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On February 9th 2018, a Debate for Peace delegation, including 18 students from a variety of schools and backgrounds, arrived at the European University of Cyprus to participate in the 3-day conference of the Mediterranean Model United Nations. Each of the students participated in a different General Assembly or special committee, and represented a different country (Albania, Germany, India, Mozambique, Nicaragua, and Thailand).

The students had the opportunity to make allies, deliver speeches, and vote for or against resolutions. More importantly though, they had the opportunity to see things from the perspective of their allocated country, which gave them a better insight to how the United Nations function and how each delegate makes decisions based on the prosperity of his country or his allying Nations.

The topics discussed in each General Assembly ranged from the question of autonomous weapons systems, measures to preserve endangered languages in the face of globalization, to a simulation of the proceedings of the Security Council in 2001, the year of the fateful attacks 9/11.

During the Opening ceremony, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education and Culture, Mrs. Egli Pantelaki, took the opportunity to highlight the importance of learning outside the classroom, stating that knowledge acquired during such methods of learning is often in times deeper and more long-lasting. She also commented on the role of the MEDIMUN conference in creating active citizens, who fight for a better tomorrow, one without any extremities.

 

 

As the conference continued, the students also had the opportunity to hear speeches by various professionals who operate in Cyprus, in fields such as Bio-ethics and Child Safety Organisations for abused children. These speeches helped the students gain a better understanding of how measures of resolving problems can be applied in real-life scenarios, and what limitations often exist.

Throughout the conference, students further enhanced their debating and public speaking skills. Sharehan Aloqaily, who participated in General Assembly 1, said that she felt “proud to be a part of MEDIMUN, which is much like Debate for Peace. It brings together the youth from around the world to make a positive change in their community, in order to achieve their goal to live in peace and equality.”

Arielle Lieberman, who participated in General Assembly 4, said that “this is my first international conference, so I find it really amazing to be meeting people from all over the world, including Cyprus, Shanghai and other places, which is really cool. The topics that we are dealing with are really interesting and from what I could tell for each topic a country was able to have a different opinion on each topic and there were no similar remarks. The people here I feel are very good at MUN, they know what they are doing so it’s been really fun because I’ve been learning yet also participating.”

She also added that the conference equipped her with valuable skills, stating that “I personally came in here not knowing how to write resolutions and now I feel like I’ll walk out of here with excellent resolutions and go to all the conferences in Israel. I feel like I gained a lot of skills that I didn’t have before coming here and people are cooperative and ready to help you if you need it. So having those two things together and also people from all around the world is a really amazing experience.”

Following the first day of the conference, the delegation had a discussion and Q&A session with Mr. Aleem Siddique, the spokesperson for UNFICYP. After meeting the group, Mr. Siddique told the delegation: “I was inspired to meet so many young people from such diverse backgrounds interested to learn about the work  of the United Nations. There is a great deal of opportunity for bright and inquiring young minds to apply themselves to the most critical of questions facing our world today. I hope you will continue to ask difficult questions and demand action for people living in the shadow of conflict across the world. Congratulations on your participation with the Model UN!”

 

 

On Sunday, the Plenary Session took place, where resolutions from all the different General Assemblies were debated, giving the delegates the chance to express their opinions on issues discussed by other committees.

The conference then came to a close with a motivating speech by UNFICYP Force Commander Major General Mohammad Humayun Kabir, who stressed the importance of the United Nations in resolving international conflicts and in preventing wars from breaking out. He also highlighted the fact that although the 21st century has brought about many useful technological advancements, it has also brought about some very serious problems, such as the situation in Yemen, the Syrian war and refugee crisis, global warming and water scarcity. He said that such problems cannot be tackled by one country on its own, and went on to underline the significance of international cooperation.

The Debate for Peace delegation to MEDIMUN was planned in cooperation with the Embassy of Cyprus in Israel, and included a preparatory session with Ambassador Salina Shambos. Ambassador Shambos told the group when they returned that after meeting Debate for Peace students in the summer, she was “delighted to observe that students like yourselves debate, negotiate and aim to resolve the most difficult and pressing challenges in international relations as a perfectly unisoned team.  It is this conciliatory team spirit that gave me the idea that DfP participate at the Mediterranean Model UN (MEDIMUN) in Cyprus  - something that I'm happy to learn proved to be an amazing experience.” Ambassador Shambos further encouraged them to stay motivated and driven as they helped build a better future: “I hope you carry the torch of a different, better reality with you, throughout your lives. You are the shapers of your future. Make it your own. You have Cyprus' unwavering support.”

Debate for Peace is part of the Interfaith Encounters Association.

 

Read more about Debate for Peace here: debateforpeace.wordpress.com

 Photo credits: Debate for Peace and MEDIMUN

 

From October 19-21, Debate for Peace led a special Arab-Jewish student delegation from Israel to the European Parliament. The trip was centered around a conference organized by the European Platform for Middle East Dialogue (EPMED) and the Peace Action, Training and Research Institute of Romania (PATRIR). In addition to the European Parliament, the delegation visited the Atlantic Treaty Association, the Brussels Parliament, and the European Institute of Peace, and met with local students and Jewish community groups.

