9d. SEEDS OF PEACE at NYUL April 16th

Please write a paragraph or two, reflecting upon your experience of the SOP event. You may want to write about what you learned, what you found inspiring, the format, the content, the speakers, or any other matter that moved you. You may connect the themes to the Pico Della Mirandola’s Oration on the Dignity of Man (remember, god had run out of ‘seeds’ when he decides to create man, and he gives man a share in every other seed, and gives him the choice to create himself), or Hobbes’ statement about the fundamental law of nature, which is to “seek peace” and the state of nature which is about the war of man against every man.”

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15 thoughts on “9d. SEEDS OF PEACE at NYUL April 16th

  1. “Whatever seeds each man cultivates will grow to maturity and bear in him their own fruit.” These are Pico’s words in his treaty “De Hominis Dignitate”. To be honest, I wasn’t too sure about what to expect from the meeting on Tuesday night. I immediately thought of some sort of speech where the organizers tried to sell their product, showing the viewers pictures and diagrams and providing spectators with statistics and figures, just to make the presentation more colourful and interesting. The pictures part is actually true. Nevertheless, the way in which Bobby portrayed SOP was so genuine that instantly made me forget the fact that we were at a speech. It really seemed to me like a heart to heart conversation. A woman, standing in front of us, telling everyone how beautiful her organization was. You could really tell that she wasn’t just selling a product. You could tell by how proud she sounded as she was talking. And later on the Seeds were speaking: their energy and joy when talking about Seeds of Peace only reinforced my belief that such an experience really changes lives.
    What really hit me was the aim of SOP: trying to reconcile people that would otherwise be enemies. I personally find the concept beautiful, because what SOP tries to do is to eradicate a secular hatred from regions where war is still a daily happening. Back to my opening line, as Pico said, if you cultivate peace and tolerance, then such is the fruit you will grow. And by creating these Seeds in Maine, then they will grow to maturity when they return to their hometown, with the aim to show others what kind of plant grew from them.

  2. The experience I had at the Seeds of Peace talk was quite different from what I expected. I’m not sure exactly what I had in mind going in, but like Nicola I half expected a sort of product sell. The reality was much more personal and moving. The initial speakers and Bobby were interesting, but it was the testimonials from the past “Seeds” that really affected me. I had some knowledge of the Palestinian state within Israel before the event, but I had no idea that their rights and civil liberties were impeded in the ways that the girls talked about. It brought up emotions and indignation, both at the world, and at myself, for having been affected by this struggle and doing nothing about it for so long.
    Listening to the Pakistani woman speak, it struck me how she questioned why people with such similar interests and values continue to war against one another, simply because they know that they are supposed to. “There must be another way” she said. It reminded me of Pico della Mirandola’s “Oration on the Dignity of Man.” In it, Pico says that the dignity and freedom of man lies in his ability to choose his nature. Man is indeterminate of the laws and predispositions of nature, he is neither of heaven, nor the Earth. As such, he can choose to fulfill the destiny of a couch potato, literally vegetating, or he can fulfill the destiny of a hero or philosopher, and be a great example among men. I always wonder why the younger generations of the Middle East can’t just stop imbibing the dogma and hurt of their parents and grandparents, and decidedly choose to be above it. If they could just choose to forgive the past and move toward the future with a completely fresh slate, they would realize that they have nothing against their enemies and that their similarities should breed companionship, if anything. Pico’s perspective on man gives me hope that perhaps one day man can take hold of his nature and stop being so petulant and short sighted. Maybe then the future that the Pakistani girl imagined can come true.

  3. I first heard about Seeds of Peace about a month before the talk through my roommate who told me about this organization that educates young teens and promotes their leadership skills in conflict areas of the world so as to create a generation of tolerance and to help soothe the animosity in regions such as Israel and Palestine. To tell you the truth, at first I thought the program sounded idealized and improbable of causing any impact. But I don’t think at first that I understood the mission of Seeds of Peace until we watched the video in class. There was one quote that stuck with me and made me realize the characteristics of Seeds of Peace. It was something along the lines of “One healthy person can lift two weak, one in each hand. I can lift two people from the ground. If everyone in the world thought like this, there would be no problems left.” It gave me this impression of a waterfall effect. Their goal was to have this life-changing idea seeded into these teens, these teens can take this idea with them and carry it to their home and spread this seed. You don’t have to have this shatteringly wide-spread affect, but if this idea of tolerance can be planted, eventually they will grow and form seeds of their own, and on-and-on, in this chain effect. Seeds of Peace is literally that first seed, that first push.

