The first Debate for Peace delegation to the United Kingdom took place from November 15-21. Thirteen students from eleven town and cities competed in the Oxford Global MUN conference, with six winning awards. In addition to the conference, the delegates met diplomats, NGOs, think-tanks, visited the Parliament, attended Juma’a (Friday) prayers, and presented their diverse views for local Jewish communities.
After arriving in London on November 15, the delegation visited the US Embassy in London, for a private briefing and tour of the building. They visited the Embassy of Kosovo next, where they met Heroina Telaku, the Chargé d'Affaires of the Embassy, and learned about some of the unique experiences and challenges that Kosovo diplomats face. Following the embassy visits, they met with two members of the Quilliam counter-extremism think-tank and had an interesting discussion about the process of radicalization, and steps to address it.
The next day the Debate for Peace group joined the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford for their Friday morning prayers and sermon. That evening they also joined the Oxford Jewish Center for Shabbat dinner.
Of course, the focal point of the trip was the Oxford Global MUN conference. After much preparation and three intense days, the students were rewarded for their efforts, with six of them winning awards: Alon Mor (delegate of Comoros), Forat Nassar and Tal Madar (Nepal), Yafa Nassar (United Kingdom), Eliran Ben Yair (United Arab Emirates), and Aviv Hanuka (Guinea).
Owen Rapaport, the Secretary-General of Oxford Global, told Diplomacy that “Having Debate for Peace attend was a pleasure not only because of their significant contribution to the conference (demonstrated in their awards and the overwhelmingly positive remarks their chairs made about them), but also because we here at Oxford Global believe deeply in the mission of the organization. Being a small part of forwarding dialogue through MUN, for Debate for Peace and for others, was truly our greatest achievement over these three days.”
Following the conference, the delegation returned to London, where they stayed with the New North London Synagogue community. They spent a full day at JCOSS, the Jewish community secondary school, presenting and answering questions from the students.
In London, the delegation also met with several more NGOs and think-tanks, including Conciliation Resources and the Behavioral Insights team. Later they visited the Parliament and observed some of the debates there. At their final event, the Debate for Peace students was hosted by the New North London Synagogue for a program with local Jewish youth.
Niki Jackson, Director of Education at the synagogue, told Diplomacy: “It was a joy to watch our teens grapple with difficult subjects about identity and Israel in a constructive way. It challenged a lot of their pre-conceptions and provided a fantastic forum for discussion and debate. There was a wonderful vibe in the Shul that night as they chatted, debated and sometimes disagreed but all within a safe and supportive framework.“
Hettie, a teen member of the synagogue who helped host students from the delegation, added that “Meeting the Israeli and Palestinian teenagers was really interesting and enjoyable. I learnt new things about their lives and their own political opinions. It was an experience that I am so pleased to have been a part of and the things I learnt will stay with me forever.”
Debate for Peace is part of the Interfaith Encounter Association and supported by the US Embassy.