Jewish Camp Apologizes for Flying Palestinian Flag

(Wikimedia Commons)

A camp affiliated with the Conservative movement apologized after flying a Palestinian flag “as a sign of friendship and acceptance” to visiting Palestinian Muslim and Christian students.

Camp Solomon Schechter in Washington state last week hosted members of Kids 4 Peace, including Christian and Muslim Palestinian children.

In a letter sent to parents and supporters following the visit, the camp wrote: “For the sake of a teachable moment, we did raise the Palestinian flag as a sign of friendship and acceptance. It was met with uncertainty by some campers and staff, especially the Israeli’s [sic], but all understood that the message of hope for peace by flying the Israeli flag alongside helped develop empathy. Still we plan to take down all the flags for Shabbat since there is no peace and also to relieve the sadness and anger that some feel by the site [sic] of the flag.”

The letter also said the camp “remain(s) unabashedly pro-Israel and we are celebrating Israel alongside our new friends.”

In the letter of apology sent Sunday and posted on the camp’s Facebook page, the camp indicated that the Kids 4 Peace group requested the raising of a Palestinian flag alongside the U.S., Canadian and Israeli flags that are raised daily.

“We sincerely apologize that we upset some in our CSS and larger Jewish community by introducing the Palestinian flag into our educational program,” the apology said. “Camp Solomon Schechter reiterates our unwavering support for the State of Israel as the Jewish homeland.

“Camp Solomon Schechter is a proud Zionist and pro-Israel camp. We honor the Israeli Army and Israeli people on a daily basis at CSS. Our goal was to create a safe space for all, and begin dialogue among the next generation.”

Comments on the camp’s Facebook page were largely negative, with many saying the camp should not have raised a flag waved in support of terrorists carrying out attacks against Jews.

“This kumbaya crap is mind-blowing,” one commenter wrote on Facebook. “Yes, IF we had Arab partners in peace, we might try more efforts like this, but we don’t and you’re kidding yourselves if you believe otherwise.”

But some applauded the camp for trying to be a positive force toward peace.

“The ONLY reason one would see a Palestinian flag at CSS is to further peace, love, justice, friendship and to bring God’s love into this world,” the commenter wrote. “Honoring Palestinian children and their identity and loving Israel and being Zionists are not mutually exclusive.”

The camp’s executive director, Sam Perlin, and co-board president, Andy Kaplowitz, also issued a statement.

“Camp Solomon Schechter regrets raising the Palestinian flag alongside US, Canadian and Israeli flags on Thursday and Friday mornings and it is a long standing CSS custom to lower flags for Shabbat and raise them again Sunday morning,” the statement said. “We neglected to foresee in such actions the serious political implications and for that lapse in judgment, we are deeply sorry.”

Comments

  1. Robby says

    All those responsible for raising the Fakestinian-terrorist flag should be fired and told not to slam the door on their way out. These idiots should never have any influence over Jewish kids again!

  2. Jerry Cohn says

    How absurd to even think about flying a Palestinian flag! These people want one thing and one thing only- the end of the State of Israel. Their governments and supporters anthem is ‘Death to Israel’. Literally. Understand this- the Palestinian flag is not representative of a country or a nation. It represents wiping Israel and its people being exterminated, forever off of the face of the earth. They say it over and over again. Why don’t even recognize the State of Israel? The camp may as well fly a flag with a giant swastilka on its face! We Jews cannot live in a Pollyanna world where everyone loves one another. We tried being like the common man and pretending that we were no different from the rest of society. They called it ‘Reform Judaism’.. .. and where was its source? None other than Germany. What a coincidence! We will never make that mistake again. Let them hate all they want; we have no control over that. However, we can monitor our reaction. Never again!

  3. Ed Kraus says

    I’m deeply grateful that Camp Solomon Schechter had the courage and insight to invite Palestinian youth to meet Zionist youth at summer camp.

    This is not the first time there has been a Palestinian flag at CSS. After Oslo one of the murals that was painted by campers on the wall of a cabin had the Israeli flag, the Palestinian flag (long before even partial statehood), and the faces of Rabin and Arafat. Seeing this hopeful mural at a strongly Zionist youth camp gave me hope that the next generation would grow up with a Middle East in peace.

    We all know the immediate aftermath. Rabin was murdered by ultra-nationalists, and Arafat turned out to be a failure as a peacemaker, making the horrible mistake of encouraging the second intifada after stalled peace talks. Our generation can argue and analyze the politics of the past several decades, but that doesn’t allow us to give up hope for a better future. As each generation of camp makes new murals, the old mural of the two flags has been moved somewhere and last time I visited camp I had to look for it (I think it is near the yurts now). But if anyone in our Jewish community is shocked by a Palestinian flag this summer at CSS, there has been one on display in this mural for decades.

    Last summer, in reaction to an emergency CSS hosted the Sephardic Adventure Camp. This Sephardic Orthodox camp was welcomed into the midst of our Conservative movement camp, and a great deal of effort went into accommodating separate food, separate activities, and to the extent possible allowing the minhag of an Orthodox camp to have its space. I’d argue that having a handful of visiting Christian and Muslim youth who are ethnically Palestinian visit was an equally beautiful expression of the teachings of Abraham our father, that we extend the hand of hospitality and friendship to our fellow humans, even when they are different than ourselves.

    The Global BDS movement has a very strong presence in Olympia, Washington which is right down the road from camp. Olympia is the home of Rachel Corrie, and the location of the food coop that has been at the forefront of legal action by groups such as Stand With Us. In my mind, there can be no stronger antidote to the hatred of the BDS movement than to host Palestinian youth at CSS and show them that Jews can be people who work for a strong and vibrant Israel, next door to a strong, vibrant and peaceful Palestine. Personal relationships are the best antidote to hatred.

    I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that one of the camp founders, Rabbi Joshua Stampfer is on the J Street Rabbinic Council, and has been a strong Zionist for his entire adult life, and worked to strengthen relationships with Arab and Muslim neighbors in Portland. He has understood what many Israeli commentators have said for decades; if we don’t help create Palestine, Israel will become Palestine.

    I pray for a future when we all will believe peace is nearby. In the meanwhile, I’m proud to send my son to a Jewish summer camp that can be proudly Zionist, and is secure enough in its love of Israel to look at the complexity and difficulty of the 50 years of occupation. Let’s trust that our precious camp can show our youth that the job of creating Israel isn’t finished, and the peace we have failed to secure in our generation will be their challenge and with God’s help their accomplishment.

    Ed Kraus
    Portland, Oregon

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