    It was a sort of progression of understanding the program. At first I had the word of mouth rough description of Seeds of Peace where it seemed idealized; then I saw the advertisement video in class and I understood the project and realized the solid footing it had in the real world, but I was still wondering– who was this program affecting and how was it affecting them. The SOP presentation– hearing these seeds talk and hearing what the conflict actually is. I didn’t know really anything about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Like the one seed said, not many people realize that there are Palestinians living in Israel. they don’t want their own state; they just want equal rights. There is this human rights infringement going on and we are just unaware. At the meet and greet afterwards I was talking to one of the seeds who said that mainly Americans just don’t know. What we should do is to learn about the conflict, make informed decisions about it and use our voting power and power as a citizen to support which side we think is right. She told a story about how a Florida congressman was pushing to have federal aid funding to Palestine stopped based on outdated information from two decades ago. If even our Politicians, those who are supposed to be aware of the world around them, doesn’t have an accurate portrayal of the conflict, then imagine the ignorance to the topic in general. And I found it ringing relevance in my case. I could only tell you the basics of the conflict and even the US involvement before the talk.

    On hearing the seeds speak of their experiences during and especially after the program, I realized the program isn’t meant to form these world-changing leaders, per se, but instead to just help aid these young adults in becoming productive citizens not only of their home countries, but of the world. The seeds aren’t meant to go back to their countries and incite peace accords on the spot, because not only is that irrational but they are meant to as the girl in the documentary trailer said, “pick up two weak people, one with each hand.” And it is their choice on how to move on with their life after the SOP camp. As Pico della Mirandola announces in “The Dignity of Man”, man chooses his own path and man should choose to seek knowledge and develop himself. This is category of ideas that SOP inspire– to continue growing, continuing seeking answers, compromises, and build your own life. Just because you were born into one category or cultural or title, etc does not mean that you must adhere to all of the animosity that comes with it.

  4. If I were running Seeds of Peace and wanted to establish support for my organization, I would have gone about this presentation a lot differently. The photographs were charming and the retelling of the back-story was interesting and informative, but the presentation didn’t match the product, the seeds themselves. The individuals that spoke, especially the first one (please excuse me, I don’t recall her name), led me to believe that Seeds of Peace works in theory, but not in practice. The first speaker talked about how she went from apolitical to extremely politicized. It seemed almost as if she was introduced to more differences and divides between the cultures than similarities. She recognized conflicts she was unaware of before. This is going to sound cynical as anything, but I think awareness is more likely to fuel the fire than put it out. Yes, the seeds see that their “enemies” are humans just like them, but that doesn’t change the fact that their interests go against each other. I think Seeds of Peace works excellently as an educational tool, but will that education lead to peace? Not necessarily. It all depends on how that education is used.

