help us in the future -so peace will take place. 
D. (16 years, female, Palestinian, August 2002)
28  When they told me about this trip it took me a lot of time to decide: How can I sit with those people who kill mine every day? How can I meet them -after all the difficulties I face every day while going to my work -all that fear of death or loosing work? But at least I wanted to meet them to find a solution even if we were so far from it.
During this seminar the only important thing for me was that I talked to Israeli -peaceful people, -I thought they wouldn't even exist. But I didn't come here just to talk, we need much more than that. If this organisation is really interested in peace it should continue with more strength. Just getting people to talk is not enough. At the end all will get back to their country. The Israeli forget and the Palestinian get back to their suffering. All this will be worthless. I am sure that the first step must be on the Israeli side. Right now the Palestinians are kept in prison waiting for nothing. But if something really happens from the other side they will get back their hope.
NN. (Palestinian, August 2002)
29  The house wasn't clean. The food was bad. The times for the meals were bad. 
The number of German participants was a few. Their involvement was weak. 
The presence of such girls with a bad moral was disturbing. The issues and lectures were weak and had nothing to do with reality. The Israeli participants had weak background informations. Thank you to the organizers.
NN. (Palestinian, August 2002)
30  I want to critizise the following: The Israeli didn't come in time to the appointements, but also did the Palestinians. The food was very bad. Some issues were not discussed deep enough. There was a lot of free time during the work-shops. This can become better next time.
NN. (Palestinian, August 2002)
31  The program was good but I think some of the participants tried not to make it work and this effected the whole group -both sides. I don't think that is a right thing to do. If these people don't agree with the goals of this seminar they shouldn't participate from the beginning.
Sometimes there was a lack of informations in the discussions on both sides. Each speaker thought that he/she has the right answer. We needed some lecturers to give us a deeper idea and informations about history and the games of political leaders. 
The leader of the Palestinian delegation should be more professional and educated. He should have some experiences working in such seminars because at least he represents us as the whole Palestinian group and this has a great effect on the participants.
NN. (Palestinian, August 2002)
32  We learned a lot from each other, both sides. However, it proved that we need more historical information from independent speakers and an analysis of the political propaganda on both sides. Owing to conflicting representations of the history of the conflict, we frequently didn't know which facts are correct. Some participants didn't accept the concept of the meeting; in my opinion they shouldn't have come, because this influenced everyone negatively.
NN. (Palestinian, August 2002)
33  First of all: The discussions between both parties were very productive. We raised many issues and I think personal issues and stories had an effect on both sides -especially the Israelis. 
I believe opening up by saying what we really believe and not what our leaders or political parties want us to say made it possible to interact and listen to the others while developing our believes and thoughts.
If the program continues it would be more productive and useful having lectures by experienced people without a bias to one side, then the discussions could be deeper. Some group members and especially the leader should be chosen more carefully. The first two days with the ice-breaking-workshop were effective and this should be done for more time. There could be more activities together besides the work-shops.
NN. (Palestinian, August 2002)
34  I expected things to be more organized (because we are in Germany).We didn't have a program, we came to know about a workshop or an excursion sometimes on the same day. I think it would be better to do more ice-breaking workshops in the beginning before we start the discussions. Because some people don't think about the others they talk a lot and others perhaps didn't have the chance. Maybe it is better to give a certain time to speak. 
I was very amazed by some of the Israelis,some are very open-minded and very willing to know and to learn. I think it's better to interview the people you choose before inviting them. If this is not possible at least you should interview the leader first.
I liked the nature and the river and the museum very much.
NN. (Palestinian, August 2002)
35  Our personal issues and stories had an effect on both sides -especially the Israeliis. I believe in opening up and saying what we really believe in and not what our leaders or political parties want us to say. This made it possible to interact and listen to the others while developing our believes and thoughts... The first two days about ice-breaking were effective and this should be done for longer...There could be more activities together besides the work-shops.
NN. (Palestinian, August 2002)
36  To organize such meetings is very good indeed. It is very couragious to bring us together, so our points of views can approach together. But that the Palestinians approach the Israeli while they kill the Palestinians, that hurts very much.
NN. (Palestinian, August 2002)
37  Before I came here I thought that it would be hard achieve communication or to even have an exchange of opinion with the other side. Here I have noticed that there is an agreement regarding some basic convictions. Peace, so I believe, is the ideal way to a better life if it is based on right foundations and solid ground: Peace will be possible if the people, not the leaders, reach an agreement. 
NN. (Palestinian, August 2002)
38  At the beginning I thought that I was going there to meet my enemies or the enemies of my native country. When I met the Israeli group, I was surprised that so many of the Israeli people think with another logic. The discussions were simply the best. I could express my opinion openly, without hesitation or be fear. However, I must say in the end that I don't have the feeling that all of this changes my reality
NN. (Palestinian, August 2002)
39  Within the two weeks there were two serious events for our two peoples: The attack in Gaza and the death of relatives of a Palestinian participant and the symmetrically terrible self assassination attempt in Hebrew university in Jerusalem. Nevertheless we carried on - from the certainty that killing leads to killing.
NN. (Palestinian, August 2002)
40  My mother and my sister encouraged me to come here to know how these people who have destroyed our life think. I discovered at one of the meetings to my surprise that these people are people, who like us want to live in peace. My surprise was even much greater when I noticed that some of them were convinced that we have a right to our country as Palestinians. I started talking and debating frankly with them, free and without fear. But we must know what the one side thinks of the other. Some of them even sympathized with me.... In the end I made unique friends with some of them ... I have some thoughts regarding the Israeli youth - some of them - corrected, because they were false. We can live with each other - even under the same roof.
NN. (Palestinian, August 2002)
Participants from Israel wrote in summer 2003:
41  The barriers are big but at the same time they can be put aside in one minute of touching. 
To go back and to face the reality again after this experience is much harder than not to meet at all, but at the same time this is what can give us the power to go on and not to give up. I come out of here with more sadness but with more courage. I know that the others here, like me, will not regret this hard and important decision. This direct meeting is the only way I know to make a change. I had a hard, intenvive and fascinating time .
K. (21 years, female, Israeli, July 2003)
42  The time here is dedicated to discussions about the conflict and possible solutions. This experience has given me new points of view and the understanding that we all are just young people -the same- from two opposite sides of the wall, we want to enjoy life in a simple kind of way, just live in peace. 
S. (20 years, female, Israeli, July 2003)
43  During our time here we have had the opportunity to meet Palestinians and turn enemies to friends. I feel that this experience is highly important in order of changing the reality of hatred and fear. I strongly believe the way to peace goes through the people's hearts and these kinds of encounters makes peace possible.
H. (19 years, female, Israeli, July 2003)
44  I believe in the change that individuals can make in their societies, and therefore think that projects like this hold up the hope for a different future in our area.
M. (21 years, female, Israeli, July 2003)
45  I've been a soldier in Libanon. At that time it was rather quiet there but nevertheless today I'm asking myself: What did we do there? After the Israeli army withdraw nothing happened - in contrary to all the prognosis of our government. Why should be a withdraw from Gaza or the Westbank so different? 
I'm working in the security departement of a court in Jerusalem. Our boss told us to be the first ones to help in case of emergency. Last year we heard an explosion nearby. I was the first one to arrive. A suicide-bomber at a bus-station. No noises around just the crying of the injured. Bodies lied one on another - like a pyramid. A head on the sreet, I think it was the terrorist's. For month I woke up at night with nightmares. You never can't forget this. 
As a child I was taught: ‚Never trust the Arabs!' When I decided to come here my father was upset and most of my friends told me that I'm crazy. Here I became a real friend with one of the Palestinians. Last night we talked in a very personal way till 4 o'clock in the morning. We both live in Jerusalem but when we'll be back home we'll never meet again -even if in Jerusalem -in theory- it is possible to meet without permissions or checkpoints. It could happen that we meet by chance at an intersection. If I would hug him in front of his friends this might bring him in problems not just socially but physically. Also on my side it would be very difficult to explain my friends where I came to know an Arab. 
I'm 25 years old but till I came here I didn't know that I grew up in a settlement. It was confiscated from the Palestinians in 67. I really didn't know that. It's a huge settlement -a small town. It is hard for me, but if -hopefully- will be a peace-agreement, I would move to another part of Israel and give the land back to the Palestinians. 
S. (25 years, male, Israeli, July 2003)
46  Although I met Arabs (from Israel) before in dialogue-meetings of one day and Palestinians in manifestations in the occupied territories, -this was a different experience, which is due to the two weeks period, the isolated and neutral place and the same age-group. The process we've had was mainly the building of trust, friendship and listening to each other. 
S. (22 years, female, Israeli, July 2003)
47  This is the second time I'm participating in the "Holiday from War" project.The first time was a special experience because in all my life I didn't have the chance to meet Palestinians and to interact with them as equals. This summer the bend between the groups grew deeper and we were able to approach the most sensitive subjects in the conflict with deep honesty. This experience created in me a strong will to continue the process working both in my community and with the other side. In the last two weeks I've been through an inspiring process that will never be forgotten. 
