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This August, a Debate for Peace delegation visited California for the first time. Sharehan Alwakily (Be’er Mashish), Amalia Cedar Kellner (Tel Aviv), Baraa Massalha (Daburiya), and Yafa Nassar (Arraba) spent a week meeting with interfaith activists, youth organizations, and community leaders, presenting their perspectives after a year of Debate for Peace activities and an intensive two-week interfaith experience at the Jerusalem Peacebuilders camp in Houston, Texas.

The four girls are some of the most active members of Debate for Peace. Following 12 days of teambuilding, interfaith and intercultural learning, and environmentalism studies with Christian, Jewish and Muslim peers, they flew to San Francisco to present Debate for Peace in the Bay Area for the first time. The visit to the Bay Area was facilitated by the JCRC-SF, and its Invest in Peace program.


On the first day, the group met with the Islamic Network Group (ING) for an in-depth discussion of the challenges that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict poses, and the role that youth can play in changing the paradigm. That evening they were hosted for dinner at Congregation Etz Chaim in Palo Alto, for an hour of discussion. Afterwards, they joined an interfaith text-based study.

After a day of tourism, the group toured the Alice 97.3 radio station,where they were interviewed and had lunch with talk show host Hooman Khalili. The group then attended an interfaith gathering held in their honor, where they introduced themselves and answered  questions.



On Thursday, August 16th, the JCRC hosted a meeting to introduce Debate for Peace to community members. The students sat on a panel, presented an overview of the organization, and were available for questions from the audience. From there they continued to Project Level, an after school program that teaches youth entrepreneurship and empowerment through the arts. The Debate for Peace delegation met with Project Level organizers and student leaders and shared ideas on youth leadership and empowerment. Afterwards they participated in a round-table discussion with activists from local African-American and Latino communities. The full day program concluded at Temple Beth Abraham in Oakland, with an introduction from the JCRC, and a debate presentation by Debate for Peace members, along with a Q & A.

On the last day of meetings, the Debate for Peace delegation met with the San Francisco Youth Commission and the San Francisco Youth Council Human Rights Mission for a discussion on how youth can contribute to improving the world.


Karen Stiller, Director of the Middle East project for the JCRC told Diplomacy that it was a tremendous privilege spending a week with student leaders from Debate for Peace. “They brought a fresh sense of optimism,” she said, “despite the challenges their societies face, and were a credit to the organization’s unique work to bring together future leaders to directly discuss the most controversial issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I felt a lot more hope for a peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians after a week with Yafa, Sharehan, Amalia and Bara’a.”

Debate for Peace director Steven Aiello expressed his deep appreciation for the local hosts, especially the Liron-Kahn family, and the JCRC, for their support. He added that he was proud of the students for helping to showcase the diversity of views and backgrounds that make up Debate for Peace to new communities.

Debate For Peace is a unique conflict resolution and youth empowerment program for Israeli and Palestinian teenagers of all backgrounds. Debate for Peace is part of the Interfaith Encounter Association, and supported by the US Embassy in Israel.

See more here: https://debateforpeace.wordpress.com/


Photos by JCRC