  5. For lack of a better term, I’m a rather apolitical person. It’s not so much that I am apathetic or uncaring about the state of the world and the political institutions that run it, but more that I don’t believe myself to be well enough informed to have an opinion that is solidly based on fact. I am largely unaware of a lot of what goes on in the world. Should I be making more of an effort to be better informed? Yes, probably. But the thing is, I rarely take sides on most issues because I know there are factors that I’m not seeing, and even the little I can learn from keeping up with the biased information that passes for news these days makes me largely unhappy with the way things are. The fact is, we focus on the negative stories out there and forget that for every one person out there doing something terrible, there are perhaps one hundred others doing something brilliant (though I by no means intend to minimize those terrible things). I believe that people are brilliant, if we can just get past all of the white noise, and that they’re more important than any country or political stance. At least, that’s what I try to keep myself believing.
    The Seeds of Peace event, then, was perfectly timed–I was in need of a reminder after the events in Boston on Monday. A few friends asked me after the talk what I thought, and my answer was that I was interested, intrigued. This wasn’t entirely accurate; I was actually amazed. I wasn’t expecting that. Typically, I respect organizations seeking to promote awareness or peace but don’t see the point. But Seeds–this is something I can believe in. Here’s an organization that, without minimizing those terrible things that happen in the world, seeks to shift paradigms to acknowledge people as people–not as merely the nationalities or creeds from which they come. It’s about taking a step back to see all of the sides and to acknowledge the humanity of a people thought to be monsters. Seeds might not be able to transform the world all on its own–it is, after all, a rather big world–but I also believe that they are on the right track. The only way to make lasting change is to start with the people who will be making the decisions someday. The paradigm shifts facilitated by Seeds of Peace might not have fixed the world yet–but it is helping it shift, and that is something I can believe in.

  6. The Seeds of Peace event was really moving and inspirational. Bobby’s speech shed light on the true motives behind the organization, however it was the testimonials from girls who had attended the camp in the past who really brought to life the meaning and significance of the entire program. My favorite story came from the girl who I believe spoke last (I can’t remember her name). She told a story about a dialogue session that she participated in at camp where a photo of two wolves fighting was shown, and one of the wolves was very bloody and looked defeated. Everyone was asked to describe how he or she related to this photo. She said that one boy in her group said that the photo reminded him of when he saw his cousin get shot and killed. The speaker noted that amidst the conflicts that most campers had with one another, everyone put their political issues aside in that moment and shared the same melancholic sentiment resulting from this boy’s account of his cousin’s murder. I thought this small anecdote told by the speaker symbolized the meaning of the entire camp, which is to allow everyone to connect and find a peaceful middle ground in spite of their differences. Also, each of the three speakers discussed how the camp motivated them to want to help others and establish justice in the world, and each one had taken some sort of action to do this, which is a testament to the strong impact this program has on its campers.
    The SOP event reminded me of the Oration on the Dignity of Man because in that story, God gives man the ability to create himself, and the Seeds of Peace camp similarly gives all of these kids a chance to recreate themselves after they have been exposed to a different type of environment than what they grew up in. When each person leaves the camp with new friends and a better understanding of their countries issues, they have heightened abilities to try to help dissolve conflict and find justice for themselves and for others in similar situations as them. It was so amazing to learn about the Seeds of Peace event from the seeds firsthand, and from each of the Seeds personal stories about camp and its effects on them it is easy to see that this organization really is making a difference in the world.

  7. I found the Seeds of Peace presentation very enlightening as well as inspiring. I find that the central aim and the thought behind it is definitely a great one. I found it rather amusing that it started off as a random idea that just happened to materialise due to the efforts John Wallach put in and his choice of name (or at least the way Bobby Gottschalk explained it). The concept of joining two apparent enemies is fraught with problems and the risks are something that would cause a lot of diplomatic problems and I thought it was really wise to start the idea by gaining the consent of the leaders of the countries because it does have to work from top down in cases like these with countries that are still developing into ‘proper’ democracies.
    I was very interested in listening to the personal testimonies by the Seeds, especially the Pakistani girl (I forget her name) because I am from India and I figured that her natural enemity would be something that I could relate to or somehow experience what the Seeds did during the camp. I found her entire speech rather beautiful and thought her rather eloquent but I was somewhat disappointed that she didn’t mention much, personally, about herself besides her friendship that developed with her Indian friend- Tulsi.
    I was very inspired after the speech and I thought the aim of the program held great resonance with the Oration on the Dignity of Man by Picco Della Mirandola as he stresses upon the fact that man can chose his own destiny and his own perspective with which he/she may view life and everything around them. I thought this exemplified the stage that Bobby Gottschalk and the Seeds mentioned after the one week period where the Seeds would argue their preconceived notions but after the one week mark they would begin to actually listen and form their own opinions and perspectives and no longer see the other side as the enemy. I also thought that the first Seed to speak was a very interesting person and her summary of the history of Palestinians in Israel gave me a fresh perspective on the situation in the country. In the wine-and-cheese reception after the talks, the first Seed to speak urged all of us to try and apply to become camp counsellors and I am now really interested in this opportunity. I would also really like to watch the documentary at some point and would generally like to follow this organisation as I really appreciate and admire its central aim.