 

Israel, Japan, Jordan and the PA opening path to peace

 

The development and construction of the industrial zone is a result of the Israeli-Jordanian-Palestinian initiative in what has been defined as the ‘Corridor for Peace and Regional Growth.’

 

 Japanese State Minister for Foreign Affairs Kentaro Sonoura, on Wednesday, 7 September 2016, at the Oasis Hotel in Jericho, is due to chair a meeting of Israeli, Japanese, Jordanian and Palestinian Authority (PA) representatives on expanding the Jericho industrial zone, which is being built with financing from the Japanese government, and paving a new road in the Jordan Valley – parallel to Road #90 – to facilitate the rapid and efficient transport of goods between the industrial zone and the Allenby Crossing to Jordan.

 

The four-way meeting is being held in continuation of Deputy Regional Cooperation Minister Ayoub Kara's recent meeting with the Japanese Foreign Ministry Deputy Director General for Middle East Affairs at which the continued development of the industrial zone and the Deputy Minister's recent tour of the zone – accompanied by Japanese Ambassador to Israel Koji Tomita as well as Jericho Gov ernor Majed al-Fityani and representatives of the JAIP, PA and Coordinator of Activities in the Territories – was discussed. Plans for developing the existing industrial zone and paving the new designated access road were also discussed as were Deputy Minister Kara's proposals on solutions to the security and infrastructure delays that have stymied the work.

 

The development and construction of the industrial zone is the product of work done in recent years led by the Regional Cooperation Ministry with the assistance of the Japanese government, which has expressed great interest in the Israeli-Jordanian-Palestinian initiative in what has been defined as the "Corridor for Peace and Regional Growth." The expedited work by Deputy Minister Kara and the Regional Cooperation Ministry staff with the various sides led to the progress that was achieved in the past month which, in turn , has made possible this week's four-way meeting. The meeting is due to be the last before the start of work on the new road.

 

Last week, during his participation in "Global Water Week" events in Sweden, Deputy Minister Kara updated Arab state, European and US representatives on progress in building the Jericho industrial zone; the representatives applauded the measure. The Regional Cooperation Ministry will – on behalf of the Government of Israel – continue to lead the work – with Japan, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority – on expanding the industrial zone and paving the new road as part of an industrial and free trade center.

 

Deputy Regional Cooperation Minister Ayoub Kara: "I am pleased by the significant progress in the project which is due to assist in strengthening commercial links between, and the economies of, countries in the region, especially Jordan and Israel itself. Cooperation for the welfare of residents of the region is a significant tool in defeating religious extremism and advancing peace processes between us and our neighbors. The designated industrial zone will serve as an important catalyst in boosting regional trade which will lead to greater stability and continued economic growth."

 

Photo Deputy Minister of Regional Cooperation Ayoob Kara. Image courtesy Knesset channel webcast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On November 20th, the US Embassy’s American Center opened the first conference of the year for the Debate for Peace Model United Nations program. The conference included 80 Jewish and Muslim high school students from more than ten cities and a dozen schools around Israel. The students had five hours to resolve challenging conflicts in Afghanistan and Somalia, while representing their assigned countries. 

 

Students attending the conference came from schools in Sakhnin, Baqa al-Gharabiya, Tira, Petah Tiqva, Givatayim, Yafo, Modi’in, Gedera, Gan Yavne and Yavne. For many of the students it was their first time participating in an MUN conference, or an interfaith event of this kind. 

 

The Debate for Peace (DfP) program is run in partnership with the Interfaith Encounters Association (IEA) and the Jerusalem Peacebuilders (JPB) and is the only Model UN conference series in Israel that is free for participants. The conference on November 20th, in addition to being hosted by the American Center, was sponsored by Citizens Diplomacy Initiatives (CDI), a Florida-based NGO that works to connect Israeli, Palestinian and American citizens.

 

During the conference, students represented a range of countries and made speeches, debated, and negotiated in their effort to address the conflicts in Afghanistan and Somalia, following rules modeled after the UN rules of procedure. Both groups managed to pass resolutions before the awards ceremony that marked the end of the day. 

 

Yehuda Stolov opened the awards ceremony, explaining to the students that they were now IEA members, and were welcome to participate in and initiate future events. Mayor Lauren Poe spoke next on behalf of his delegation from Gainesville, Florida. Although this was his first visit to Israel, Mayor Poe promised that there would be more and invited the students to visit Gainesville and interact with MUN students in Florida. Steve Kalishman then explained about CDI’s efforts in bridging between Israeli, Palestinian and American citizens, and the importance in being willing to take risks to make peace. 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Michael Snowden, political counselor at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, spoke to the students on behalf of the American Embassy. Mr. Snowden shared insights from his own career as a diplomat, including time spent at the UN headquarters in NYC. He encouraged students considering careers in diplomacy to pursue their dreams, and said that the skills gained through MUN could help everyone in their personal and professional lives.