I. (22 years, male, Israeli, August 2003)
48  As a first-time-participant in such an encounter I had a particulary powerful experience. The extend of time we had together and the inital trust was commited to dialogue and made a very close and unique formation of group-dynamics and personal relationships. The most important benefit is the high motivation and deeper conviction in the necessity, and indeed my own sense of moral duty, to keep up grassroots work in Israel/Palestine. This meeting introduced me to people I could work with and strengthened my convictions. I deeply believe that this sort of personal contact and dialogue both build an infrastructure for future coexistence and a realization of our mutual interests. This experience has fractured the real and metaphorical walls that the powerful are trying to build in order to separate between us. This gives an empowering voice back to the people.
L. (22 years, female, Israeli, August 2003)
49  I wanna thank from the the bottom of my heart to every person who was involved in arranging this seminar. I've already attended the seminar last summer, it was amazing and mind-opening. Therefore during the last year I was really active in trying to end the occupation. After putting faces to the "enemies", every time I've heard what happened in the Westbank, I really was scared it might be hurt somebody I know. But after the first seminar the relationship between the two groups wasn't as warm as it is now, after spending another two weeks together. It is mutual respect and trust among us. I think the Geneve Initiative worked out a realistic plan for peace and established a solid ground for an agreement and we'll hopefully help to transform it in order to change things in our region.
E. (23 years, male, Israeli, August 2003)
50  It isn't my first meeting with Palestinians; I am active in different left organizations in Israel. It was however the first time I had the opportunity to get to know and speak with people from the other side in a complex and intensive way and without being inhibited by space, time and risk. 
I grew up in Palestine, in the West Bank in a Jewish settlement near a Palestinian city. I lived there during the first Intifada and the Gulf war. I could never imagine as a child that I ever would sit in a room with Palestinians or what the life looks on the other side. 
It isn't easy for me to look at myself and to recognize the responsibility which I, my family and my society take for the occupation and the disaster which we are inflicting on the Palestinians. This seminar is an important lesson for me, an exercise in pain and understanding. It makes it possible for me to establish, above all, human contacts and to work together with people whom I could so never meet in the reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 
D. (22 years, female, Israeli, August 2003)
51  The two seminars I've been through have been an amazing experience. The last seminar especially, made me realize a lot of things about myself and about the Palestinian's life. 
Most of all, I see now people in front of me, that I love, I laugh with, I hang out with, I talk with. People I care about, and I know they care about me. I feel like I have a new family, and I don't really want to get back to my old life. 
We built something so special, so touching, that writing it down makes me really sad.
I want to continue this wonderful connection with everyone, both Israelies and Palestinians, and to navigate my new motivation towards real activities. 
To the sponsors I can just say, you are doing the most important thing, and as I see it, the only thing that can really make a change. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to see the reality in a different way, and to gain a new family.
N. (21 years, female, Israeli, August 2003)
52  I would like to use this opportunity to thank you for (another) unforgettable experince! This seminar was especially important for me. This ist the first time I've ever participated in an continuation seminar: I feel that this has been very valuable and made a difference at all. The fact that this is the second time I meet the same people gives me a totally new perspective - an opportunity to deal with things in more depth. This seminar gave me exactly what I felt was missing last ime - it was full of trust, openness, affection, patience and a sense of belonging together. I don't have the words to express what this means to me - I met people I love, who live an hour away for me, that I hadn't had the chance to meet this whole past year in Israel-Palestine. The situation back home ist so tense - that such meetings are not possible. 
Thanks for giving me another chance to meet amazing people, strengthen my relationship with them and commitment to them and to our joint struggle. I experienced here things that I will never forget. I hate symbols. I love people. Thanks for making space for us to transform symbols into human relations, and stereotypes into true feelings. 
G. (24 years, female, Israeli, August 2003)
53  Thank you for the opportunity to meet, to talk with each other, and to make friends with people of the same age who are neighbors but whom one, however, cannot meet in this reality. It is frightening to discover that your enemy is exactly like you. There is hope for the future now. 
NN (Israeli, August 2003)
54  Like most Israelis I have had no idea how the Palestinians live: without a state, without independence, under closure and curfew and with the daily fear of military attacks. All of them who came here were hurt in their dignity and human rights For them it was very courageous to come here and to meet the occupying forces.
NN (Israeli, August 2003)
55  Within the first two days we got to know each other personally. Through this I heard a great deal about different places and occurrences within recent months. Furthermore there was a workshop in which we should refer to our personal stories. It yielded altogether an overwhelming picture of the Israelian and the Palestinian societies as well as the differences between them. It seems to me of significance that in this seminar, in contrast to the previous one, the participants regarded each other as individuals, not as two groups, which made a starting point for the possibility of making deeper acquaintance.
I hope very much that this seminar was a point of opening and that we can work together for a better future in our region. The situation would well look quite different if there would be more possibilities for meetings between members of the Israelian society and members of the Palestinian society. 
NN (Israeli, August 2003)
56  Even if it seems absurd that neighbours have to meet in a foreign country to come to know each other - this is our reality. Who is to blame? For sure not our generation. After this experience I'm not going to accept the barriers in the heads and on the streets anymore. But what can we do? The feeling of powerlessness makes me mad.
NN (Israeli, August 2003)
57  I had come here as a member of the Israeli peace movement to tank up on new energies. But during the first days, I felt only rejection; the Palestinians avoided every contact and some said bad things in the seminars. In response I told them how terrible their suicide assassinations are, that they strengthen the right-wing militarists in Israel and bury the hope for peace among people like me. I remarked how attentively they listened to me. I expected them to clearly condemn the suicide assassinations, and they needed just the same to hear us condemn our occupation without any ifs, ands or buts. I had the feeling that all of us make headway only through this process, when we are sincere and also tell each other the hard things. I had the feeling that the relations got more personal after this. The important thing is the fact that young people from both sides meet, argue and can even laugh together
NN (Israeli, August 2003)
58  I came with a lot of fear of meeting unknown, hostile persons in a strange foreign place - called Germany - where I never in my life wanted to go to. What happened to me was in contrary to my expectations - in every point. My feeling at the end of the seminar is that I have learned a lot but also that I could convey
59 some of my ideas. This process just has started, and I wanted us to have more time.
NN (Israeli, August 2003)
Participants from Palestine wrote in summer 2003:
60  Funding this project is great work.because it gave me the opportunity to introduce myself and my ideas to Israeli people. This seminar increased my belives that there are many people on earth, who want peace. Moreover it encouraged me to tell my friends in Palestine that our generation looks for ways of understanding between Israelis and Palestinians -and we represent a big class in our societies. These my words are not enough to express my gratitude.
R. (23 years, female, Palestinian, July 2003)
61  When I was eight years old I was arrested for the first time by the Israelis. We were small kids and threw stones on Israelian tanks. When they kept me prison the second time I really can't tell you why. I haven't done anything, just walked in a street when suddenly the army appeared. Perhaps because I'm rather tall they took me out of a crowd. The third time was after a search in our home, they found a pistol like most of the people have at home. It was a hard time. My familky tried to support me. I missed three years of school. I believe in a compromise. Not all refugees can come back, this is impossible. There could be a financial compensation and immigration-offer from other countries.
S. (22 years, Paletinian, July 2004)
62  I came to this seminar to find out what the Israelis feel and think about us Palestinians. I really don't want to hurt anybody on both sides. We have different points of view but we all want peace. 
T. (19 years, female, Palestinian, July 2003)
63  It's my second time I participate in this programm The first seminar last summer had lots of difficulties and we had to work hard to break the ice. After being back home those who could come to Jerusalem met again (even some from the Westbank succeeded to come), in order to continue to work on our goals. But yet all we did together wasn't as intensive as this second seminar. Both sides worked not on a group level but more on a personal one, which I think it is much better. Since we tried to change our innerselfs, this year the workshops were more social than political. I'm going to continue our program in Palestine in order to convince more people, to encourage them for personal meetings as a good basis for building an independent state of Palestine in the future. 
T. (23 years, female, Palestinian, August 2003)
64  "If there ist a will there is a way" is my belief and this encouraged me to come and participate in such a seminar. It is the first time I meet and talk to Israelis others than soldiers! The seminar had a deep impact in my perception of Israelis. I could speak freely and express myself without any pressure. Now I know that as much as Palestinians need peace, Israelis need it too. It is a mutual need that gathered us in this seminar. Leisure time in a comfortable accomodation and relaxing environment helped us in getting into personal conversations. The seminar empowered us to work harder when we're back home. All in all, it is the first time in my life that I had vacation from war! It was an unique experience, there is nothing to compare with.
R. (24 years, female, Palestinian, August 2003)
65  It is wrong to think that we achieved nothing in this very valuable meeting. We clearly couldn't change the status quo, or the politics, and we won't find peace between our two peoples either when we return home. We have nevertheless achieved a great deal as a group of Palestinians and Jews. We are the future! Some of us will occupy important positions; some can change the laws and pursue better policy. If we want to and work honestly on it, we can improve many things. The possibilities for the future are open to everybody. We only must say: We can! Every person has abilities to change and to improve. 
