Dinner promotes global unity and peace
Forty students from around the world gather at an isle camp
Beaded Israeli peace bracelets intertwined with a shell lei dangled from 17-year-old Nir Haras' wrists yesterday at a dinner honoring high school students from around the world.
The 40 students participating in this year's Hawaii Lions International Youth Camp spent the past three weeks immersed in the island culture while learning ways to promote peace in their home countries.
"I know that it is really bad at home in Israel," said Haras, who lives near Tel Aviv. "After coming here, I don't really want to go back home."
Haras, who will enlist in the army next year as part of his country's requirement, found out that his best friend's brother, an Israeli soldier, was killed in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hezbollah militia.
Here in Hawaii, Haras at least was distracted from troubles at home. His group visited historical sites, including Kawaiahao Church and the King Kamehameha statue in Honolulu. They also met with Mayor Mufi Hannemann.
To 17-year-old Ziv Ben-Lulu, the Hawaiian culture and music appealed to him most. Ben-Lulu, a musician at home in Israel, learned to play the ukulele.
"The people are so warm, always smiling and singing," he said. "Music is different from home because over here, it's more about nature and soul."
Students performed at the dinner by dancing hula and chanting in Hawaiian. They spent the last week learning music, dance and crafts.
"Most of them have never danced before, but I can see their willingness to learn," said Palani Agosto, the group's hula teacher.
Hula brought the students together since they were all learning at the beginner level, Agosto said.
"Hula is funny to people in Hong Kong because everyone thinks it's just shaking your butt," said 18-year-old Gilbert Chua. "I learned that it's like our dragon dances at home, which people take very seriously."
Chua and the other students stayed with host families while in Hawaii before going to the Lions Club Camp in Waianae.
"We took them out to eat at lots of different places, Mexican food one night and Zippy's the next," said Wayson Lee, who welcomed Chua and a boy from Poland into their Honolulu home. "I told them to try everything because they're not going to find this at home."
The Hawaii Lions Club celebrates its 80th anniversary and has grown into the largest worldwide. More than 2,000 people participate in the Hawaii club, which has 65 sponsors around the state. The first youth camp in Hawaii started in 1982 on Maui.