 

During the awards ceremony, outstanding participants from each committee were recognized (Aya Abu Mokh, Adan Masri and Alon Mor in the Somalia committee and Oded Riftin, Gabrielle Imperial, Ben Hami and Tomer Dovzhenko in the Afghanistan committee). In addition, one student from each school received a Best of Delegation Award.

 

At the end of the ceremony, Jack Karn made an important announcement on behalf of the Jerusalem Peacebuilders. He announced that the JPB would be offering full scholarships to DfP MUN students to attend JPB interfaith leadership camps in the US this summer (held in Connecticut, Houston and Vermont). Jack announced the five students who were chosen based on their participation at the conference, with another two dozen to be chosen at upcoming conferences.

 

Feedback from the participants, teachers and guests was overwhelmingly positive. Many of the students had been apprehensive or intimidated going into the event, but all came away with smiles (along with Certificates of Participation and gifts from the University of Florida). Sean Yona, from Yachad Modi'in, said that beforehand "I didn't know what to expect, and I was scared. When I got there, I saw that everybody felt the same way, and that it was most people's first time too. Everyone was very friendly, and the chairs were helpful." Carmel Kenneth, a student at Ort Rabin in Gan Yavne, agreed: "It was my first time in a Model UN, and I had a lot of fun. I think it gives a lot of experience for life, in debating and making new friends." 

 

Omri Weinstock, who chaired the Somalia committee, said "This conference was an important milestone for me, in the extraordinary journey of Model United Nations." His counterpart Sana Zahalka, who chaired the Afghanistan committee, seconded the sentiment, saying "I enjoyed chairing a lot of amazing, eloquent delegates...one of the best days of my life."

 

The next DfP conference will be held in January, in Baqa al-Gharabiya. For more information and to register for conferences, please visit the DfP website:  https://debateforpeace.wordpress.com/

Written by Steven Aiello,

Director, Debate for Peace program

 

Photos  Jack Karn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Former President Shimon Peres and Michael Douglas held discussion before hundreds of young Jewish leaders

 

Michael Douglas to Shimon Peres about the threats against Israel:

 

"I am very concerned about the development of nuclear weapons in the region and the threats of boycotting Israel"

 

When asked by Douglas about his opinion on the BDS movement, Peres expressed “The Boycott is an anti-peace movement. The only solution that would guarantee stability for both peoples is the two state solution".

 

Laughter was heard after Douglas revealed his age and Peres called him "a baby"


"You're 70 years old, for me you are still a baby and have all the future ahead of you"

 

Former President Shimon Peres and Genesis Prize Laurate Michael Douglas appeared before hundreds of young Jewish leaders at an event held at the Peres Center for Peace. The special meeting was entitled "Jewish voices talk peace" with the participation of former President Peres, Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky and Michael Douglas.

 

Douglas said about the attempted boycott against Israel and the threat of Iran developing nuclear weapons: "I am a UN ambassador for peace and I would like to say that from my experience the biggest problem in the world are nuclear weapons. However, I am optimistic when I look at former President Peres. I know that the world can lead to good directions, but I'm still very concerned."

 

Douglas took advantage of the opportunity of being asked what he would say if he could address the knesset, saying "I respect the fact that I am not Israeli, but I am very concerned about the attempts of boycotting Israel and I am not comfortable with the response at the moment. I hope that the Knesset parties will overcome internal differences and work together".

 

Former President Peres called Jewish youth to represent Israel in the world and continue to support the peace process: "Peace is the vision of the greatest majority of the people in Israel and most of the world supports it. Only through peace will we create two independent and free states, and we must not ignore that. We must negotiate with those who disagree with us to make compromises. We have to be brave and never lose hope. ”

 

Addressing Iran, Peres added that the world should join forces to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons

 

"The problem is that the regime wants to have nuclear weapons while threatening Israel's existence. We must prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and it is better to do it with a coalition than alone. There is an existing coalition that President Obama built with other countries and all options are on the table. Of course if Iran can be dissuaded to abandon its nuclear program diplomatically it would be better, but we are not ruling out any options. "

 

Douglas: "I am always amazed at how many Jews are not in Israel- the most important thing is to come here and feel Israel. Everyone has his own narrative, and I encourage all of you to find your Jewish narrative and keep it in the future.

 

Before the event, Douglas took a tour of the Peres Center with Shimon Peres, in which Peres talked about Israel being a Start-Up Nation as well as the current coexistence situation in Jaffa that reflects the tolerance and mutual respect between people of different religious backgrounds.

 

It should be noted that the Genesis Prize aims to recognize outstanding individuals who have a global reputation in their field their activities, in addition to their achievements embodying the character of the Jewish people through commitment to Jewish values, community and / or the State of Israel. The Prize recognizes Jewish values and contribution to the improvement of humanity.

 

 

 

 Photos Silvia Golan