NN (Palestinian, August 2003)
66  I feel very good for participating in one of these marvellous meetings and I'd like to thank you. But next time I need more preparation for this program and a schedule in advance. In addition to that I'd need a good guide for the Palestinian group. 
NN (Palestinian, August 2003)
67  We shared not only the roof over our heads, but also many thoughts and hopes. This won't change conditions at once, but I now hope that peace is possible, which I didn't before.
NN (Palestinian, August 2003)
68  We, the Palestinian people would like to pass on our concern to all the world. We are a people who love peace and strive for peace. But this damned Israeli occupation, which has come and taken away our dreams and forbade us childhood and its beauty, wants no peace. On the contrary the occupation wants to make us the side of misery and suffering on a daily basis. It wants to take away everything we possess of prosperity. She does all this to create security for her alleged state. Despite all this we stretch out our hand for peace and make every effort for its sake. We are prepared to make compromises but won't kneel down, however hard this occupation oppresses us. I would like to ask you to remember that we are the last occupied people in the world. This fact gives us the right to defend our country. In conclusion I ask all peoples around the world not to regard us as terrorists. 
NN (Palestinian, August 2003)
69  Special thanks are due for those who seek the freedom of the Palestinian people and freedom for all oppressed people in general. And to those who try to make efforts to bring all oppressed people to a secure shore, and make possible the right to life no matter what person and in what place. And special gratitude is due to the workers of the organization 'Vacation from the War'. For they make it possible for the participants to have a picture of the current situation between the Palestinians and the Israelis and a picture of the difficult life of the Palestinians. The solution is always the just and complete peace. Through governmental and non-governmental support we may be able to find a solution. 
As far as the seminar is concerned, it was very meaningful in my opinion and had many advantages in that it made it possible for the Palestinians to completely describe the situation in the areas occupied by the other side (that is the Israelis). The Israeli participants have nevertheless promised to do everything which is in their power to help the Palestinian people. 
NN (Palestinian, August 2003)
70  I attest the fact that these meetings took place on account of the situation in our country. The delegation had all information about our life situation. The delegation defended its liberty passionately, its majesty and independence. The attack by the Palestinian side was good, even excellent, yet the defense (of the others, hence the Israelis) was not capable of defending itself no matter what topic was in question.
The Germans passionately defended the Jews on every subject. If I had to mention my name on this paper I would refuse everything. We had two opposition parties surrounding us from all sides: the Jews and the Germans. And I would like extend the comments to Helga and the other German women because all of them are of Jewish origin and German power. 
To take away my ability to defend myself against every question they asked, they claimed that my comments were only personal opinions. 
This claim is evidence for the discrimination and hate which they have against the Palestinian side. All countries which were or remain colonial powers have this hate and discrimination.
Therefore I declare this German organization particularly to be completely Jewish. 
Finally I ask that this article be completely read and literally translated. 
NN (Palestinian, August 2003)
71  I have grown up in a society in which people begin their conversation with the greeting "Peace be with you, Salam Alikum", when they meet. Man is by nature a social being who can't live alone, but organizes habits, customs and laws among a group. This social structure is conditional on peace to be able to guarantee development, prosperity and the continuity. By contrast, death and destruction rule during war. But civilization and development are connected to peace. 
The meeting with the other side was something new and strange. At first glance scepticism and hesitation came over me in the exchange and conversation with the Israelis. But magic ruled after this: and the peaceful and human meeting cleared everything away. 
Go forward to free man and achieve his rights to self-determination and to security for his life and to peace. And always forward. 
NN (Palestinian, August 2003)
72  It isn't easy, particularly in this bad time, to bring two delegations together from Israel and Palestine. It was obviously very good, brilliant work. We expressed ourselves more honestly than last year. I personally could achieve what I wanted, I am therefore very content because I accomplished the goal. We could continue the way from the last year and I hope that the meeting continues further. 
NN (Palestinian, August 2003)
73  This meeting began with difficulty which, however, gradually disappeared when we had begun to talk with each other. We started to overcome the blockades, confidence developed. We first learned to listen, then began the conversations, and finally the discussion. I discovered the truth and we started to get on. And so it remained through the days. We really had become friends at the end. We learned and taught. 
This dialog brings me satisfaction and hope although it is limited in time. I have gotten to know persons with whom I would never ever have thought I would speak. The idea that I could sit in the same room only with them would have appeared to me as a crime before. But I have lost all these thoughts and fears. 
My aim remains, however, to represent the suffering of my people. And I have achieved this. What surprises me is the understanding and acceptance for my representation and rights on the part of the other delegation. You are convinced of the justice of my cause. Because of this I have participated and will continue to participate. And I will make an effort and remain committed to cause of my people and that is the just and total peace in my pure and sacred country. 
So that every child, every woman and every man wins the right to their native country. 
Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the state of Palestine. Jerusalem belongs to us. 
The free daughter of Palestine (August 2003)
74  We touched on many topics; the personal stories especially moved me. It was an honest argument. On both sides we didn't say what fits in the national ideologie or propaganda, but what we think. 
NN (Palestinian, August 2003)
75  I was very astonished at how open to our problems the Israelis were; they really wanted to know and learn something. The discussions should be broken up with more exonerating activities.
NN (Palestinian, August 2003)
76  The time of the journey and the separation is there. The air is full of longing. I wished time would stop. For a moment of peace. I wished we could remain together.
NN (Palestinian, August 2003)
77  It was hard for me to take part in this program. After long consideration, however, I saw a necessity to live through this strange experience. Perhaps it brings something good for the Palestine question and the Palestinian people. 
The program has been well prepared. And I hope the program is successful and permanent, so that its foreseen goal is accomplished. 
NN (Palestinian, August 2003)
Participants from Israel wrote in summer 2004:
78  Here I had the option to see that the Palestinian teenagers are not different than me and my friends. We became closer to each other and managed to find ways to overcome the differences. I now have new hopes for an end of this bloody conflict. Thanks for the amazing vacations I have had.
G. (17 years, male, Israeli, July 2004)
79  In this moment my country is in a war. Most people in such a situation don't see the enemy as a human being. Each side sees the others as an object, as a number. In such occasions many disgusting acts are been done by both sides. Seeing the human beeing and listen to the opponent's opinion, recognizing their abilities and creativity and talking to the others without patronizing, is very important. I thank you from the deepest place in my heart for giving me the chance to see the individuality in each person. But the question that is left: How can we make a difference?
B. (18 years, male, Israeli, July 2004)
80  During the last weeks, both Palestinians and Israelis have listened to each other -and more important, have made friendships together. We are able to tell and listen our personal stories and to discuss the conflict we are living in. I feel how important this program is which enables the youth to change the future. To have a dialogue is essentially today. 
T. (16 years, female, Israeli, July 2004)
81  I had an extremely wonderful two weeks here. I faced the problems in my life, which I rather forgot before...I met Palestinian people and got to know them. I had this chance that most people in Israel don't get: to see our enemies and understand that they are all people, we all want to feel safe...Actually even if we have different ways, it comes down to the same target -peace!
S. (16 years, female, Israeli, July 2004)
82  This trip was very important for me as an Israeli but even more as a person. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is so complicated. Sitting at home, inside all of that, surrounded only by Israelis, it is much easier just to blame the other side and get angry and hate them. But we all just need to stop for a second to see how all this hate and all this violence is wrecking each others lifes! I got the chance to prove myself and feel in my heart, what I already knew: We are all human beeings!
S. (15 years, female, Israeli, July 2004)
83  We discussed about the conflict and the problems that each side suffers from. This allowed me to see how the Palestinians think and feel.
Y. (16 years, male, Israeli, July 2004)
84  I want to express my deep appreciation for the "Vacations from War". It was an incredible experience. I met interesting people I would have never met anywhere else. Most importantly, I learned about the conflict I live in from new points of view, that I wouldn't have been able to realize on my own. Living in Israel I rarely ever get to see the other side of the Arabic-Israeli conflict, and every chance I get to hear the other story is greatly important for me. These past two weeks were truely enlightening for me and I will never forget them. The overall experience here was overwhelming and wouldn't have been possible without this project. Every day I learned more about myself and about the people I met here. I will keep in touch with them! One of the important steps towards peace is learning about the other nation, cultural differences and similarities. With more understanding the tolerance grows. 
N. (20 years, female, Israeli, July 2004)
85  As you may know we have some problems between the Jewish people and the Arabs (Palestinians). Although we live next to each other for more than 50 years, we hardly get to talk to each other. Here we talked a lot and tried to understand each other. Most people in Israel don't have the opportunity to come to know Palestinians. Thank you for giving me this privilege.
