OTISFIELD — Mathias is experiencing a temporary athletic prowess at Seeds of Peace this month. The 16-year-old from New York City is one of the more experienced basketball players at the camp, which makes him one of the better players.

“Usually, in regular settings, I’m not considered good at sports, but coming here to Seeds, I’m one of the best people,” Mathias said during Monday’s Play for Peace basketball clinic. “It’s really funny.”

Among the 181 campers at Seeds of Peace are kids from Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, India and Pakistan. There also are American campers. They might seem like outsiders in their own country, but they play a crucial role in the camp.

The Seeds of Peace brings campers, who are often called seeds, from countries of conflict together to try to understand each other by living together for three weeks. The major conflict of the camp is that between Israel and Palestine. So where do the Americans fit into that?

“In our orientation, we talk a lot about it, because that’s sort of the biggest question mark, why are we here, right?” Daniel, a 17-year-old from New York City, said. “As someone who’s not directly involved on a day-to-day basis, for the most part, in the conflict, like why are we engaged in these discussions?”

For starters, camp counselor Catherine Strauch points out, the United States plays a large role in the Middle East.

“America’s been very involved since the beginning,” Strauch, a one-time camper from Exeter, said. “So I think it’s really important to have that voice, and also for Americans to hear not just what is politicized about the Middle East, but, like, actual people’s stories.”

But the United States’ involvement isn’t like those of Palestinians or Israelis, and that can be overwhelming for the American seeds.

“I feel a little bit out of place because I’m in a room full of people who experience this every day, who really live there,” Mathias said.

That uneasiness doesn’t compare to that the campers who live with the conflict have coming together and talking and sharing a bunk together.

“Their role is really important for the dialogue and for the experience outside. They’re basically the unbiased side sitting in the dialogue listening to both sides, maybe helping both sides to talk, communicate between them,” 17-year-old Palestinian Husam said.

“I really feel as though, without a third-party participant, a lot of these dialogues would be much harder,” Daniel said. “And I found that I was able, even though I’ve never been to the Middle East and am neither Israeli or Palestinian, Egyptian or Jordanian, that I was able to make a big impact in allowing others to see the bigger picture, whatever that means.”

Mathias said that the Americans do have to spend a few days proving themselves.

“An American, in dialogue, does have some sort of an extra burden, that they need to show to the group that just because they’re an American doesn’t mean that they don’t understand what’s going on, that they don’t have any concept of the daily lives of the people involved,” he said.

The Americans also gain perspective of the world that they probably wouldn’t otherwise.

When Sarah Brajtbord attended Seeds of Peace in 2006, the then-17-year-old from Dallas, Texas, did so with a certain outlook and vision of the world.

It was changed by three weeks in Maine.

“It was like I had these blinders on, and it just opened up my worldview in ways that I really hadn’t anticipated,” Brajtbord, now the Seeds of Peace camp director, said.

Darling Kittoe of Chicago attended the international session as a camper in 2012. She came having developed what she believed was a strong knowledge of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

After hearing stories of her fellow campers, her outlook was changed, and she struggled to find her role until former camp director Wil Smith told her, “Before you can make peace with someone else, you have to go to war with yourself.”

Kittoe, now a camp counselor, started challenging her own beliefs and sharing her own stories.

“What a lot of Americans bring, is a new perspective, and just like a new outlook on how to view conflict and how to view dialogue, in general,” Kittoe said.

The American seeds can take what they learn back to their own communities. That’s what Kittoe did. She created dialogue about the Middle East conflict, but also applied what she learned to her own community.

“One of the main things I did is try to create awareness about different socioeconomic statuses,” Kittoe said. “So it didn’t have a lot to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or any sort of Seeds issue, but it was my way of encouraging people to talk and share their stories and maybe create some sort of understanding.”

Former NBA player Matt Bonner plays one-on-one against a Seeds of Peace camper during the Play for Peace basketball clinic Monday in Otisfield.

Former NBA player Matt Bonner plays one-on-one against a Seeds of Peace camper during the Play for Peace basketball clinic Monday in Otisfield.

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