Hello, my name is Yonit Vareika, I live in Haifa, and now I’m finishing high school.
A lot of incredible things can happen in a year, but in this blog post I’m about to describe the most important one that happened to me – all the friends I gained.
Last year, I joined Debate for Peace. Immediately upon arrival I was introduced to new and diverse people, who were from all over the country – Jews, Muslims, Christians, and those who do not affiliate themselves with any of the above.
But meeting them was just the tip of the iceberg. I had the opportunity to fly with two delegations abroad, one to England and the other to Kosovo, and this is when I had the best time to know people better.
In England, we traveled together: to London, to Oxford and then back to London, and had a chance to debate with one another on our views of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. We spoke on our personal beliefs yet still joked with one another, and made connections which I hope will last even after we finish high-school.
And even though England was super fun and enriching in terms of the people, I believe that the Kosovo delegation was one of the most enriching experiences I’ve had.
The shabbat in Kosovo was something I won’t forget. Steven brought with him a game called Empathy in a Box, in which you discuss issues, concepts and ideas without judging each other.
It allowed for the people in the delegation to open up and speak about themselves and the world in a different way than they usually would. I feel very connected to them now, and in the perspective of Debate for Peace, it came to my realisation that everyone faces difficulties, regardless of religion.
All in all, I can’t stress enough how powerful was the experience of meeting all those different people and simply talking to them and getting to know them. I hope that now, as I leave high school, I would still be able to continue doing so in the future.
Hey, I’m Hanna from Mexico City. I came here to live in Israel and study high school here. This post is about our delegation to the conference in Yale (YMUN 2019) last winter.
This was our first delegation to this conference, we are the first and only delegation coming from Israel and this was their 45th conference.
We were a delegation with 9 students from 8 different cities in Israel. The two students from the same city in Israel were born in two different countries from South America. I’m one of them and Mihal is the other one. We have been studying in Israel since two years ago. Mihal is our direct student ambassador for Yale MUN, and she got us the opportunity to attend this incredible conference and make our dreams come true.
We took two flights and after long hours of preparing for the conference, we arrived in the airport of New York.
We took the local metro (an entire adventure for all of us) and arrived at our hotel, where we stayed for a few days. Each day we visited different places that our eyes will never forget, like the memorial to 9/11, the public library of NYC, buildings of the Jewish community in NY, the United Nations, we had a talk with a Rabbi and an Imam in the embassy of Kosovo, we also had the opportunity to meet with diplomats from the Swiss Mission to the USA, we visited Times Square, we met with the Imam who founded the first Muslim school in the Bronx, we took a ferry to see the Statue of Liberty, a few of us also had the opportunity to met with our relatives… A lot of things, I can’t list them all.
After that we took a train to New Haven to the conference. We had the opportunity to met with a professor from Yale University from Germany who studies Arabic and Arabic old texts. We also met with a law fellow at the university who helps to protect human rights in Gaza. After that we had a little class on Islam with our advisor. During that day we also ate the best pizza of New Haven.
The day of the conference, the was snow everywhere, we were nervous and then it started. We met people from all over the world in that conference. It was a four-day conference. For me it was complex and I learned a lot.
Mihal won the prize for the best photograph sent, and Aviv, a student from Netanya, won Outstanding delegate in an advanced committee with just 10 delegates.
After the conference we had a layover in Italy. We spent 12 hours there and had the opportunity to go the most classic places in Rome. We had dinner at a Jewish Italian restaurant in the Rome Ghetto, and we saw the biggest synagogue that I’ve ever seen.
When we arrived back in Israel we were sad because it was all over too fast. We were also exhausted, we gave our 100% and we made new friends from all over Israel and all over the world.
How Debate for Peace gave me a family when I was alone in Israel
Hey everyone! My name is Mihal Mizrahi and I’m a 16 year old Venezuelan student. Last year I made aliyah by myself in a program called Naale, which brings Jewish teenagers from all around the globe to live in Israel. The program’s name means “Noar Ole Lifnei Orim” which basically translates to “Young people make Aliyah (move to Israel) before their parents”.
So yeah! I live here by myself, don’t worry it’s not as crazy as it sounds: we live in a boarding school and we get to go out on weekends to visit friends or family.
When I got here I felt so lonely, I didn’t want to be here in the first place, even though I knew that was the best decision that my parents could have taken considering Venezuela’s current condition. Life here is pretty hard by itself, and it gets even harder when you don’t have a family, or friends or even the same language and culture.
