sea days blog
July 4th, 2019
Hebron, old city
There is nothing but the simple pleasures of life to break down the barriers between people and to put huge smiles on people’s faces. That is what I had the honor and pleasure of feeling yesterday when I joined minelbahar group in welcoming a group of women and children from Hebron to the beach at Tel Baruch for , in simple terms, a day of fun. The excitement and smiles were evident the moment they had walked off the bus ( even after a three hour delay at the checkpoint) hopping and skipping and squeals of laughter and mothers smiling at their children’s happiness and at their own. They changed quickly then ran to the sea, us running after them with sunblock lotion and floatation rings. Jumping in the waves, building sand castles and moats, giggling as the waves touched their toes or bravely venturing the ten meters into the sea the lifeguards deemed as safe. Mothers trusting us to keep an eye on their babies, so they could enjoy and laugh and perhaps feel the freedom and fun they rarely truly get a chance to feel. What a day. What happiness. Kol Hakavod to the organizers, the volunteers and the women and children who came and put their differences and fears aside...to enjoy LIFE
August 2, 2018
Children and Mothers from Hebron
The weather was unusual for a summer morning in Tel Aviv: as we set up umbrellas and chairs on the beach and prepared inflatable doughnuts, waiting for our guests to arrive from Hebron, an enormous cloud moved in from the Mediterranean, and there were even a few raindrops. But the clouds began to clear, and nothing could dampen the spirits of the dozens of children who spilled off the bus, quickly put on sun screen and went to meet the sea – some of them for the very first time. Though I myself have been fortunate to enjoy the beach in Tel Aviv for many years, I know I will always remember this particular day.
I admit to being a bit apprehensive: how would I communicate, with my limited Arabic, with these children and their mothers (and even some grandmothers!)? We were helped by the “beach glossary” prepared by the organizers; but a smile and an outstretched hand worked just as well. After the children were comfortable in the water – splashing and shrieking with surprise and joy – the mothers began to make their way in as well. Fully-clothed, in jalabiyas as well as modern but modest dress, their generous, confident presence in this new setting and situation was impressive. We took a couple of breaks during the morning for sandwiches, watermelon and ice-pops; each time the children raced back into the water for more. By now some of us knew each other’s names, and I could better identify siblings and their moms. It’s amazing how a just few hours in the water together can create a feeling of familiarity and closeness.
Many of the volunteers in the group were regulars; their commitment to the creation of this simple but powerful encounter between Israelis and Palestinians is inspiring. Though I have known about the group’s work, this was my first experience as a volunteer with Sea Days for Palestinian Children. My 15-year old daughter joined in as well. After the mostly terrible news in recent weeks, today gave us a different way to think about the future – one shaped by respect for different cultures and languages, and the creation of common experiences in this land we share.
August 25, 2016
I would like to thank Hedva for her wonderful leadership and hard work on organizing the day at the beach.
It was wonderful to see the pure joy and human connection on the faces of the women, children and hosts. Although we could not stay till the end of the day, it filled our hearts with happiness to participate.
I also take this opportunity to congratulate Abed el Rahman on the wedding of his Son. May love, health, peace and happiness surround them, their family, and us all.
sorry i could not stay for the rest of the day,
was simply too much for me..
Out of such an experience, i get the feeling it fits our group to create such meetings,
where we share each other's daily life, where we can experience directly each other's reality.
Could be fantastic if we could visit each other's homes, where other family members or friends could be invited too.
in this case we would come to know each other much deeply and wholly and at the same time enlarge our circle...