Y. (20 years, male, Israeli, July 2004)
86  Surprisingly, it was only in Germany, where I could truly meet my neighbours. Peace in the Middle-East isn't only something created by politicians but also formed within the peole. By helping this project, you made Israeli and Palestinian youngsters to open their hearts and minds. You are changing history!
D. (24 years, male, Israeli, July 2004)
87  The last weeks I could broaden my horizont. We had many sessions, in which both sides had the chance to speak freely and had the others listen patiently. I came with an unsolid political opinion - and also have not yet developed one- but now I have more points of view. I know more personal stories from the two sides, all of which will stay with me in the future. In the free time we got to know the others, not only in a political light but as people as well.
A. (17 years, female, Israeli, July 2004)
88  It was great to meet people from different cultures. I learned a lot new facts, what I didn't know. It was an amazing experience. I think everybody should go through it.
A. (17 years, female, Israeli, July 2004)
89  I had a wonderful time here in Germany. I became familiar with the roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Being able to travel away from the middle-east and discuss such issues in a peaceful environment, helped both sides to relax and be able to express themselves freely. I became able to realize the different perspectives and meanings of the conflict. Breaking the ice between us, Israelis and Palestinians, was hard, but became possible, due to the different games and equipment we were given in the beginning. 
Y. (20 years, male, Israeli, July 2004)
90  I would like to thank you of the bottom of my heart. I think that the war and the hatred between Israeli and Palestinians is in big part a result of ignorance and disunderstanding. Projects like "Vacations from War" are the best way to overcome these problems. It allows to look on the conflict from the other side, to recognize the enduring suffering of each side and helps you to understand, that we all are human beings, whose only wish is, to live in peace. Only through this process of dialogue and understanding we'll finally manage to bring peace and prosperity to our region. Inshallah!
Y. (17 years, male, Israeli, July 2004)
91  In my opinion the semiar is extremely important, because most Israelis "know everything", but are not willing to listen. For example: "I know them, I know how they feel", but I think it is not true, and one of the most important reasons to be in the seminar is learning to hear the other side. I think the most important thing that should be emphasized in the seminar is that violence from both sides is not positive in our country (Palestine/Israel) and not legitimated in any situation.
R. (28 years, male, Israeli, August 2004)
92  The great importance for me in being here is the possibility to share experiences and emotions with the other side. I came to know the differences in the other culture, the other language, the other people and what at the same time happened to me was to see them as human-beings like me. Not to see people through the eyes of the press or media. Only in a deep, honest dialogue you can reach true understanding.
N. (30 years, female, Israeli, August 2004)
93  This seminar was so important for me because it was the first time that I have met Palestinians. Before I always thought they are very hard people with very extreme thoughts and behavior and that they don't want peace. Now I experienced that they are very nice, kind and gentle people. I really want some of them to be my friends and to cooperate with them to bring peace and quiet in the area.
I want to thank "Vacations from War" for thinking about us and to give us really a great hospitality and fun but above all -gave us the opportunityto know the person behind the tank and the stones and the blocks. To see that you can talk with them like good friends, play, sing and really to experience that they want peace. 
N. (25 years, male, Israeli, August 2004)
94  At first I was sure with my feelings I came with from Israel. I wanted to show the other side in how much pain my people are.
During the seminar I realized that the whole conflict is not about "Who suffers more?" but to understand each other, to realize, that both have problems to see a face, a person behind the television news that you can communicate with. And you can!!!
After this exhausting but important seminar, I get out with two feelings. First: I understand how important it is to have a full information when a war or a crisis accrue to balance your feelings. Second: I renewed my hope that there is a justified end to the conflict since I see now that all people can communicate in a civilized way. 
I believe this!!! So should you...
O. (23 years, male, Israeli, August 2004)
95  Here all of us softened and started to understand there are two sides to every story , and no side is evil or all bad. Smiles started to appear in our faces, then hugs and then sharing happy personal moments -for our life. That is amazing -for me anyway.
S. (23 years, female, Israeli, August 2004)
96  Meeting the people from the other side, -the "enemy's" side -, was important to me because for the first time I heard their stories and their points of view. I understood that to the same events can be opposite meanings. The war is going on because each one on both sides is sure that he's right. I now know that both of us are right. The importance is what an Israeli poet wrote:" In the place of people, who always are right, flowers can't blossom." This means that life just happens if there are compromises. Compromises in sense of taking over the other ones perspective for understanding his point of view. 
I hope that in our beautiful region Israel and Palestinian a lot of flowers will blossom and that death and blood will become a painful memory of the price we had to pay because we thought that we are right. 
E. (28 years, male, Israeli, August 2004)
97  Near the end of the seminar now the question, whether such a dialogue-project is important? It's a good question but the answer is even better: In the last two weeks I saw for the first time the faces behind the image of the enemy. I really listened to the Palestinian people and really tried to understand their feelings. This dialogue opened my mind to strange opinions and gave me the hope that the only solution can come by dialogues of the peoples. How can we arrange that each-one on both sides can have kinds of this great experience?
Y. (24 years, male, Israeli, August 2004)
98  I came to this seminar with a lot of fear. I thought that I meet here murders, people that only understand violence, people you can't talk with. But still, since I believe in peace, I came. In spite of the fact that a few of my best friends died in this conflict by an suicide-bomber -and may be because of that- I believe that there is no other way: We must talk with each other!
Now I know that these people, the Palestinian people, are really similar to us. They also want the same simple things in life -peace, love and happiness. The problem is that we both want the same land. Now after the seminar I believe: It is possible to live together. 
H. (27 years, female, Israeli, August 2004)
99  For me this seminar was a shocking experience in a way. I was exposed to the suffering of the Palestinians and I could feel their pain. I also asked myself many questions concerning my nations history: The way I was taught in school and the fact that the seminar took place in Germany made me think a lot about the suffering of my people 60 years ago. I talked and told about it and was asked questions from the other participants.
On the emotional level it was very stressful, I cried a lot about myself and for the people I met.
Now the seminar is ending. I feel sad when I think, where the people I met live and how they suffer. I'm also shocked by the fact that some of the friends I met live ½ hour from me and it is still almost impossible for me to meet them. The seminar gave me a lot of hope, I'm going back to Israel as a different person in a way - with new people in my heart. I hope I can stay in contact with some of the friends I made.
I feel that young people have a lot of energy and power, and I hope we can do something for peace in the region. I know that it will be difficult, but I have the hope that some day things will change. I heard things that were very hard for me to hear. But we talked, cried, slept and hugged together. I'm very grateful for this experience that I had. 
S. (23 years, female, Israeli, August 2004)
100  This program allows us to express our ideas and to show them to the other side. This program is sucessful, you should also connect people from other countries from the different sides, that are in fights to get them to know each other and try to find a solution in situations, what the ministers couldn't solve. Here in the Academy it is so quiet, so clean, so nice. I learned many things about the situation from the other side, we realized each other. We tried to solve the conflicts and we hope that also the ministers solve these issues, not just us guys.
N. (17 years, female, Israeli, August 2004)
101  Before I came here I really was afraid that the connection between Arabs and Jews will be bad, and that because of this anger we won't be able to listen. My purpose when I came here was to meet the Israeli Arabs and the Palestinians in order to get to know them and hear what they have to say.
I'm an Israeli Jew and it was important to me to explain them, what I think and feel.
At the beginning it was very hard for me, I felt like they can't really understand my thoughts. But after a while I started to become a very good friend with most of the Arabs. The meetings were very interesting, I always felt like I can say everything that I feel,
The travelling to Bonn, Köln and Phantasialand were wonderful!
I'm leaving with great memories and with a lot of new friends: Israeli Arabs, Palestinians and Jews.
Thank you for letting me be a part of this big and important project.
N. (16 years, female, August 2004)
102  Thanks to you people, that I have had this unique opportunity to meet the other side of the Israeli-Palestinian-Conflict. This project of "Vacations from War" is a wonderful,original and very productive idea for people of both sides of any conflict, who wish to see things out of a whole different perspective, in a whole different environment. 
I know that a lot of people in my group have had fears of being in Germany as a country that once was responsible for doing terrible things to the Jews. I didn't share that fears but I was really glad and excited to find out that almost all the people in my group have lost their fears and that is thanks to confronting with really nice German people. For me it would be great to see more of that German culture and life here. Anyway it helped us (the Jewish group) to deal with our fears and especially in the meetings with the Palestinians. I thank you all with my heart. 
N. (24 years, female, Israeli, August 2004)
103  This was the first time for me to meet Palestinians - this project made it possible. The encounter was meaningful to me, both in the personal aspect and in the cultural-political aspect.
I feel that the stay here brought the conflict closer to my heart than it was and I'll take it home with me with the expectation to act more, to bring this understanding to my life and environment. I feel privileged to have met new friends.
Though these two weeks were very intensive and hard, I leave with a need for more...Thank you!
L. (23 years, female, Israeli, August 2004)
104  When I got here I wanted to learn more about the conflict and to meet the other side. I discovered that I don't know much about the suffering of the Palestinians. I just had informations from the media in Israel. I enjoyed my stay. I learned a lot.
