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American in Israel
Kids Speak Out

Seeds of Change
Teens Seek Help from Colin Powell
by Heather Holliday

Secretary of State Colin Powell holds up a gift of a glass peace dove at the State Department in Washington, D.C., last summer, where he addressed the Seeds of Peace. Powell is flanked by Fadi Elsalameen from Hebron, Israel (left), and Idan Spund from Haifa, Israel. (AP/Wide World)
Fadi Elsalameen, 17, a Palestinian from Hebron in the West Bank, Jerusalem, is just like any other teenager. He has friends. He stays in touch with people through the Internet. He started college last fall. But last summer,m he met U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on a diplomatic mission for Seeds of Peace. In this meeting, Fadi asked for Powell's help in bringing peace to his war-torn homeland.

"I told [Powell] that the expression on people's faces [in the West Bank] is only anger and frustration," Fadi told Scholastic News. "They have no hope. The only things they talk about are death and Ariel Sharon and work."

Seeds of Peace is an organization that helps teenagers learn peace making skills. The program brings Arab and Israeli teenagers together to train them in conflict-resolution skills and to nurture lasting friendships. Through creating mutual understanding and respect, Seeds of Peace hopes to change the Middle East's history of hatred.

"People are out there just to hurt each other," Fadi said. "I told Secretary Powell, 'This needs to stop.' I asked him to help us."

Fadi and two other members of Seeds of Peace met with Secretary Powell after he spoke at the Seeds of Peace camp graduation in Washington, D.C., recently.

"The United States has a very important role in the peace process," Fadi said. "That's why I asked him to be more involved. He showed that they [the U.S.] were serious about what's happening."

Fadi says the U.S. can help make the Palestinians and Israelis realize they are partners in the peace process. "There will never be a peace process without both of them [Israelis and Palestinians] being there," says Fadi. "This can only go through the American government—because they are the third party and they understand both sides."

Seeds of Peace
Fadi heard about Seeds of Peace through his high school. At first, he thought it was just a regular camp. He knew that Israelis would attend, but he didn't know why.

"I was kind of scared," he said about going to camp with Israelis. At the camp, he represented Palestinians and talked to Israelis about Palestinians' problems and sufferings.

Fadi told his fellow campers about his life. He told the Israeli teens the fear he felt seeing soldiers every day on the way to and from school. He told them about the difficulties that his family faced when soldiers block the roads. And he told them about a time he and his classmates had to evacuate school because soldiers shot tear gas on campus.

"[Israelis] show that they listen and try to understand," he said. "And from that, they try to treat you like you are somebody just like them. They also talk about their problems. Both sides have done bad things to each other."

Fadi has learned that there is good in every person. He now focuses on this knowledge, rather than on fear and anger.

"If we want to overcome this conflict, we need to look for the good part in each person," he said. "They are just human beings and they are just like me. It's common sense and everyone should know it."

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