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Middle East Monica Dispatch

Seeds of Peace
January26,2000

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Matan and Jawad: no color lines
Blue Team 3 advances quickly, but immediately faces off with Green Team 3 at the border. They eye each other warily, both feinting and guarding each other, as they move towards the target. "Five!" calls out command central, and Blue 5 and Green 5 both circle around, steadily watching each other--- until one of them grabs the prize and heads, quick as lightning, towards safety and freedom.

No, it's not some war movie or bloodthirsty competition, and it's not political, even though it's happening right near the Israel/Jordan border. It's Steal the Bacon, and it's being played for fun by the Blue and Green teams. By the way, the bacon is kosher, vegetarian and halal if you're concerned. Slava tells me that after playing the point matches for Color Games, they also play during break time, "just because we're having such a good time"

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Steal the (kosher, halal) bacon!
Slava and eighty other participants are here in Kibbutz Yahel, near Eilat, for the Seeds of Peace Annual Winter Seminar: four days of workshops, meetings, and structured activities (intense all-night conversations with your bunkmates, songs around the campfire, new friends, and shaved heads). Today is Day Three, and this part of the seminar is devoted to Color Games (intense team rivalry between the Blue and Green teams.) I'm a neutral, non-participating observer, so I wear a white t-shirt. However, everybody else is sharply divided. At the cafeteria during dinner, Blues sit on one side, Greens on the other. There is no mixing. There are no traitors.

Vocabulary:
arbitrary - subject to individual will or discretion; biased
feint - movement made in order to deceive an adversary
vilify - to speak ill of; defame; slander

Color Games is something that every SOP (Seeds of Peace) remembers from camp. At dawn today, the counselors started yelling to wake everyone up for the tug-o'-war. I learned some chants from that wake-up call. I also learned that Seeds of Peace play these games to show how arbitrary it is to be randomly stuck with one team, to defend it and cheer it with all your might, and to revel in the other team's defeat. At camp it's a three-day, steadily increasing point competition; here, you can hear the fervor by how hoarse people's voices are getting from the cheering.

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Green Team art project
Oh, and the teams truly divide up randomly: did you think that Israelis are one color and Palestinians the other? Think again. At camp, Color Games are the first time that some Palestinians and Israelis have played on the same team with each other in any way, shape or form. It's amazing to think that, starting as children, students who grow up in an atmosphere of distrust and fear can, for example, shoot hoops or play soccer together. At this seminar, that intensity exists, but the SOP's channel it into a healthy and enthusiastic attitude. The attitude of win or die really means something to these youth, who live in an atmosphere of violence, death, and mistrust. The SOP's learn that being entirely focused on your team, to the point of ignoring or vilifying the other team, doesn't mean that you win. "During color games, everyone is working for everyone. That's a good feeling," one SOP explains later.

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Liat shows team spirit!
Towards the end of the day, after point allowances for tug o' war, team art projects, soccer matches, basketball games, and Steal the Bacon, the highpoint of Color Games begins. It's the "Message to Al-Jundi!" Every year, there's a Message to somebody, and this year it's Al-Jundi because there are so many Al-Jundi brothers (reference to a counselor.) The way the teams deliver the message is by having each teammate divide up a series of more than forty tasks. After the last task, the person with the best memory from each team sees the message, memorizes it, then speaks it aloud.

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Efrat says"pickled pepper"
Liat and Nadav represent their teams during the "type and send an e-mail" task, right before the"count an undisclosed amount of money" task. Efrat volunteers to take on the "recite a tongue twister" task. You try saying "Peter Piper picked a packet of pickled peppers" five times, under a time constraint, knowing that your entire team depends on you to make up a thirty-second lag. It's tough I tell you.

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Liat e-mails for the Message
At camp, SOP's log pages and pages of signed protests if the Message is not sent clearly and exactly. But, as in any project, there can be difficulties. For instance, during the "type and send an e-mail" task (send a four-line message to the Seeds of Peace Center for Coexistence address) there could have been a protest about: a) the size of the window--hey, four lines in a minimized window means less writing than four lines in a maximized window; b) the size of the font--now that's obvious, c) if the letter has proper punctuation, spelling, and grammar, or d) if the letter is in all caps or not. One counselor explains to me that not all the counselors appreciate Color Games, but they hope that everyone involved understands the messages of teamwork, helping each other, not letting minute details rule the day, and how intensely focusing on your own team doesn't mean you play the game better.

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A quiet moment during the storm
Later that evening, after the variety show, I watch a counselor add up all the points from Color Games as well as the team video project (theme: A History of the Conflict between Green and Blue), the comedy skit "Y2K hits Jerusalem", the team song, the art project, and our favorite, improv counselor karoake. At the final announcement, I find that both Blue and Green SOP's cheer on the winning team, hug each other, and then get down to the serious business of dancing the night away in the kibbutz's mini dance-hall. These Seeds of Peace hear the real message of the Color Games. Do you?

Monica

p.s. - Please e-mail me at ...monicaflores@bigfoot.com
 

Kavitha - Kavi Gets MAD With Art
Kavitha - Pieces for Peace
Kevin - Tomb of the Well-Known Soldier Part I - The Birth of a Nation
Kevin - Tomb of the Well Known Soldier Part II - Hard Lessons Learned in the Promised Land
Monica - 15 year-old Liat: A Young symbol of the Future
Monica - The Other Side: Young Israelis and Palestinians Struggle to Understand Each Other

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