Dear Odette, feel well again,
Nasrin, Peter and Abd-Alrahman, we missed you so much !
love you all, good friends,
Hedva, once again a special thanks for you,
you just brought us your inner quality - Joyfulness !
may we all go through time peacefully ~ ~ ~
July, 7, 2016
Since I am a horrible Hebrew speller, I will write in my native tongue. The project, YomYam is one of the most significant of all the ideas Peace seekers are doing. Bringing Palestinians from the territories and Israelis together in a normal setting is a great step in normalizing relations. This time Since I was the general watchman on the seashore, I didn't have much contact with the visitors, except for a lovely young lady if 13, who dragged me into the water and wanted to play with me. The 15 year old boys, they were adorable. Next time I would like to be part of the Women's circle, but helping the kids was a great way to interact Yours sincerely,
The Christmas peace in 1914 in WWl came immediately to my mind when seeing this amazing project at work: In 1914, not authorised by the generals on neither side, the Germans and English soldiers decided to not shoot on each other on Christmas, a holiday of love. They stopped shooting for several days, even came out of their trenches, sang together, drank beer together and showed each other family photos. When they went back to the trenches, they did not want to coninue shooting and killing again. The faceless enemy, suddenly had a name, a story...it was simply another human being, with family and an entire life of his own, that he shared. Only after they were forced, they coninued the war. More than 100,000 soldiers participated in this. What's the connection to the Yom HaYam? A conflict/war can only exist, when the "enemy" is a faceless entity, a cliche, a stereotype that serves as a projection surface for hatred and own fears. The moment we know the human behind the label, it all changes. Having spent this afternoon with the mothers and children from Palestine was an amzing experience. It was such a good reminder, that despite all the differences, there is more that unites, than seperates us: We laughed, played, enjoyed the water together, ate together. In the moment of joy and pleasure, it was hard to believe, that there is anything at all that seperates us. One strong image will specially stay with me: After they left the bus, on the walk to the beach, they stopped by the toilet. A Palestinian boy, around 14, just before entering the toilet, spotted the sea. His body abruptly stopped, almost like he got frozen. But no big screaming, no laughing, no loud dramatic reaction. Just big eyes, a slightly opened mouth and you could feel how much he was overwhelmed by what he saw. Seeing all this emotions, painted on the canvas of his face, brought tears to my eyes. No words for moments like these. Unfortunately, like in my WWl comparison: They will go back to their trenches, in this case their villages, still under occupation, without freedom. A cynic might say: For what was it then? For an illusion of freedom? For making the Israelis feel better - like hey, look, we did something? No, there is more to that. Usually the politics between Israel and Palestine are one step forward and two steps back. This beautiful project is two steps forward and one step back. I will believe something will stay with us, on both sides of the wall. A little spark, that makes us understand we are all humans. That's why this project is so important. Maybe it's only a butterfly, but we all learned from the butterfly effect, that this can start a storm. Will I do it again? For sure! Would I recommend this to other Israelis? Absolutely. I have the privilege as non jewish German to go also to places like the Freedom Theatre in Jenin to volunteer. But Israelis cannot do that. The Sea Day is on Israeli soil and does not put anyone in danger. Do it! I promise you, you will not regret it for a single second. And I deeply hope, that one day in the future, it does not have to be so special for them to see the sea, but it could be a free choice of free people to go where their heart carries them.
August 8, 2015
As the vast blue sea sparkles under the sun
The volunteers wait for the bus to come...
Introductions are made, jobs offered - assigned
To me, 22 others and a good friend of mine.
We've come to give a good time (at the Tel Baruch beach)
To Muslim women and children who don't have the beach in their reach.
From the Occupied Territories - Judah and Shomron
To the North Tel Aviv Beach in a special marked zone.
For most, it's their first time to be by the sea
To be courted and played with - but most to be free.
The bus finally comes and our friends come out into the sun
To "Welcomes" "Mar Haba" Now it's time to have fun.
They walk toward the beach full of good cheer and laughter
This is exactly what the organizers are after.
This is what PEACE looks like...it's not so demanding
This is our way to make right a huge misunderstanding.
We are all good on both sides - We know this of YOU
"Minelbahar" is proving that this too is true.
Then one fully dressed woman - braver than others
runs into the small surf - in front of children and mothers
First they just look, a few come test the waters
Then slowly they wade in with their sons and their daughters.
