Thursday, August 04, 2005

Gala event raises funds for Peace Camp Canada

PUBLICATION: The Ottawa Citizen
DATE: 2005.08.04
EDITION: Final
SECTION: City
PAGE: B3
BYLINE: Aron Heller
SOURCE: The Ottawa Citizen
ILLUSTRATION: Photo: Bruno Schlumberger, The Ottawa Citizen / Elan Divonand hi s father, former Israeli ambassador to Canada Haim Divon, help to launch the second annual Peace Camp Canada with a garden party at Ashbury College.

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Gala event raises funds for Peace Camp Canada: Facility gives young Israelis, Palestinians chance to talk

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The second instalment of Peace Camp Canada was launched last night with a posh party at Ashbury College that raised $15,000 for the camp, a good chunk of the $85,000 needed to fund the project.

About 60 of the camp's donors attended the high-brow affair that included two violinists and an assortment of hors d'oeuvres.

The 2005 camp will bring 20 campers -- 10 Israeli and 10 Palestinian youth between the ages of 16 and 18 from Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip -- to Ashbury College, for a busy schedule that includes group discussions and workshops, as well as recreational activities. The camp runs from Aug. 7-18.

Its objective is to bring Israeli and Palestinian youth together, to engage them in dialogue and introduce them to a new way of thinking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Last year, the peace camp appeared to be a smashing success, with participants saying they emerged committed to propelling the peace process forward, one person at a time.

The project was the brainchild of Michelle Divon, then an 18-year-old student and daughter of the Israeli ambassador to Canada, and now a soldier in the Israeli army.

Ms. Divon's brother, Elan Divon, 28, will be co-director of the camp this year, along with Dalal Iriqat, a Palestinian.

Mr. Divon said this year's camp would build on the last and look to expand it.

He said he hoped to one day have a peace camp in every Canadian city.

"One of the tenets of the camp is to try to promote personal responsibility. Israelis and Palestinians must take ownership of the conflict," he said.

"At Peace Camp Canada, we try to focus on what we can do, and we can cultivate change."

Mr. Divon, whose parents, Haim and Linda, also attended the party, read a letter from his sister, in which she thanked those present for their generous support and expressed her desire to be there as well.

She said she wished she could send every Israeli soldier to Peace Camp Canada.

This year's campers have already met, at a two-day gathering last month in Haifa, Israel, where they also heard the emotional experiences of last year's campers.

"It feel like the beginning of a school year, with the same anticipation and excitement," said Tam Matthews, headmaster of Ashbury College and chairman of the seven-member volunteer advisory committee.

"This is what Canada, Ottawa and Ashbury are about."