But then I joined Debate for Peace. It all started when my english teacher proposed to me and another group of girls to join the club of “Model United Nations.” In one of the meetings we had in the club the teacher mentioned that some of us would be selected to join a meeting at the embassy of the Philippines. I still remember that day, I sat alone in the front and I was really nervous, getting there had been such a challenge since I had been learning how to use Israeli transportation (and Moovit was just making everything worse). Everyone there seemed to know each other, but then this really nice girl who sat next to me, her name was Nancy. Nancy and I started talking about a lot of things and somehow the topic of how she was a Muslim came to the surface. I was absolutely shocked, How come I didn’t notice?! I was talking with the “enemy” as if they were my best friends! How come I hadn’t learned anything from all the terrorist attacks against the Jews and everything that i got taught at school?! But Nancy didn’t seem dangerous or anything, she seemed…well… pretty normal.
Then a boy sat next to us, his name was Nico. He, Nancy and I kept speaking about random teenager stuff and Nico mentioned he was from Brazil, Brazil! I couldn’t believe it I was not the only Latino here, I remember screaming at him in Portuguese, Brazil?! I know Portuguese!, he looked at me and asked me where I was from, and I screamed: Venezuela!; Nico told me about how he was Brazilian but he lived all his life in Uruguay, and in that moment it hit me, I had to keep coming to the group, it was the closest thing I had to my home and my friends back in Venezuela, though the idea of being with the enemy didn’t seem very appetizing.
Everything escalated from there, the second meeting was a discussion about the current conflict with Palestine, it was crazy! How could we even be discussing something that was so obvious for me! This was Israel not Palestine, a country built by Jews only for Jews, built up on our stories and only our stories, How could they dare to give their opinion about their issue, Right? WRONG, ABSOLUTELY WRONG. I had lived 15 years in my ignorance, in my own bubble created by the media, by the opinion of the extremists, by what I had learned from school, and then suddenly, BOOM!! that bubble exploded, suddenly, I was not the only one whose family had been expelled from their homeland (in my case the expulsion of Castilla by the Catholic royal family of Spain), suddenly there were others who had lost everything in the Nakba. I was not the only one who had been a minority in the country that they lived in, and I was not the only one with an opinion about this topic. I listened to the stories of the Arab students, who now I called my friends,they listened to mine, and we both realized that we are more than those stories, than those prejudices, that there is more behind our roots or our culture and even our religion, behind all that we were teenagers, human beings, with only one wish, peace.
Those kids, those Arab kids, whom I had misjudged, whom I had been afraid of, became my family (guys if you all see this I love you all), but I’d like to talk specifically about my best friend, Shada Drawshi:
Shada and I met at a delegation that was going to fly to New York City to Yale’s Model United Nations conference. At first I was being distant from everyone, I didn’t know them, yet I had to live with them for 12 days! So I decided to stay with Hanna, a girl from my school whom I had known since 3 years ago when we got to New York. We all ended up sitting together in the train and started sharing stories and many many laughs. Shada and I suddenly ended up talking about our obsession with sunglasses and we became pretty close friends, both of us really clumsy, obsessed with fashion, obsessed with people taking pictures of us, obsessed with Instagram and always happy and in a great mood.
We decided that instead of both Arab girls sharing one bed and both latinas sharing the other bed we would split, so I ended up getting the same bed as Shada, and our friendship resulted from there. We went together side by side all the days, we shopped together, we shared the same money, the same food, we taught each other our respective language. Tt was as if we were twins, we bought the same clothing, we took too many pictures (Sorry Steven for driving you crazy that whole week), we laughed, we cried together and then the trip finally came to an end, but not our friendship.
Shada and I remained in contact, we met many times after that. About two weeks ago her family invited me to spend a weekend at her house. I accepted with pleasure, I was still afraid though, I had never been into an Arab Village, not to mention stayed there for a night, but then I decided it was time for me to get out of my comfort zone, I took a train to Afula and she and her mother received me there, we talked the whole way about the Palestinian and Israeli conflict, and then we got to Iksal, everything was so weird to me, no more signs in Hebrew, everything was in Arabic.
I got down of the car and I got to her house, we talked for a little more while we waited for our phones to charge so we could go out to Nazareth for a little tour. Shada introduced me to her amazing brother and sister, and she showed me many books and pictures in Arabic. To be honest I’m embarrassed to admit how shocked I was when I saw her family was as normal as mine.
And then we took off. Shada took me on a tour through Nazareth, we saw the beautiful churches in there, we saw the city. My favorite part was the International Center Marie de Nazareth, It was a beautiful chapel which is normally full of people, but when we got there it was empty, there was no one there. You could breathe in the peace there, who would believe that a Jewish and a Muslim girl were visiting a Christian place together? We went up on the roof, where we could see the whole city.
Probably the most amazing part was when we went to the Al-Noor Mosque. I got to wear a hijab, and we entered the Mosque with a couple of French families. The Imam received us there with such a warm smile, he was so happy to see that Shada was from Iksal, we told him how I was Jewish and she was Arab, and about Debate for Peace, he was so happy to hear it. He told us how hard his Mosque works in creating the peace between Muslims, Jews and Christians and how close those communities are back there in Nazareth and that “Inshallah” we will have peace in a few years.