Germany was Germany, clean and nice. I hope that many other people will have the same opportunity like I had. 
M. (23 years, male, Israeli, August 2004)
105  About my expectations - well, some of them became true and some didn't. I expected to meet new and interesting people, to be able to communicate with them freely - and I did! The hostel-conditions were rather good, the food was alright, the towels could be bigger. The trips to Bonn, Köln and Amsterdam were interesting and meaningful. 
A. (26 years, male, Israeli, August 2004)
106  From the bottom of my heart I want to say "Thank you" for giving me and many other young Palestinians and Israelis the chance to meet and to explore the way we feel and think about each other. I discovered many things, I wouldn't have had the oppotunity in any other way. For me as a young Israeli woman it was a wonderful experience. For the future I wish I would have the chance to meet my new friends in our own home Israel-Palestinine. It is difficult to discribe the unique experience I went through in a few words.
M. (23 years, male, Israeli, August 2004)
107  This was very important for me. I found out a lot about myself and the society which I'm living in...It made me realize that if you put enemies together and take away all the "bad" factors which are part of the conflict, these people are not enemies any more -just human-beings which can share joy, tears, pain etc. with each other... I really made good friends from the other side, people which I care for and which I will be very upset if anything happens to them. Putting faces to the enemy is very powerful for me.
S. (30 years, female, Israeli, August 2004)
108  This opportunity brought me the chance to get a new point of view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the life I live at home in Israel. I have learned so much and met wonderful people. It was very different from all the activities I get to do at home, and I plan to transform everything I learned here into actions towards solving this conflict at home. I believe with all my heart that these meetings are a way to peace - through the people.
L.(21 years, male, Israeli, August 2004)
109  I come from Tel Aviv and had the unique experience in my life to meet Palestinians the last two weeks. Suddenly the city under the bombings of the Israeli army gets a different meaning because now my friends are there. I wish all Israelis and all Palestinians could have this experience to meet -at least the next generation- to become open-minded, concider the other side and include the consequences. I hope the situation in Israel will change, that the media will be more objective and ‚real' and won't tell the Israel lies anymore to make people radical - as they do now.
L. (24 years, female, Israeli, August 2004)
110  I'm studying in the university of Beer-Sheva. Because I had the opportunity to come here I met wonderful people. I came to know the other side. 
M. (24 years, male, Israeli, August 2004)
111  Thank you for giving me the the chance to see the light in the black tunnel -we and the Palestinians are in. Sometimes you can't see this light in the great darkness at home. But when I meet the other side, when I make friendships with them, I come to know, they are the same like us.
A. (26 years, male, Israeli, August 2004)
112  While staying in Germany, we (the Israelian group) met young students from the Palestinian's occupied areas. We talked about our lifes and the war and tried to think about ideas how to make this terrible situation stop. The project offered us the opportunity to meet our so-called enemies and we all promised to fight together against war and for peace. With hope for a better world.
G.(17 years, female, Israeli, August 2004)
113  Tomorrow I'll leave Germany, where I met more than 20 Palestinians from the Westbank and some from Israel (since 1948). This meeting means a lot to me and really helped me to know and understand more about me and about the conflict between Israeli and Palestinians. I realized that I live in a racist society. We need to take responsibility about our actions in the present and in the past 56 years. It was a wonderful experience.
D. (23 years, female, Israeli, August 2004)
114  It was a great opportunity to meet Palestinians from the Westbank in this great project. Since, it helped me and many others to re-shape our political opinions. I'm proud to say that now I'm smarter and more aware of the political world around me.
O. (16 years, male, Israeli, August 2004)
115  Here I had many discussions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with many people, who all are, in different ways, a part of it. The project enabled me to learn and understand more about the situation I live in, but more important, also about the situation in the occupied territories. I have met teenagers from "the other side" and talked to them in a peaceful and respectful manner that never could happen where we all live. This project has deeply infected all of us and I have no doubt that both groups, when we return home, will become a part of the small but growing movement against the occupation.
O. (17 years, male, Israeli, August 2004)
116  I enjoyed and studied a lot in those last two weeks. I feel closer to the other side now, to their perspectives and feelings.
Y. (18 years, male, Israeli, August 2004)
117  I'll thank for the amazing experience I had. I think that every Palestinian and Israeli that get to know each other bring peace a step closer. Many people are suffering in our land and this seminar gives us hope and the belief that each and everyone has the power to change. 
M. (25 years, male, Israeli, August 2004)
118  I want to express my deep gratitude...I'm studying Hebrew literature. This seminar was an amazing experience. It was not easy at all, many times we were hurt, sometimes we weeped -but we did all this with people that we can't meet in Israel:The Palestinians. I will express my ideas to many other people when I go back to Israel and hopefully I'll be able to do something little for peace.
S. (24 years, female, Israeli, August 2004)
119  My parents came to Israel in the 60th. This seminar was one of the most emotional experiences in my life. I'm a peace activist in my country but in Israel it is impossible to meet Palestinians, it would be dangerous for them.
N. (30 years, female, Israeli, August 2004)
120  I personally felt for the first time, that the Palestinians are so nice and gentle, not like I heard in Israel. This gives me the power to believe in a real peace with them. Suddenly it doesn't look so difficult like before. 
N. (25 years, male, Israeli, August 2004)
121  A new period in my life has been established. This seminar was the last key to complete my personal and political character about the conflict and wars in general. Please let me thank for an important event that should continue growing in Israeli's and Palestinian's hearts and let us hope that this horried conflict will end.
O. (23 years, male, Israeli, August 2004)
122  I just had a very intensive, interesting, not always easy "Vacations from war". I learned to listen to the other side's stories, myths, narratives, needs, wills and hopes. I also told the other side about mine. More than always I believe now that war is caused by one-sided and egocentric points of view on both sides. After participating in this seminar, me and the people around me will be able to see both sides. 
E. (19 years, male, Israeli, August 2004)
123  After many years that I live real close to Arabic neighbours, this is my first time to meet Palestinian people and really talk with them. A few of my best friends got bombed by the Palestinians and our life is always with a great fear -but still: I believe in peace and want that my children and the children I teach in school will live in a safe place. I haven't seen tv and news for three years, since the last Intifada started, because it makes me feel so sad and hopeless. In this seminar I decided to do something and I have got the feeling that also the people from the other side will do the same.
H. (27 years, female, Israeli, August 2004)
124  We in Israel want the war to end, we all want peace and quiet. Right now this is not the situation. Palestinians have no way to meet Israelis, just as soldiers, which is a very bad experience. This seminar gave me the honour to sit with Palestinians and understand their situation. I also could explaine mine. To me this beautiful project taught me tolerance and listening.
S. (24 years, female, Israeli, August 2004)
125  I'm one of the facilitators who worked with the teenagers. For two weeks the kids have been arguing, shouting, ‚fighting', taking out their rage etc. -but more important: asking questions, listening, laughing, remaining silent, crying, making friends, seeing human beeings behind the ‚enemies'. The kids go home with a whole new perspective. I'm sure that the dialogue left an immense impact on their lives and is definitely a turning-point toward awareness. During the process they went through they began to question their presumptions and the informations on which they based those. In my group, two of the Israeli kids decided not to go to the army at all. Two more decided to join the army but to refuse to serve in the occupied territories. Another-one is very confused.
The Palestinians started critizising their government and deligitimizing the killing of civilians inside Israel.
I hope more and more dialogues like this will take place, for there is nothing like the personal encounter to make a change.
S. (31 years, female, Israeli, August 2004)
126  It was really exciting, refreshing and fulfilling -and of course hard, touching, frustrating, confusing. This experience has given me the chance to see things from a whole different perspective in a whole different environment. I learned to listen, really listen to the other side of this conflict - the Palestinians whose voice we usually can't hear or accept, as a society that needs to take the responsibility -Israel. 
Besides that we had pure fun together. The time I spent here gives me and my Palestinian brothers the ability to dream. 
NN (Israeli, August 2004)
127  These two weeks were a great experience for me. At first this meeting gave me the opportunity to meet Palestinians from Israel and Palestinian from the West Bank. Second, it enabled me to visit Germany. This wasn't a simple experience for me as I'm Jewish and the past of the Jews in Germany is something that I still have problems to cope with. I found out a lot about myself. I found out what it means to be a minority. I found out what a racist society we are living in. 
It was also very important for me to meet the Palestinians that are living inside Israel. It seems that they don't get a lot of media coverage and don't receive a lot of attention. Therefore most of the times "we forget about them". The idea of meeting them was very important. We found out a lot about the conditions they must live in. 
Thank you: Keep up this good and important work. 
(NN, Israeli, August 2004)
128  I really enjoyed my stay here, the rooms and the food, but we should have more free time. I learned and understood a lot in this opportunity to meet Palestinians and spend a good time with them.
(NN, Israeli, August 2004)
129  Before I came to this peace-camp I wasn't sure if I should come at all. But now, looking at the past two weeks, I'm very proud about the decision to come here. I believe it is one of the most important experiences I have been through in my life.