Written by: Monic Kisos
August 6, 2015
Hi to all of you wonderful organizers, I said I would send photos and write about my experience today: I had a most wonderful-even spectacular-experience today. There was a contact joy spreading throughout the few hours at sea with mothers and children who live ever so close to the Mediterranean and have never even seen, let alone dunked into the water. While parents were a bit cautious at first, children ran and splashed with complete abandon. It did not take the mothers long to join in. Most impressive was the thoughtfulness and responsibility of the organizers who provided everything from sun block, sandwiches, inner tubes, play equipment and then assigned us volunteers to jobs to insure safety and companionship to all our Palestinian guests. I want to conclude that for many of us Israelis who treasure the beauty and freedoms in this country, we suffer knowing about the discrimination and limitations placed upon our Palestinian neighbors. Today could not have been a better beach day for all of us!
Judy Charny M.S.W.
July 29, 2015
After 3 hours at a checkpoint from the West Bank, many in the group seemed a bit serious getting off the bus at the Tel Baruch beach. The sea, though, immediately made everyone break into smiles! I wonder how many years it had been since they’d seen the sea, if at all Soon, kids and adults alike tumbled with the waves in their inner tubes. Some of the boys and I threw around a beach ball, often hitting people on the head by mistake, making the laughter grow exponentially
A crowd favorite was the moment when one of the mothers brought out a darbouka into the water. Many of the women around her clapped and danced, while a boy showed me how to clap, stomp, and shoulder-pump in the style of Dabke. It was magical to see everyone enjoy Palestinian music and culture while swimming at the same time. How ?cooler could the day have been I also showed several children how to do a water pistol with one hand and two hands. I hope that next time they get the opportunity to visit a beach, they’ll be able to prank their friends and family by shooting water with full ease While most of us didn’t speak each other’s language, the waves and all that we can do with the water served as a common language and common joy I believe that projects such as this urgently need to increase. First of all, all children here deserve a childhood filled with the beach and fun in the sun. In addition, these projects make us realize the fundamental things that can bring us together !I wish everyone all the best, and hope to see them again as soon as possible
Sho, Volunteer from the USA
June 9, 2014
The Ocean to me has always been a special place; a place from which some of my fondest childhood memories originate and one to which I religiously return every summer. It was mainly for this reason that I was excited for the opportunity to volunteer at the Minel Bahar camp today. The camp has made great progress in fostering a relationship between Israelis and Palestinians but in addition to this I was excited to share one of my greatest loves with those who had hitherto never experienced it.
I arrived along with the rest of the volunteers at the Metzitzim Beach bright and early; as soon as the main spot was chosen we began the tedious task of blowing up water floats. Once this was done we held a meeting where we introduced ourselves and reviewed the safety guidelines and expectations. After the meeting was over we sat, waiting in anticipation for the kids. The sky was totally clear and sun had almost finished its ascent to the peak of the sky. As I stared at the moderately calm blue waves I wondered what the kids would be like, and how the next few hours would transpire.
After about 15 minutes, we heard some joyful shrieks, which were closely followed by a group of the first few Palestinian kids running up to the shore. One of the volunteers stopped them and quickly directed them to the sunscreen volunteers, who distributed sunscreen to each child and made sure each was equipped with a floatie. A few minutes later the mothers arrived with the younger children. They were covered from head to toe in many layers of dark clothes while the younger girls were dressed in pants and shirts. As the children rushed to the water shrieks, laughter, and Arabic filled the air. The mothers were more hesitant to enter the water and instead eagerly photographed the scene. Volunteers played with the children, splashing water and playing tag through the waves. Mothers, children, and volunteers alike were grinning as they enjoyed the wonderful scenery.
I truly enjoyed playing with the children, learning their names, and picking up some Arabic along the way as well. There are really two main lessons gleaned from this experience; the first is the most obvious and the one I’m sure we have all heard before. The why-can’t-we-all-get-along argument, the one reinforced through clichés and blanket statements, which invokes images of hippies and tie-dye peace signs, and which is consequently often dismissed as naïve and idealistic. Today I saw the dreamy mystique of the idea fade away, the more I played with the children and spoke with their mothers the more I realized that Palestinians and Israelis are actually not all that different. We oftentimes simplify the Israeli/Palestinian conflict; we claim there is no one to negotiate with, and no one on the other side that wants peace. But in reality this notion is more idealistic and naïve than its alternative; while it may be easier to see the conflict as black and white, both Palestinians and Israelis need to recognize that there is a strong desire for peace on each opposite ends.
