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On Thursday evening, June 13th, Debate for Peace celebrated a year of impressive achievements with a reception at the home of the Cultural Attache of the US Embassy, Elizabeth Fritschle. Dozens of students and teachers from the program were joined by diplomats and civil society leaders for an evening dedicated to youth empowerment, intercultural communication, and peace-building.


In tribute to the youth empowerment theme, the evening was student-led, with Michael Backlund, Neven Atawna, and Tal Zaidman introducing the speakers. After opening remarks from CAO Fritschle and Debate for Peace director Steven Aiello, four speakers were called up to present from the Empathy Storytelling project. Eliran Ben Yair, Sharehan Alwakily, Amit Weinstock, and Eman Otman each presented their Jewish or Palestinian partner’s story in passionate monologues. After all four had spoken, the floor was opened for questions from the audience.


Following the storytelling session, Eiman Darawshi, an English instructor and Model UN coordinator from Iksal high school, spoke about the impact that she has seen from Model UN on her students. She noted, in particular, her students who had been able to travel abroad, Shada Darawshi to Yale University for an MUN conference there, and Eman Otman to the Netherlands with the storytelling project.



An abbreviated Youth Moot Court simulation was then held, showcasing a project in which several Debate for Peace students participated. The moot court is one of several youth empowerment projects run by Avi Omer’s Social Excellent Forum, a close partner of Debate for Peace.


Following the presentations, Debate for Peace members were called up to receive awards for hard work and outstanding performance throughout the year. The students who received awards were Alon Mor, Amit Weinstock, Aviv Hanuka, Eliran Ben Yair, Eman Otman, Hannah Zohn, Mihal Mizrahi, Sharehan Alwakily; and Yafa Nassar. In addition to Jewish and Palestinian students visiting one another’s homes, some of the projects they worked on this year included organizing iftaar (breakfast meal) for hospitalized children from Gaza; presenting in their schools about what they’ve learned through Debate for Peace programming; presenting in Jewish schools about the perspective of Arab students as minorities in Israel, and a forum for Jewish and Arab students to meet, first discussing social topics online, and then meeting in person.


Steven Aiello, Director of Debate for Peace, told Diplomacy that “this program is changing lives and building future leaders. This year we engaged over 1,000 students and led six delegations abroad, and we couldn’t have done it without the continued support of the US Embassy in Israel!” He added his gratitude for Silvia Golan and the Diplomacy news portal www.diplomacy.co.il for providing coverage of Debate for Peace conferences and delegations throughout the year.


Photos by David Azagury US Embassy ( more pics at  https://www.facebook.com/diplomacy.israel  )