Even before I came I was a peace-supporter and objected the occupation. But now I feel more emotionally involved. Before I came I was against the war passively, now I feel I must become active. I learned that the Palestinians aren't my enemies, that the war is a lie. Also I sadly believe that the situation will get worse. I'm full with fear and hopes that after years of war we can build our lives together.
I really do believe in this project and in its power to erase all stereotyps about enemies and face the way to peace. 
(NN, Israeli, August 2004)
130  I think this project is a very good idea. Although in many cases I felt that only the opinions of the Arabian group was legitimated and whenever the Israeli group said anything, we met with opposition from the Arabic group who said, our suffer and opinions doesn't matter. Those things disappointed me very much, but besides that I had a great time. I made a lot of new friends from the territories and also from Israel.
(NN, Israeli, August 2004)
131  It was a very important opportunity for me to meet Palestinians for a longer period -these two weeks. The location was good because it wasn't in Israel or in Palestine. At the same time it gave the Israelian group the opportunity to deal with the holocaust -the Jewish past- and from that to think of what we are doing today to the Palestinians and where we want to be in the future.
It was very important that we had free time, just to have fun with one another and to speak about every-day-issues and life.
NN (Israeli, August 2004)
132  Thanks for taking care of our needs. I really liked the place, the food and the rooms. The trips outdoor were needed but I guess it would be much better if we would have more free time. But I really enjoyed my time here. I also learned and understood a lot by this opportunity to meet Palestinians and spend a good time with them. Thanks for giving me this opportunity and good luck in organizing more of those seminars. 
NN (Israeli, August 2004)
Participants from Palestine wrote in summer 2004:
133  I'm from Jerusalem-Palestine. Here I meet new people from Palestine, Israel and Germany. All of us have the chance to see new worlds. We look at the Palestinian issue from a new vision, we understand the conditions from both sides. This makes me think deeply again and again about everything. We and the Israeli friends have a lot of fun and also a lot of work together. We look at each other from the human side, not from the political side. All of us disagree withe the force and crimes, we totally agree on the peace-way.
H. (18 years, female, Palestinian, July 2004)
134  This program is a true success. I am truly amazed by the great effect this experience has had on my personal point of view. I have always believed in peace and in the hope of one day living in an independent state of Palestine neighbouring the state of Israel. I have met Israelis in different programs in the past, but I never came so close to them. This program allows both, Palestinians and Israelis, to discuss openly and exchange their various points of views, but it also helps us to see each other as human beeings and not just as "enemies". I never thought that I could treat Israelis like my own brothers and sisters. I can honestly say that Israeli also are yearning for a peaceful solution to put an end to the suffering and bloodshed.
J. (19 years, female, Palestinian, July 2004)
135  We discuss several issues about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. We exchanged informations about culture and history, and both nationalities tried to understand the other side. I had the chance to meet normal people from Israel, who are confused and lost in the conflict like me. We are trying to come to a peaceful resolution that will please both sides -in other words: Peace...This has been a very enjoyable adventure that opened up my eyes and the eyes of the others: How can people just live a democratic and fruitful life without fears? We all have wings... 
M. (18 years, female, Palestinian, July 2004)
136  The support for this project enabled us to show the other side that we are suffering from their occupation and from their doings. We are really in need for these kind of programs to let us find another way to speak and understand our conflict in order to overcome it and to create a peaceful solution for it.
S. (21 years, male, Palestinian, July 2004)
137  I feel how the time races. And it arrives sadly. I will longingly think of every moment of happiness. With all my love. 
W. (16 years, female, Palestinian, August 2004)
138  Such experience is seldom repeatable and always will remain in my memory. It was the first time that I met a group of Jewish descent. A lovely feeling to meet the other side, the enemy, to discuss and express my point of view freely and find it confirmed, and so learn where I thought wrong and where correctly. 
R. (18 years, female, Palestinian, August 2004)
139  In this camp we talk about the situation in Palestine and we try to find some solutions for it. The first point we agree is that the settlements must be closed, not just in Gaza but also in the Westbank. 
A. (19 years, male, Palestinian, July 2004)
140  This successful experiment was an unbelievable chance for me. It gave me the hope of having peace some day.
L. (20 years, female, Palestinian, July 2004)
141  Every day when the sun rises up on the earth it brings us a new hope of a sunny future. This is what you are doing for us. You help us to imagine a future, where we live with the other part of the conflict together. For me as a Palestinian it was a wonderful experiment. It changed some of my believes and affected me to think about solutions in a new way.
M. (19 years, male, Palestinian, July 2004)
142  I'm participating in a very sucessful summer-camp. When I met the Israelian group and heard their points of view about the conflict I changed some of my opinions. Moreover I feel that they also came to know many important things about our situation. This camp is one of the best ways to help the two sides to find peace.
J. (19 years, male, Palestinian, July 2004) 
143  Despite our different opinions between the two groups we could speak and discuss about anything we wanted, especially about very important cases. We got more informations about the other side by the discussions, lectures and movies about our conflict. Our leaders helped us to reach the aim, that a solution is possible. 
I. (20 years, male, Palestinian, July 2004)
144  This is really really amazing -to know that we can live in peace together without killing each other. This project helped us to learn more facts about the situation. I'm lucky because I had this chance. I wish that all Palestinians and Israelis get this chance to see the other side as human-beings with a heart. 
R. (16 years, female, Palestinian, July 2004)
145  My thanking-words will not be enough. This is really an unique experience for me. Everything is new: The people, the discussions, the issues. These days here in Germany are the first time for me to feel, what "freedom" means. To feel it -this was the hardest part for me because I start to think about my life, my existance and the reasons why I don't have this kind of life back home in Palestine. This also leaded me to think about peace and the best solution, a good end for the conflict. Here I found out that life is a valuable thing and we have to take care of it, this means to know how to spend each day of it for the sake of ourselves and the others. 
M. (17 years, female, Palestinian, July 2004)
146  This was my first time to meet with Israelis and discuss the ongoing and neverending conflict. This trip was very special for me because I have never had the opportunity to leave Palestine. This was my first trip to cross the border and you made it happen. I think this project is very successful and I hope, that it will continue to unite both, Palestinians and Israelis under one roof, so that one day we all live in peace.
S. (17 years, male, Palestinian, July 2004)
147  This trip was very useful for me. I learned things, which will help me in my life. First of all to become patient and that I always have to think before I speak.
A. (16 years, female, Palestinian, July 2004)
148  The project helped us to know the other side's ideas and believes about the situation which both of us are living in. For me as a Palestinian it was a wonderful experiment. It changed some of my believes about the other side and affected me to think about solutions which both sides can live with.
K. (16 years, male, Palestinian, July 2004)
149  I came here with a hope, a hope to make a change. And now, a day before going back home, I feel fulfilled this hope. This workshop taught me that nothing can be accomplished with violence. Other than that, the seminar showed that in every nation are good and bad people. Bad people are not born bad, they just need to see things as they really are and not as others want them to see. I now have a strong belief that with efforts and patience both -Palestinians and Israeliis can live together. We now have to work on the differences to come over them. 
Finally I want to express my gratitude to the sponsors and all people who have made even the slightest effort to bring us to this place. Never give up on peace otherwise you give up on tomorrow.
I. (21 years, male, Palestinian, August 2004)
150  For me this seminar is very important. I now feel that I could do many things. At first that other Palestinians can use my experience. I can help my friends to change their mind about the Israeli people, who really want peace. But the important thing is, I don't forget the Palestinian issue. I hope that I can do more for my people after this seminar. 
L. (22 years, female, Palestinian, August 2004)
151  In the name of Allah: First I want to thank you for these activities, which broke the scaring fence between us. I had a lot of new informations and I had some good ideas about political affairs. On this journey to Germany I found some friends and I lived like an Israeli-Palestinian guy. So I had a very funny time because I came to know how Israeli guys are alike. At the same time I don't hate Israelian guys but because of the occupation I have to hate anyone, who says: "I'm an Israeli guy." So you gave us the meaning of the life on both sides. We'll save this in our mind. I wish that you have the health and support of others to continue this project. 
B. (17 y. male, Palestinian, August 2004)
152  At first I was afraid of this meeting because of our relationship with Israelian people. But the more we talked we found them very kind and interested people. I know about the cruelties of some people but all who came to the meeting were nice to us. I'm living in Ramallah and nothing serious happened to me yet. I mean that I didn't suffer like those who are from Nablus, Jenin or Gaza. When I came here and listened to my friends from Nablus I felt so sorry for the terrible things that happen to those poor people. Although I also come from the Westbank I got a lot of informations what's happening to our people. This project encourages us to let the other side (Israelis) know what is inside us and this makes us feeling comfortable. Another time and lots of times: Thank you!
Z. (18 y. male, Palestinian, August 2004)
153  This was a hard time for me. I realized that there is so much yet to be learnt. I thought I had an idea about the Israelian-Palestinian Conflict. I had studied about it and read many books, but now I feel so ignorant. The real life-stories that were told have touched me deeply. I stayed up many nights thinking and analyzing in order to understand: Why can human beeings become so brutal?