The second lesson is a more general one about the nature of helping and doing good. As our world is becoming more globalized we are increasingly aware of those in need in faraway countries. Famine, war and disease are creating terrible circumstances, and people are living in states so unimaginable they test our basic human notions of life. The push to help those parts of the world, to volunteer abroad, and to exact change is one which is valiant and well intentioned. However, it makes it easier to forget about problems in our very own backyards. Helping others is a privilege for those who have time to give, but it is not a privilege limited to those who can afford a plane ticket. Brightening someone’s day can be as easy as sharing a deep passion, and as simple as a trip to the beach.
Tamar, Volunteer from the USA
June 15, 2015
My experience with the Palestinian Sea Days project
I was lucky enough to have been asked to join in the Palestinian Sea Days project for one day. As soon as I heard what it was about, I knew I had to be part of it.
It was an utterly humbling experience. I don't know what stood out the most to me; The moment the group got off the bus and how happy they were to see us, two little twin sisters' initial looks of fear mixed with joy at first sight of the ocean, or another little girl's face exploding with joy as she grasped what she saw, and that for a moment it it was going to be hers to enjoy.
Or maybe it was the crooked smile of a teenage boy at his older brothers when seeing a woman in a bikini for the first time. Maybe the sadness I felt when, for safety reasons, I had to tell one of the boys of my age not to climb the rocks on the peer which blocked full sight of the ocean.
He asked “Why?”. I had no sensible answer to give him. “I just want to see the...” he said, pointing at the sea. He was 28 years old, four years older than I am, and it was the first time he saw the sea. “The sea is big”, he later added.
I applaud the amazing women who organized and continue to organize this event. The women in their upper sixties who travel to the Jordan Valley checkpoint (and others), endure 40+ degree heat and write about the discrimination which takes place there.
All of it was very touching, and it made me deeply treasure my freedom. It also made me angry at the fact that I'm allowed to move freely and they aren't. We're all flesh and bones, so how can there be a difference?
Wrriten by volunteer from Germany
June 11, 2015
I am Adinda, I am from Holland and I live now for 3 months in Palestine. I am making a film about the hands of Palestine and I started to learn arabic. On a day in Tel Aviv I collected shelves at the beach to give my Palestinian family and friends. For me a symbol to bring the see to Palestine. By change we came in contact with an organization that brings Palestinian children to the see! The next day me and my sister accompanied. We played in the water and the beach and just stopped for moments to drink or eat watermelon. We danced and singed on the boat, although some where scared and seasick, had a nice lunch and a joyful bus ride back to Palestine. A day of fun! A day without worries. A day that looked so normal. Everyone was playing and laughing with each other; old and young, man and woman and Israeli with Palestinian. Could this be normal every day?
June 8, 2015
A Pocket of Joy
Metzizim Beach, Tel Aviv
For a few hours today laughter, smiles and positive energy washed away worrying headlines from the morning paper. The day at Metzizim Beach was all about the visit of Palestinian women and children who came as our guests from N’ilin Village in the central West Bank.
The day began with a briefing and introduction of volunteers, assignments given and reminders that water safety for our guests was our prime responsibility. Everything fell into place once the women and children arrived. The boys were the first to grab a water tube and plunge into the sea. They were followed by the older girls and then the younger children followed suit – inhibitions to the wind. The mothers needed a bit of encouragement to dip their toes but before long one by one they gathered their galabias (long traditional dresses) and joined the kids in the water.
The language of smiles and hugs, sandwiches, fruit and ice cream crossed all barriers. We played with the children, took pictures of each other and exchanged meaningful looks that expressed satisfaction, fun and relaxation.
Later, two of the women spotted a group of Israelis playing beach paddle ball (matkot). They were determined to play and asked to borrow the paddles and ball. Soon they were jumping high and scrambling after the ball with their dresses flying in the air. The fun was contagious.
