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Seven Debate for Peace students recently returned from the Netherlands, where they participated in the Robert Bosch Stiftung supported project “Your Story, My Story: Creating Empathy through Shared Storytelling”. As part of the project, Jewish and Palestinian youth were paired up and learned one another’s family’s stories of having been displaced from their homes, villages and countries. The project was a collaboration between Debate for Peace, and the Netherlands-based WE organization.

After interviewing one another and their families, the students traveled to the Netherlands to present the stories and their experiences with Dutch youth, educators, and activists. The group included Ahmed (from Mazra village), Eliran (Petah Tiqva), Aviv (Netanya), Sharehan (Be’er Mashish), Eman (Iksal), Roni (Kibbutz Mefalsim), Duna (Maker) and Amit (Petah Tiqva). Their ancestral stories included leaving Libya, Morocco, Iraq, and Syria, legal battles with the government, homes destroyed, being shot at, and years living as itinerant refugees.

The delegation first spoke at the International School of Amsterdam, meeting with several groups of high school students. From there they traveled to Rotterdam, where they presented their stories and participated in a full day MUN simulation at the Rotterdam International Secondary School. After visiting Dordrecht, the delegation traveled to the Hague, where they met with the Number Five foundation to learn about their work on social cohesion and bottom-up problem-solving approaches.

After returning to Amsterdam, the delegation met members of the Mo&Moos group, which facilitates a Jewish-Muslim young professionals network in the Netherlands. Mo&Moos hosted a dinner where members of both groups could meet each other. On their final day, the students visited the Anne Frank House, where they went on a guided tour and had a short discussion about the history of the Frank family. They then presented their stories a final time, for staff and guests of the Anne Frank House. After a very moving presentation and Q & A session, the delegation returned to Israel.

It is believed that this is the first project in which Jews and Palestinians told one another’s stories of diaspora. The project was supported by a grant from the Robert Bosch Stiftung, through Ashoka and Changemaker XChange, as a collaboration between the Netherlands-based WE organization, and Debate for Peace, a US Embassy supported member of the Interfaith Encounter Association.

Photo: Debate for Peace