Here I got an idea about a good life for all, how we can live together happily. But this dream is shattered going back home. May be we feel the separation even more now. We get involved in our surroundings and we can't break through the bubble... The good thing that has happened to me is seeing the face of the enemy, not their army or their government. They are not that different! I believe that if each of us strips himself from all the obstacles and drawbacks that pulls us back from moving forward and simply connect with inner feelings and emotions, life would look so much brighter and we would be able to achieve peace together, -once we have found inner peace. 
N. (24 y. female, Palestinian, August 2004)
154  When I came to this place I was frightened because I would deal with Israelian people. But my fears disappeared because I find them people like us having their feelings and their emotions and also they have their suffering too. I'm glad to visit your country and I wish we'll have a nice country like you. 
O. (22 y. male, Palestinian, August 2004)
155  Really when I heard about this project, I was so afraid because it was the first time to have contact with the other side, that occupies our land. I really can't describe my complex feelings and fears. During this experiment I discovered how interested the other side (Israelis) wanted to listen to our suffering and how they want to defend our rights in their country. They now look to me like human beings. They listen, see and feel with the others. I know that when they'll come back home they'll have a hard time to tell the others how much we are suffering from them, that we are human-beings like them and that we also have a right to live in peace.
I. (26 years, female, Palestinian, August 2004)
156  I came with a plan to fight. I'm going back with a plan to love. 
G. (24 years, female, Palestinian, August 2004)
157  In the name of Allah: I hope you'll continue your work for peace...First when I arrived to this place I felt strange because this is the first time that I'm without my family and also to travel to an European country. It took three days before I started to adjust the conditions. I more and more felt that all the students were like my family. The program of the work was very exciting and the meetings were useful and difficult for us. Now I finish with sad feelings because we'll not see again or perhaps next summer- I really hope so. 
M. (17 y. female, Palestinian, August 2004)
158  Thank you so much for allowing me to enter a new stage in my life... I was going through an inner struggle with my identity...I heard of this program"Vacations from War" and decided to give it a try. I'm so happy that I did because it opened my eyes and brought up many issues that were bothering me. On the one hand I saw my people, that the occupation is affecting every single moment of their lives, even to think freely. I felt that we are forced to feel inferior caused by the unbalanced struggle that's going on between Palestinians and Israelis. . On the other hand I was able to see my enemy as a person and talk about desires and fears. I was able to break this image of a hostile government, that wants to get rid of us and soldiers, that want to kill us. I discovered a whole society behind that frontier, people who also want to live in peace and want to stop the injustice that is happening between both sides.I thank you for allowing me to think more objectively about our situation.
N. (26 y. female, Palestinian, August 2004)
159  An unique experience! Even I feel lucky to be as a participant here "one of the minority" because you can't give "vacations" for a whole nation! Then the situation would be so much different!
Concerning this seminar sometimes I feel an inner confusion inside me. I mean, it's just sooo different: The situation here is something and the reality there is something else!
It is so hard to live in a dream or to dream while living. It was still harder for me to come, but I had this idea about the others, which was proved another time: The others have no idea about our daily life - so away from it. They got it only from their press and media, do a "spam-feeding" for them of what they want them to know.
The metaphoric name "Vacations from war" really touched me. But I think we need to stop the war, not take vacations only and then we go back to it. But vacations usually give a new spirit and power. I'm not giving up but why it has become so hard to go on? I'm really thinking how it is going to be, when I'll be back, especially that it always moves in one direction, which is to the worst!
So at the end , finding the truth by yourself for yourself is what makes it worthy of being here. 
A p@ldreamer (August 2004)
160  A Palestinian greeting. As far as I'm concerned, this meeting brought a positive response on both sides. We as Palestinian people demand our right and our liberty, and the Israelis must know about and understand all truths which exist at the political level. 
I will do my best one to attain peace without forgetting my people's rights. 
NN (Palestinian, August 2004)
161  The meeting was important for getting to know each other and the exchange of opinions. The wish to live in peace with each other was expressed. Yes to peace, and a life like all other people have! 
NN (Palestinian, August 2004)
162  It is my first experience to sit and talk with an Israeli people. When I came here I had very bad feelings and expected them to grow. There was a struggle inside me. Now I feel a little bit more comfortable because I got a new thinking. In spite this was a very hard experience, it gave us Palestinians the opportunity to let the other side know the way we have to live and about our hurt feelings. This may help to get these ideas also to other people on their side in order to do something against the violence. But also I understood something about their feelings too. At the end I think, it is good to share these feelings, so it may bring peace one day. 
NN (Palestinian, August 2004)
163  In my opinion these discussions were useful and benefits to everybody - even we faced many problems, difficulties and conflicts. But on the other hand it is so important to share our thoughts, feelings and opinions. This will help us to plan our future currently.
I came to this seminar with a message to the other side, but also to come to know many things about them. Really it was a hard experience for me but very useful at the same time as for each participant. 
NN (Palestinian, August 2004)
164  When I came to Germany, I feared that this meeting would be a fiasco. But with God's help and that of the supervisors the program became a success. Although at first I had the feeling that this was a waste of time, I changed my opinion during the two weeks we were together with the Israelis. On the contrary, this wasn't a waste of time; it was used well to inform the Israelis about what their army does. I wish the whole program further success in the service of Humanity. This meeting was a present for us.
NN (Palestinian, August 2004)
165  Everything was prepared so well for us. We have come here to show the world that Palestinians live under a great injustice and it is hard to stop it. But with God's help we will free Palestine and the resistance will continue until the occupation ends. 
NN (Palestinian, August 2004)
166  Before we arrived in Germany I had expected that there would be problems between us Arabs and Jews. After some days I was convinced of the opposite and friendly relations arose between us. The supervisors were wonderful!
more signatures (Palestinians, August 2004)
167  I hadn't expected this to turn out all right because of the situation we are living in at present and the hostility between us. But the opposite was granted to us and everybody helped everybody to understand the others and that we are striving for peace with each other. My expectations from this program had been quite different because of the situation which we experience at home, i.e. the hate between us. But when we became acquainted with each other and understood each other, the arrogance and racism which we know at home disappeared. We don't want to say farewell because we like the group, so we say:"See you next time!" - away from war and hate, and with mutual love and respect. 
R. (22 years, male, Palestinian, August 2004)
168  At the beginning I would like to thank everyone who did their best to describe daily events in Nablus/Palestine. When I was asked whether I want to go to Germany I was undecided. Then I was surprised when I met the Jews and the Israeli Arabs for the first time in my life! During the lectures I was very quiet and didn't take part in the beginning. After this I began to talk about what happens to us in every day in Nablus. I could talk with everyone later and found them all very nice and they liked me also. We lived together for 14 days and became friends and would now not like to part any more. 
M. (14 years, male, Palestinian, August 2004)
169  Sometimes words cannot express everything that is felt. The project was successful; through it the Palestinian problem was explained to the Israelis and made clear to them that what they are doing with the Palestinians is inhuman. The best that we achieved is the warm cooperation and we hope for a political solution. 
NN (Palestinian, August 2004)
170  I hadn't expected to achieve what has happened in the last two weeks. I left the house and said goodbye to all my friends and relatives and wished they could have come along because I knew I was traveling to a terrific place with lovely sights. Scarcely was the airplane in the air when I began to feel lonesome for various reasons, fear of getting lost, etc. I arrived in Germany and began the unique journey of my life there. I am so sorry for everything I have missed in the past until now that I have met Jewish and Arab Israelis and other Palesstinians. During this meeting sweet and bitter mixed. I became acquainted with new people from different countries, religions and mentalities, Arabs and Jews, and I liked them as if they were my familys. I had the feeling that each of us has the same goal. Unfortunately, this beautiful time passed quickly and all will go their way to their future. The hard times were when I felt homesick or the sadness about the stories I heard. I haven't forgotten any moment of the happiness or the smiles, the laughter, the tears.
NN (female, Palestinian, August 2004)
171  What took place during this meeting can't be described with simple words, what our hearts feel about this good deed is hard to express. You invited us here to lead an Israeli-Palestinian peace dialog, which is already a miracle in itself. You deserve respect and gratitude for this. This dialog draws a positive response from us, bringing us the sincere desire to living together peacefully. At this meeting we could tell the world that we are striving for peace and that the Palestinian people, who have suffered through a great deal and still suffer from the occupation, still stretch forth their hand with the olive branch and the white dove of peace. 
S. (18 years, male, Palestinian, August 2004)
172  I had difficulties in making friends with the others because everything was strange in every respect for me. But later I slowly got the feeling under the management of the supervisors that I am in a family. But unfortunately, quite frankly, I had some difficulty making friends with the others, especially the Jewish and Arab Israelis, because they aren't from my surroundings, and have other traditions and habits. Nevertheless we have become like brothers and sisters and friends and will not forget each other. I am sad that we have to part. 