By 14:00 in the afternoon the visitors were back on the bus sending kisses and waves through the windows as they continued for the afternoon activities in Jaffa.
For me, the day was a small pocket of joy, which ended with a wishful dream for the day when Palestinians families will be able to come and relax at the beach and it will be no big deal.
Thank you to the organizers. Well done!
August 14, 2013
Today Min El-Bahar organized a beach day for the Bedouin people of the town jahalin tribe. It was a special occasion, not only because most of the children hadn’t ever seen the sea before, but also because they were accompanied by their mothers. For the last years, the men of the town would come along to supervise the kids, but this year, for the first time, the women did.
The bus was late due to a traffic jam so we - the Min El-Bahar crew - were waiting impatiently and were highly excited, but the faces of the children and women when they got out of the bus and saw the sea was unforgettable. As soon as they were all waterproof we entered the water, some kids very bravely and others a bit more hesitant of the unknown. It was amazing to see the pleasure not only of the children, but also of the grown-ups, playing in the water and the never-ending amazement and laughter that the waves brought, rolling onto the beach without taking the women sitting there in account.
All in all, it was a morning that brought joy to everybody involved. The children and women from the village, the two nuns Aziza and Alicia, who were so helpful in managing the children during the day, and all the volunteers and women of Machsom Watch. Even though the responsibility of children who don’t know how to swim is huge and scary, the simple fun dominated the day.
June 12, 2013
As the women came off the bus, they all shook my hand and said hello. They were all smiles – they'd never been to the beach before or seen the sea. And all of them had to wear floaty tubes since they have never been in water and don't know how to swim. At first this bothered me; floaty tubes are something I associate with children and I felt embarassed for them that they needed them as adults. As I held their hands and waded into the water with them, I felt like a teacher with children. Then I realized they didn't give a shit about my age or why I know how to swim and they don't – they just wanted to have a good time.
And boy do they know how to have a good time. I've never been one for kids' games or camp atmosphere, but these women have given me a new appreciation for silliness. They didn't seem to tired of just counting to ten then sitting down in the sand, or pretending to be asleep on the tubes, or splashing me to get my attention. They were so enthusiastic about introducing themselves with corresponding dance moves that I almost forgot what we were doing. They love to beat on drums and dance, and don't let anyone sit on the sidelines. I felt a special connection with a woman named Sohar who really taught me how to shimmy. She has ten children, is an incredible cook, and joked with her friends about being free from their husbands for the day.
The thing that got me the most was just how quick everyone was to hold my hand. These women don't who I am, where I'm from, what my political beliefs are, but they trusted me immediately. They let me take them around the water and shared their food with me. Maybe it's because they were in a good mood, maybe it's because they inherently trust me as a woman, or maybe they're just wonderful. But If anyone asked me what I learned today, I'd say I learned the power of holding someone's hand.
June 5, 2013
Today was my first time volunteering for sea days. When the volunteers met this morning to discuss safety we were told to keep everyone inside one section of water that is marked by a rope. These instructions were being translated from Hebrew into English and the woman who was translating said something like, “It’s important to keep them inside the borders. The borders keep them safe.” This sent chills down my spine. The word “border” is a sensitive and powerful word here. But it’s appropriate to call the rope-line a border and it’s important to make the connection about why we’re here. To give something to people whose lives are defined by borders.
The group today was from a school in Hebron. Many young boys and girls and their parents joined us at a beautiful beach in Tel Aviv. We swam and ate ice cream as we got to know a little bit about each other. I met mothers and fathers who spoke Arabic, English, Hebrew and French. I met teenage boys with so much energy and enthusiasm and young girls who showed no fear as they plunged into the salty water of the sea for the first time. They were so happy and excited to splash around and swim. It brought me great joy to see them smile and laugh.
So today was a day of firsts. For many of the Palestinians from Hebron it was a first time at the sea. And for me it was a first time making real connections with Palestinians. It was a wonderful day and I’ll be going back often.