  8. I’m really glad that I saw the Seeds of Peace presentation and I was moved by the dedication of Bobbi and the others who work at camp. I was moved by the three seeds who spoke. Each of them is very successful right now, they all have jobs and are doing very well. Their lives are so interesting because they lived in an area of extreme conflict, but eventually got out and made their own lives. The SOP organization helped these people develop their own lives. In Thomas Hobbes’ fundamental law of nature, he states “That every man, ought to endeavor Peace, as far as he has hope of obtaining it; and when he cannot obtain it, that he may seek, and use, all helps, and advantages of War.” Hobbes would agree that every person has a personal responsibility to seek peace in the world, and if that isn’t successful, then he or she may resort to war. It seems like today, countries usually resort to war very quickly before contemplating the different means towards creating peace, which is why organizations like SOP are important. The presentation got me to ask myself if I am doing anything to fix the wrongs around me, and if not, how can I start to promote peace.

  9. I really enjoyed watching the Seeds of Peace presentation. It is nice to see that people are doing something to get over the conflicts around the world. It was empowering to see how much those girls had taken away from a few weeks at a camp. I think it is important to open up the minds of individuals and show the human face behind the other side. When people are raised to think one way it is very hard to push them in another direction and open eyes to other individuals. I think it was very important to include other conflicts and not just the Palestine Israel to show how universal it all is. Showing that there are others out there going through very similar things. It is easier to find a solution to someone else’s problem, when you are not invested in it. So if they even can perceive of a solution for others it causes a reflection into their own side.
    When I travelled to Israel the past summer I had several moments where I witnessed the pressures the conflict has on young people. One time when we were walking along the wall of old Jerusalem it suddenly stopped and we had to get out and walk through the Palestinian district. I was with some Israeli guys, one who refused to walk through claiming it was too dangerous and we should just go back around the wall. I don’t blame him for his thoughts then, he looked genuinely scared. But I was with others who didn’t care so we walked through the district and came out unscathed. He full heartedly believes it is dangerous, and that was just the way he was brought up. It is dangerous to think in absolutes. I am appreciative of the efforts of SoP, and I understand why we, as people who live amongst each other on the same planet, need to change our mindsets to accept and understand each other. This was a great presentation by them. I enjoyed hearing the people who had went to the camp and their experiences since then. I did wish I had heard from a full Israeli and full Palestinian to hear how they have changed, but overall it was very interesting.

  10. The dignity of man is in his ability to choose. We have the ability to chose peace, to confront our “enemies” and make a change. A fundamental point of SOP is that it humanises the “enemy”. It makes people realise that they aren’t in a conflict with some other alien race, but with people who are just like themselves. It is an interesting concept, as is the idea of directing this towards children. But this is where my fundamental problem lies – they are children. It is of course a voluntary experience but at 14, you are a malleable child. SOP arguably gives the children an out from the “brainwashing” they recieve in their homes, schools or from the state, but it could also be argued that they are merely transitioning from one sort of mental conditioning to another. These kids could be the only one in their direct environment who would have this experience and the opinions that inevitably come with that, and would end up being ostracised from their immediate society which would not achieve a whole lot. That is a distinct possibility. -”Oh you went to America and came back a jew-lover/muslim-lover.” Though SOP claims to be apolitical and unaffiliated with any governments (front row seats at the white house?) it is still pushing an ideology. Personally, I agree with the ideology and think it is a noble mission but I’m not sure I agree with the organisation as a whole. There are certain things that make me quite uncomfortable about the situation such as the young age of the campers, the “bubble” and all these were certainly addressed but I’m not sure I was satisfied. An alternative perhaps would be addressing the conflict in a more local manner, such as the organisation Initiative for Peace (the organisation is within the UWC movement) does. It raised a lot of thought provoking questions for me and I do wish I had a chance to discuss in more detail with Bobby. Perhaps directing a peace initiative entirely at Youth is the correct way to go, who knows? As Nelson Mandela said, “be the change you wish to see in the world.” I feel as though Bobby is certainly an embodiment of that, and facilitating that for many young people. I really couldn’t give a strong opinion one way or another on the organisation and its mission because you could counter-argue every detail until it comes down to a matter of opinion as to which is better. Learning that the organisation was older than I was was a bit humbling, and showed me that the mission for peace is much bigger than one person, and it put me in my place. Who am I to criticise a noble mission that has been going on longer than I’ve been alive? It is certainly interesting though to consider that with the same ultimate ideal, there are so many different ways to get there. But I do hope we get there.