After that we went to an Arab cemetery. Shada read some of the gravestones for me (my arabic has to improve) there was one that was dedicated to a “Shahid”, a Martyr. It was impressive for me to learn that not all Shahids are Shahids because they commit a suicide attack. Shada recited a prayer and I explored the place a little bit more. It was impressive how many similarities Judaism has with Islam, we both have simple gravestones, no flowers are allowed, we don’t use coffins and the dead have to be buried as fast as possible, they also have something similar to what we called “Shiva”.
We went for some Arab food which was pretty good and we went to a few more churches in the center of Nazareth, I remember how Shada looked at me and I could see the happiness in her face. She looked at me and told me “Mihal!, Mihal! I’m loving this, please, please let’s go to a synagogue, I want to meet your culture and your religion too.” This lit up my face, my best friend, a muslim! no less, wanted to visit a synagogue! We tried looking for a synagogue close to us but we couldn’t find one sadly. After that we walked for a little more and we saw a mural speaking about the Nakba, Shada translated it for me, and then we met with one of her friends to go to a small coffee shop in the heart of Nazareth, there we tried an amazing chocolate cake arab-style and we read some more about the story of Palestine.
Before we knew it it became dark and we had to go home, we were walking to a bus station when we saw some beautiful arab wedding dresses. Of course as the fashionistas that we are we had to try them on! We went inside the store, and Shada helped me ask in Arabic if I could try on the dress, I did, we laughed with the sales woman some more and then we went back.
In her house we told our adventures to her mother, and we facetimed with my father, turns out he knows perfect Arabic! he was able to speak for a while with Shada, then her father got home and I spoke with him about many things, such an amazing man! We spoke about Venezuela and then he said the most beautiful words someone could say in the spanish language “Mi casa es tu casa, mi familia es tu familia” “My home is your home, my family is your family” and he smiled at me, in that moment my heart felt the fullest that it had felt since I got here, I had a family! An Arab family! and I loved every single one of them.
We sat down to eat some arab pastries that were delicious, my favorite? the Knafee,while we shared our adventures of the day. I never felt so safe and so happy in such a long time. Next day I woke up to a breakfast that consisted of bread with Zaatar, a traditional meal of Pita, cheese and some sort of sauce, kind of like a pizza, chocolates and coffee. The best breakfast that I’ve ever had. Her mother then took us to the train station, I was so sad to leave, I hugged her and I hugged her mother while she whispered to me “You are welcome whenever you want at our house, please come back soon child”, then I left.
I couldn’t have been more thankful, because none of this could have been possible without Debate for Peace, and when I said that I was alone in Israel, I lied. I have this amazing family called “Debate for Peace”, I think the Mihal of the past would have never imagined how far I’d get just for being tolerant and respectful and open to listen to other people and cultures, and I can’t imagine how our country would be if everyone did that! Look at how that changed one person, Imagine a whole nation! Peace is the only road that we will walk by.
This organization inspired me, it inspired my family, it inspired many people, and it will keep inspiring our future generations and orient them towards peace.
To my friend Shada: I love you so much! thanks for changing my life
To Steven: Thanks for creating this amazing organization and for taking me and this whole generation on a road to peace, you are such an inspiration
Hey, my name is Eliran and I an 16 year old from Petah Tikva in Israel. This post is about our delegation to Oxford Global MUN last fall.
On November 15th we arrived in the UK after a nice flight.
We went to our hostel in the middle of the night, so all of us fell asleep during the walking. The weather was cold(very cold!) but even at night the view was amazing.
We woke up very early and we started the day with a very busy schedule: we went to the amazing US embassy building and we met the staff who work on youth engagement and CVE (countering violent extremism), then we went to meet a middle east specialist at the embassy and after that we had a beautiful tour in the embassy building.
After that we went to the Kosovo embassy and we had a great discussion with the Charge d’Affaires (Heronia Telaku) and we ate a good lunch.
We took the train to our Airbnb in Oxford and at this moment we felt the stress… We knew that one of the biggest MUN conferences we have ever done is starting tomorrow and we will do our best in order to achieve an award!
We started the next day with a Juma’a prayer in the Muslim Center of Oxford and from there we went to the conference.
Students from all over the world came! From India, Canada, France and many more countries!
Me and my friends from DFP were very excited! We went to our committees and then the magic started.
The conference was very hard but eventually we all had a lot of fun.
I won’t tell about each one of the days because it was too long but all I can say is that at the end we brought a lot of pride to Debate for Peace because our group got the biggest number of awards!
W E G O T 7 A W A R D S ! ! ! !
Everyone smiled and we were so happy!