Sarah Holcman (from "Masa")
June 28, 2012
It has always been my belief that one word, respect, is the key to success. Whether it be children, adults or more. After-all we are all human beings and have feelings. We are all people who want to be loved and also we want to love, yet sometimes we are led blindly to places and thoughts that do not allow us to do this. It is not difficult for us to love each other and simply share moments of joy. I do feel though that a new word has to replace respect and that is education. Of course if we educate the next generation properly, then respect will follow, it will be right behind. We rely too much on what 'they' say and sometimes are too quick to believe.
Today I spent a beautiful day with a group of children from the village Jahalin.
We played and swam and did all the things that normal people do, this is because we are all normal, yet somehow we don't exactly feel that way sometimes. If we do not care for the human rights, the basic human rights of our fellow man, regardless of color and creed, then we are not fulfilling life's destiny. War or conflict cannot be and should never bellowed as an excuse to abandon our beliefs. So today brought me a feeling of joy, and, sadness knowing that this was not a regular occurrence and many things had to happen for it to take place. But you know, not about that I want to use my words; I want to use them to speak of the joy on these beautiful little children's faces as they splashed around and played in the water, of the little girl who gave a cheeky grin as she enjoyed this precious moment. She was living life, seizing the day, and of the mutual respect that does not have to be highlighted, because this is simply the way it is. We have good seeds within us and can choose when to water them and allow them to blossom. Today a large group of volunteers made this happen. As soon as I arrived without a word being spoken I knew I was amongst my own people and that there is hope for this world and that we can move forward with the belief that things can change.
I thank everybody involved for this beautiful day, especially the children for showing me what I already knew...
Carl Rogers Photos: Haim schwarczenberg, Michael Wexler
June 21, 2012
June 21 was another great Yom Yam!
Today, Tel Baruch beach welcomed a group from Al Walaja village, which is located south of Jerusalem and in the governorate of Bethlehem. For many children and also adults, this was their first time swimming in the sea. The sea was particularly fun today, because there were some pretty good waves and the water was always in motion. It was also a very hot day, and the sunscreen was constantly in use.
We swam and splashed and laughed and made many new friends. At some point, all the kids and some volunteers formed a “train” in the water with the floating tires and water pistols. Later, we ate delicious sandwiches, watermelon, and strawberries! There was quite a large and diverse number of volunteers present today. It’s always interesting to see where and how volunteers first learned about Min al Bahar. Maayan and her friend, volunteers from Tel Aviv, even gave a mini performance of their acrobatics skills!
The day concluded with fun times at the Community Center in Jaffa, and a refreshing boat ride on the Mediterranean sea! Tired, happy, and with the slightly salty taste of the sea still on our lips, we said goodbye and hope to welcome this great group again in the future.
Franziska Zoe Kabelitz, volunteer from Germany
Photos: Ruti Tuval Video: Moran Barir
June 13, 2012
Today was a fun and successful Yom Yam. I had the opportunity and honor to witness for the first time myself Min al Bahar’s work. Early in the morning, the organizers and volunteers arrived at Tel Baruch beach in the north of Tel Aviv in order to set up everything and blow up colorful piles of floating tires. Then, the bus arrived, and within minutes the beach was filled with lots of happy voices, sunscreen, and laughter. We swam and splashed and collected shells and dove after small fish and even built a small sand castle.
Once we had finished our supplies of sandwiches, everybody had dried, and all shoes were matched with their owners, we drove to the community center in Jaffa. After a delicious lunch, pens and papers were distributed, and everyone set about eagerly to draw and handicraft fish with crepe paper, wood, and a stapler.
Yom Yam concluded with a boat trip from Jaffa port. We sat in the fresh breeze, listening to music, enjoying dessert and an impressive Tel Aviv and Jaffa skyline. The sun on the horizon was still warming our faces but already beginning to dip into the dark blue sea. And when we leaned over the railing to look at the waves’ pretty white crests, we even saw fish, big fish!
Toda raba Min al Bahar for a wonderful day!
Franziska Kabelitz, volunteer from Germany