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.
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.
By: Fiona Imperial It was my first time joining an inter-faith and inter-cultural delegation to a Model of United Nations conference abroad. At Model United Nations conferences, people tend to socialize, and multiple times people questioned, “what school delegation do you belong to?” I answered, “I don’t belong to a school delegation, I belong to a delegation that consists of Muslims, Jews, and Christians that debate for peace.” Every time I stated that I belong to such a delegation, there was this hint of surprise on their faces.
The hint of surprise on their faces led me to contemplate why they had such an expression on their faces. After two years of belonging to such organization, it has become conventional to me that we coexist despite the cultural and religious differences. Debate for peace consists of people who set aside the differences between identities and view each other as equal human beings. However, in most settings such model of coexistence and diversity is rare.
It clicked in my mind that the reason why there was this hint of surprise on people’s faces was due to how we defied the norm of polarization based on identities. This realization has made me believe that we are doing something transformative. As an inter-faith and inter-cultural youth delegation, we aspire to establish change for the present and the future. Not only did we end our conference becoming a family, but we strengthened our connections with one another with the common goal: to promote peace, coexistence, and change.
The process of the trip, and the trip itself, all happened in the whim of an eye. I, being a mere MUN ‘trainee’ with no experience at the time, had heard of the MEDIMUN delegation and decided to give it a shot, making my first time a delegate my most memorable experience so far.
Workshops, research, and learning had to be done before the actual delegation. After a few weeks full of that, it was time for us to go to Cyprus. The first night was hard and uncomfortable, I didn’t really know anyone yet and was about to spend the next 3 days with them; the thought of it was a bit scary to be honest.
I learned a lot within the three days that were spent there. A lot that I haven’t realized before as a Palestinian individual. Rather than going into the “Jewish-Arab coexistence, peace, and love” mush, I’d like to write about how talking with the people I’ve spent time with there made me grow a bit as a person; I had a talk with a Catholic and a Jew about belief and similarities in Israeli history in comparison with Palestinian history, I had a talk with a multilingual, potential psychologist about music, languages, and life, I told a girl a series of life stories that had happened to me and it made her laugh, which in turn, made me laugh. I made friends I don’t think I’ll be able to ever let go of. Not to mention the relations that were made with the Jordanian delegation and the Shanghai delegations, who were the two other foreign delegations in MEDIMUN.
If I were asked to go to MEDIMUN with DFP again, I’d do it without thinking twice.
We can learn a tremendous amount from books, but the knowledge that is attainable through those means is limited. There exists a whole other understanding of reality that is impossible to obtain through reading.
One can only be exposed to that reality through personal interactions and experiences. Interactions and experiences like staying up all night and talking with someone belonging to a people that you have been taught to fear and avoid since birth. Interactions and experiences like explaining your perspective to a group of people from a foreign land who probably haven’t even ever met anyone from your country and actually getting positive responses. Interactions and experiences like listening to someone who, according to the media, sits on the opposing side of a conflict with you and actually finding common ground. Interactions and experiences like hearing opinions from real life people from different cultures and different backgrounds instead of just relying on hearing them second-hand through the media and your community.
These interactions and experiences that I encountered on my trip to Cyprus are only the beginning of a long list that completely changed my perspective on the world. I could have stayed at home for those three days and read every single book on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Jewish people, and the Palestinian people, and the information I learned would have been nothing compared to the wisdom I gained in Cyprus. I will never forget this trip, and I will never forget the friends that I made along the way. Not Jewish friends. Not Palestinian friends. Just friends.
When my parents drove me to the airport and asked me if I was excited and happy I told them I was. But in reality I could hear my heart beating so fast, and I started to think about the worst thing that could possibly go wrong during this trip. The moment I walked in the airport and saw the group that I was going to be with the next couple of days I let my judgmental nature take over and I immediately tried to distance myself by sitting on side benches. During the security checks I slowly started to bond with some and by the time we got to the airport terminal we were cracking jokes and my judgement was completely gone.
After our flight and long tiring ride to the apartment, we were shown to our rooms. I shared the room with two Muslim girls and the first night was a little rough given the fact that I didn’t understand Arabic. The next day we had breakfast and rushed to the competition.
When we got to the building we got tags that had our names and the rooms we we’re going to be in during the conferences I got to bond with the Muslim girls and meet new people. Even though the conference was both mentally and physically exhausting, the endless laughs with the girls really got me through it. The next couple of days were defiantly the most meaningful days I’ve had in a long time.
During the weekend we got to meet kids from Jordan and talk about Palestine and its meaning to them. Even though I did not agree with everything that was said, I was open to different point of views and their views mattered to me. I also got to learn a bit more about Islam and its values. I got a chance to know people for who they are.
I think the biggest lesson that I took from this trip is to look at every person as an individual and not judge a book by it’s cover.
On the weekend of February 9-11 I participated in MEDIMUN, a model UN conference in Cyprus. Going into this trip I was completely in the dark, walking into the unknown. I have never been to Cyprus before, never participated in a Model UN conference with MEDIMUN’s procedure, and only met the rest of the Debate for Peace delegation a couple of times before the trip. However, this weekend exceeded all of my expectations, through the long drive from the airport and the intense days at the conference we all stuck together, helped each other, and became one big family.
The majority of the delegates in MEDIMUN were Cypriot, but apart from our delegation there were two other delegations coming from abroad: the Shanghai delegation and the Jordan delegation. On our last night in Cyprus we had dinner with them, but first we met with the Jordanian delegation at their hotel. We were divided into two groups where we had the opportunity to discuss significant topics with very diverse point of views.
My group had to discuss the Palestinian flag. At first I didn’t think I had anything to add to the discussion because how will I, a Jewish girl, have anything to add to this conversation when around me there are people who are much more relevant to the subject. However, as we went around the circle and each person said their opinion I realized that there is no such thing as not being relevant to a topic. That is a great thing Model UN taught me, no matter where you live and what is your ethnic background every topic around the world should be admissible to you. This trip further implemented that ideology into my mind and I hope the next time I feel like I did in that circle before I decided to speak, I would remember this realization.
After the discussion all three delegations went to a nearby restaurant to eat dinner together. Towards the end of the meal a Jordanian girl, a Jewish girl, and I exchanged words regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. During this conversation I noticed that even though we were at opposite sides of the conflict we had similar experiences with people outside of the conflict. This made me relieved, it was proof that we are not different like some claim and that frankly we are more the same than we are not.
This experience has been truly eye opening and I have gained so much knowledge only in that too short of a weekend. I would like to thank Steven Aiello, our director, for giving me this wonderful opportunity, taking 18 teens abroad, and providing us with an intense, but enriching schedule. This couldn’t have happened without your motivation to inspire us to step out of our comfort zone and achieve our full potential.