After the conference we were hosted in the Jewish community. We visited the most amazing school I have ever seen in my life, “JCOSS“ school and we had some great discussions there with the students.
We toured a lot, we visited the Parliament, we went to the “Conciliation Resources” NGO, to meet the Behavioral insights team, we went back to the synagogue and then we came back home a day after.
This delegation to the UK was the best delegation I’ve ever had in my life.
I loved the UK and the people! I loved the amazing tours and the people we met!
I love the way we had a lot of cultural experiences with my friends and the most important things for me is the I am very happy that I won second place in my committee because it gave me the best excuse to go back next year!
My name is Amit Davidovich, I am a high school student and soon to be 16.
As a teenager, I am always taught by adults to take responsibility.
I am taught to consider every step I take because each decision has consequences. I am taught to take care of others and to contribute as much as possible.
It is all nice, in theory, but these “adults” do not do everything they keep telling me.
When the government does not prevent sales of disposable plastic crockery or does not put too much effort into providing proper public transportation they do not set a good example.
I am part of a generation which will have to deal with all of the difficulties caused by the Climate Crisis. I know that my government has failed its job to take care, to think wisely, to take responsibility for their actions.
A few weeks ago, a Sweden teen named Greta Thunberg, started to strike. Hundreds of thousands joined her all around the world, from Belgium, England and Italy to name just a few countries.
The strike is the protest: we demand more, we require renewable energy; we care about ourselves and our future children.
We, as the Israeli youth are obligated to spread what Greta started, and so we did.
I am part of the leading group here in Israel. We gathered more than 1000 students in the first strike and it is called Strike For Future all around the world.
We will keep protesting until we can assure our future. Within 12 years the world will arrive at a certain point from which there is no way back unless we change ourselves. We all have bad habits, but disregarding the ongoing climate change issue is the worst.
On the yearly Climate March, we marched together, unified and powerful. We were 2000 students demanding a better world, clean air and a better future.
We are not green organizations or activists. We are citizens of the world who unfortunately have to protest for clean air.
This whole journey for me so far has been inspiring. We were heard in places I had never thought I could reach. We understood that it is bigger than conflicts, it is bigger than our country.
We understood we can achieve something which can make an actual difference.
Yes, the last few weeks have been busier than ever. In addition to the protest, we are high school students with all the pressure that comes with that. However, it was satisfying.
We are not done yet, there is still so much work to be done. We will continue to strike and protest till we get what we deserve. We deserve to keep living, to have children, to enjoy the benefits of our amazing planet while respecting and keeping it.
By: Ella Justus Segal, 10th grade student from Israel
In December me, and 12 other students went to Kosovo, with Steven, our advisor and the debate for peace director.
It was my first time flying abroad without my parents and needless to say, I was excited and nervous, not only the nervousness of flying, but also the fear from a model UN conference with university students, and to add some stress, the group of people that went with me, were all new people to me.
I’ve decided to write this blog post because only after I came back I got how much this experience shaped me, shaped me to be a better and wiser person. The friends that I now have from this delegation saw me in my highest and lowest points, and in those moments, that’s what really brought us closer together.
The first day we were all very tired and grumpy from 12 hours of traveling and not enough sleep.
By the second day we got to know each other better and got out of our shells, we had to catch a bus from Albania to Kosovo and we had to walk 40 minutes with suitcases, the first time that we understood that we are a group, and we need to help each other and ignore what we think about the person based on their race, color of their skin etc…
The third day was the first day of the conference and we were all nervous, we calmed each other down and helped each other prepare for the first day.
I can keep listing each day and say what happened that day but I think I can summarize what I want to say without it.
What we experienced was an amazing experience that taught us all patience and care about each other. We learned it by late night conversations about the Israeli Palestinian conflict, by sleeping in the same room with a person that we know little to nothing about, we learnt it with days of traveling and being far from home, with no family that can help us, and in times of crisis we had to talk to each other, to help each other, and care about each other.
When we came back to Israel we were all shocked that those seven days were over so quickly, we hugged and cried in the airport, saying that we will miss each other so much, and in that moment I realized that even though some of them live three hours away from me, they will still be a family to me.
I’ve been searching for the best way to get to know people, and it’s through having a debate with them.
Being in a model Knesset simulation gave me the chance to express my point of view about the Nation state law and the status of minorities as a Palestinian living in Israel. People with different thoughts, ideas and backgrounds were in the same committee trying to explain what they want or what they are hoping for.
We had disagreements because of our different perspectives, but we all agreed on Peace. Which means we’ve done the first step as young leaders who are willing to do more for this world.
MUN has helped me to understand the principle of ”if you judge people you have no time to love them”. I will judge people by the content of their character and by knowing them as a human being, regardless their nationality, religion and beliefs.
Bashaer MUN was a good conference to start with this year, and I’m aspiring to achieve more on the next conferences.