NN (Palestinian, August 2004)
173  The idea that I would meet a group of Jewish and Arab Israelis and live with together for a while made me afraid at first. Today I thank everybody who supports this idea and contributed to its fulfillment because it was far more beautiful than I had expected. 
I also would like to thank the other participants of my group because they understood our situation and showed sympathy for us, so that I await with optimism living peacefully together in the future. It is a pity that the number of the Israelis wasn't larger so that we would have convinced them all that it isn't the Palestinian people but the Israeli army who are terrorists, and that we want peace to get them out of the armed forces. 
S. (16 years, female, Palestinian, August 2004)
174  I didn't expect that we would proceed anything but after we have talked with each other I saw that we had achieved something, and to be more precise: peace! 
I had many topics I wanted to explain to the Jewish and Arab Israelis, especially everything that we have to endure under the Israeli occupation. I hated the Jews very much, but nevertheless when I met them I started to like the Jewish group because I discovered the goodness and tenderness in them and wished all Jews were like them. 
At first they constantly repeated the word terrorists, but when we talked, I convinced them that I am not a terrorist but only want to defend my native country.
I also got to know people whose mentality and tradition are similar to ours, the Arab Israelis. Through the meetings I discovered that they also speak Arabic and we told each other about the bad, racist treatment, which they too suffer under the Israelis. Through this the German people also heard about our problems.
I won good friends at these meetings and I am sad that we have to part, but we will not forget one another. 
A. (16 years, male, Palestinian, August 2004)
175  Peace is a right for all peoples. At first I had difficulties in taking part in such meetings owing to the conditions we experience every single day in Palestine. But I forced myself to explain this injustice at such a meeting, and I am sure that the Israeli population knows nothing about the actual suffering we experience. It isn't easy to inform them about the bitter reality. I hope that when we return home we'll have achieved positive results through this meeting. 
NN (Palestinian, August 2004)
176  I was afraid of this meeting and of the kind of people I would meet because the circumstances force us to feel inferior in relation to the powerful. But after the meeting the opposite happened because we have a right to this country in which we live, which used to belong to us. During the meeting I explained what I experience and how we suffer from living with death every day. Through this I learned that the other side knows nothing about this sorrow. I had the opportunity to describe what is going on around me, the everyday life of my people. And I won a friend from the other side when we described our problems to each other. I recognized that each of us has the right to live in this country. 
W. (22 years, male, Palestinian, August 2004)
177  When I was offered this journey, I could hardly believe it because I was in the difficult occupation situation and I hadn't expected to see a happy day again because of the destruction of my house and the killing of the sons of my sister and my uncle by the hand of the Israeli army. In Germany I could experience democracy and liberty and the feeling of being a respected person. I would like to thank everyone who gave us the opportunity to get to know each other and the new hope that came with it! 
S. (27 years, male, Palestine, August 2004)
178  I believe that such projects are very useful for the communication between the two sides -even if the result isn't something practically, maybe just a change in personal ideas and opinions- but even that's worth it! We suffered a lot here. This suffering was caused from both sides to both sides. I think that everyone should do his best to make a change of this miserable situation. This is the reason why I came here - believing in the power that we have in our hearts. Personally it was a very nice experience.
NN (Palestinian, August 2004)
179  I want to thank all people , who are responsible for this program because they gave us a big chance to speak together and explain our ideas. So I feel much better than before in my homeland.
In the program many things changed my ideas and made me a new person. I will insist on our goals any time but to solve the problems and reach a solution in another way. I hope I can take part in more programs like this and continue this process. I feel very happy and very sad at the same time. Thanks to all.
NN (Palestinian, August 2004)
180  It is very useful to make those projects because it will help both sides of a conflict or war to plan their future and to share their feelings and opinions together, so they can live in peace and coexistance. 
NN (Palestinian, August 2004)
181  This seminar gave us a big chance to speak and explain our feelings to the other side, what we can't do in our land. I hope this program is continued as it says "Vacations from War". 
NN (Palestinian, August 2004)
Palestinian Participants from Israel (Arabs 48th) wrote:
182  It was really such a wonderful trip these 14 days. We have fun together. We discuss with each other. I believe that this trip will affect each one in his present life and in the far future. It is very hard for me right now to express my feelings...Try to keep in touch with me and I'll do this too.
A. (17 years, female, Pal. Isr. August 2002)
183  In a world like we are living in, where the strong want to eat the weak we have no hope unless being patient and strong enough to face all the bad things...
Before I came to Germany I didn't have a chance to meet Israeli from the left side. As a Palestinian who lives in Israel I often meet them but I never met an Israeli to whom I could talk about peace. But now after I met this group new hope blooms in my heart that there is still a chance to talk. I want to thank any person who is involved in this project, it is a very respectful step and very positive. 
NN. (27 years, female, Pal. Isr. July 2002)
184  I'm an Arabic-Israelian citizen. It was really important for me to be here and it changed a lot of feelings and thoughts inside myself, even as one who works in the peace movement in Israel. This seminar gave me hope again after seeing how people talked and how they listened to each other, even about the hardest and most sensitive points. It was really exciting how open most of us showed their emotions and fears, and how they became friends, after all what they had suffered. Thank you for believing in us and making us believing in peace again.
N. (21 years, male, Pal.Isr., August 2003)
185  As a Palestinian, who lives in Israeli, I always believed that the only way to solve the conflict is knowing more about each other, because actually the ignorance is unbelievable. This is my second seminar "Vacations from War". The last year this experience was the switching-point in my life. This year I learned a lot for argumentation, I got more instruments. These two seminars shaped me more than other activities in the peace-movement. I feel new power.
NN (Pal.Isr., August 2003)
186  It was very hard for us in these two weeks. We came from three areas, so in the discussions we had three groups with different views:
- Arabs, who came from Palestine,
- Arabs,who came from Israel,
- Jewish, who came from Isael.
Therefore the discussions were hot and excited when we talked about the problems. The first day I didn't like the discussions and the whole program.
But now in the end, when I write this paper, I know and I believe: It was the most beautiful time in my life. I learned many things and came to understand the other side, how they live, how they think. It was so so exiting! I thank all the staff and donators for this great program..
I believe in peace -but all of us know the world that we live in,-how much difficulties we face. All of us in this program really want to engage in the work for a solution of the Palestinian problem. Peace will be the high flag that covers all the world. 
A. (17 y. male, Pal.-Israeli, August 2004)
187  Before I came here I knew that we'll have conversation with people from Nablus and Jewish people. It was so exciting and I felt very sad when I heard the stories of the Palestinians from Nablus. I will never forget these two weeks, I think it's the beginning of peace between the two sides. We had a lot of fun. All the trips were so nice and funny. It was an exciting experience that I'll never forget. 
A. (17 y. male, Pal.-Israeli, self-definition: Arab - 48, August 2004)
188  This was a great experience although it was hard and very emotional. I got the opportunity to listen to people and to meet new friends. But most important: This experience proved to me that peace is possible and we can live together. Thank you ....especially that the Palestinians from Nablus had a "vacation from war" and the chance to live a normal life for two weeks...
G. ( 21 y. male, Pal-Isr. August 2004)
189  In this moment I have tears in my eyes and in the last few days I cried a lot. It started from my feeling and recognition that my group as Palestinians, isn't just experiencing harm and hard occupation, but also their mind and soul is occupied. I tried to talk, to shout, to cry, to listen and to invite them to wake up, to express their own personality and to dream.
It was hard: they couldn't. They are afraid to dream or to believe themselves. The pressure of the occupation and the history of this area harmed the people and broke them. It took their and my power and our will to be spontanious, even the hope to achieve and unpolitical dreams.
My dream now is to bring the dreams back to the people, Palestinians. The ability of dreaming, freely, is the way for freedom. The situation is too hard and complex. The solution for me is unclear and clouded. But nothing is impossible! That's what I believe. -without it I just can't live. Really! I want to dream unpolitical dreams. A real, real peace could make this possible -and nothing else. 
M. (21 y. male, Pal.-Isr. August 2004)
190  I've been working for six years in peace-camps and organisations (also in the US), but I never had the chance to come to such a seminar. This project showed us where we really stand, which is close to peace. All we need is a better vision for tomorrow and the will to give. Peace is the the hope for a brighter tomorrow.
I. (21 years, male, Pal. Isr., August 2004)
191  The main reason for my participation in this meeting was my longing to meet my Palestinian brothers and sisters from the other side, to experience the Palestinians from the occupied areas from up close. Most of what I have learned in the process was about myself as a Palestinian who recognizes the need for action and change in service to our goal. But I can't find the words and I'm burning to express this powerlessness. 
This meeting was the beginning of a new era. It made me a new person who always wants to work more and more to make her dream come true. I feel exhausted now because I know this meeting is coming to an end and I'm going to miss the people beyond the borders I have grown so fond of. This crushes me, crushes me, crushes me. 
R.(22 years, female, Isr.Pal., August 2004)