  11. I don’t think that any of us knew what to expect from this presentation. At least, I didn’t. My first thought is against those who argue that Seeds of Peace is too sheltered to help the kids in the real world. Where else? Change in belief has to start somewhere. It is up to the kids to apply their experience at the camp in the “real world” if they choose to. I think it’s good that the camp is isolated- free from news headlines and propaganda and people telling you what to believe. Also, in response to anyone who says that they are brainwashing these kids, they’re not. Bobbi said that plenty of Seeds do not stick with the program. Saying that 14 is too young of an age, that they aren’t old enough to think for themselves: how is it worse to send a kid to a 3 week program than shipping them off to boarding school for months at a time? The parents consent to both the camp and the school, and all kids consent to the camp and not all to school. Also, it is “seeds” of Peace. Some of the parents knew that they were too old to change their ways, but felt that there was still a chance for their kids to take a different path as they see the world changing. As corny as it is, kids ARE the future. 14 isn’t always considered a “kid”, 14 is technically teenage years, but relative to present average lifespans it’s pretty early in the game.

    Bobbi’s presentation felt rather personal considering she was speaking to a room full of people, which is a good thing. The photos were charming, but a lot of them looked like they were in a brochure or on a college’s website to advertise the happiness of the students. My first reaction to the second speaker, the girl who went from apolitical to very active in politics, was negative. I thought that she had switched one enemy for another. After thinking about it, she went from accustomed to inequality to fighting to change that inequality, it’s as simple as that. The presentator who discussed Building Bridges played a game I don’t like, the “raise your hand if” game. It gets on my nerves because it’s comparing yourself to other people. I think in the end it just makes people feel guilty for not being as active as others, though it’s probably meant to inspire.

    Overall I think Seeds of Peace is a great organization. It’s gone where no one has before. I think the word “peace” can have an idealistic, hippie-like connotation. I don’t think Seeds of Peace is idealistic, I think it’s just doing what it can.

  12. I absolutely loved the seeds of peace talk last Tuesday. It is difficult to imagine the hatred that these kids grow up with. Though I do have an Israeli grandmother, and have heard some negative comments from her from time to time, I have always been personally distanced from the conflict- removed by generations and space. I don’t think I can properly understand these kids’ feelings, their initial hatred and fear. There was one moment that really stuck with me. When Bobby explained the fear of the first night at camp, of sleeping and being vulnerable, she noted it would be like sleeping in the same room as the people who had just done the Boston Bombings. I was born in Boston, live right outside of the city, and work a block away from the sight of the bombings. The emotional fear of the immediate, that feeling of danger and pain, of us and them, flashed across my mind. And this only just happened. I imagined multiplying that feelings over fourteen years, a life of fear and anger, a life of us and them. Another thing that struck me was hearing about how the governments would train these young teens, prepare them with answers and anger. In my mind, I guess I had just thought of this as a camp- a place where they worked through conflict. I was surprised by the government training for a camp. But in such conflict, in such terror, it is amazing to see people trying to bring about change. Bobby and the other speakers truly care, truly want to make a difference. And the seeds have clearly been changed by their experience at the camp. It reminded me of Pico dell Mirandola’s Oration on the Dignity of Man. According to the Oration, G-d left humans seeds pregnant with all possibilities. There is no distinct human nature, nothing set in stone. Humans are not hateful by nature. They have the freedom and flexibility to change. These seeds, seeds of peace, can truly make a difference.

  13. The English dictionary defines speech as the expression of or the ability to express thoughts and feelings by articulate sounds. Freedom of speech is the ability of allowing words flow out of your mouth mindlessly. Unfortunately, the Palestinian girls did not have this privilege. They lived in a world where they were unwanted and so there voices were unheard. The pain exudes from the first seed as she covers her horrific past with confidence and pride. Her history is foreign to most of the audience and she has a mission to be heard.

    Furthermore, the other two speakers had a calm ambiance. They made an effort to change their perspective on the situation they are living in. By doing so they are able to handle the war they are facing in a calm manner. In my point of view, their serenity allowed us to believe that there was a solution to the destruction that has happened to their society.

    Moreover, The Seeds of Peace foundation is one that builds leadership. It opens the minds of children that are in the process of development. As a child I never thought that the war between Palestine and Israel would ever be resolved, but seeing these females stand and have hope moves a person. They allow a person to feel that an individual can truly make a change as long as their voice is heard. But what does it mean to have a voice that is heard?

  14. The Seeds of Peace event was definitely one of the most interesting and inspiring events that I’ve partaken in through NYU in London, and that’s saying something since we’ve been fortunate enough to go on a variety of amazing trips and attend events. I initially wasn’t sure what to expect from the speakers, and I thought it would leave me with more questions than answers, but they were very informative and I know actually understand the Seeds of Peace camp and mission. I will make time to watch the movie about the camp soon (since we only got to watch a clip in class) because I’m very interested in seeing the internal dynamics of the camps and among the participants. I was honestly a bit skeptical at first, and thought the camp might not have as much of an influence on these children, and on the world, as they hoped, but hearing the individual seeds speak, I realized how much they’re life have been shaped by their experience. It was one of those times where you listen to these people who have had complex lives that we don’t really understand, and then you see how they’ll all doing so much with their knowledge to make a real difference in the world, and then you leave inspired. Each of the three seeds had very different ways of speaking but there was a similar thread that went through all of their stories; each of their lives were changed by that camp. They all came from conflict areas and it was amazing that they were able to develop an unbiased view of the world. They weren’t selfish, they didn’t try to push their culture’s views on anyone, instead they were very genuin and pointed out the flaws in their individual societies and thus society as a whole. Also, everyone who stood up before us was a very talented speaker and held us captive. If I had been cynical about Seeds of Peace before, I certainly am not any more. Yes, they’re so young (only 14!) when they go into the camp, but they are able to learn so much and really take away a positive message and outlook. You don’t even realize that maybe 14 is the age that people really need to begin this kind of education, after all that’s the time when they’re still learning and hopefully it’s before they’re too “trained” to think and say certain things. It was crazy to hear how before the seeds were allowed to leave for that little camp in Maine, they had to go through those classes and be trained to memorize what they were suppose to say, and do, and believe. But despite all that training, the camp was able to open their minds and they really did learn how to see the world from everyone’s perspective, rather than their own. That message it so relevant to our times, and the world would truly be a better place if everyone could think like the seeds and like Bobby. Now I see clearly why they are called seeds, because I know that Seeds of Peace planted the seeds, and they’re already growing and spreading their influence.

  15. I apologize that my comment is a little late, but to begin, I want to say that I agree with the general consensus that the speakers were very eloquent and were incredibly well-informed about the issues that they spoke about. I had never met any Palestinian Israelis before and they presented a new perspective that I had not yet heard about. Just to add my two cents: the greater issue that I think we can take away from this experience is an awareness of the conflict that can be caused by cultural and religious differences. All of the things we have discussed this term, from poetry to storytelling to the objects in HOTWHO, at some point become the trappings which people use to define each other. It is worth the endeavor to understand, if at the very least to try to understand how these conflicts come about and why people can use differences as a way to create conflict with one another rather than use their differences to come to an understanding and enhance their experiences with one another.

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