While tensions were running high at the United Nations,
a successful dialogue project between Arabs and Israeli teenagers cleared the air recently.
On Thursday, September 22, the concluding ceremony for a special joint magazine produced by St. Joseph’s Seminary and High School in Nazareth and Hebrew University Secondary School (Leyada) in Jerusalem was held at the American Center in the capital.
Supported by the American Center, the dialogue project involved 30 10th grade students from both Leyada and St. Joseph, spanning over a 10-month period from 2010-2011.
'Opportunity to look at issues from two sides' (Photo: Buthaina Bishara)
The Muslim, Christian and Jewish students met several times throughout the year. Led by English teachers from both schools, the students toured Nazareth and Jerusalem, learning more about each city and the diverse cultures and traditions that define the country.
The program also included ice-breakers, art activities, a sleepover in the homes of the students in both Nazareth and Jerusalem, a visit to the Ramat Gan Safari, tours of the Old Cities of Jerusalem and Nazareth, and places of worship.
Most importantly, the students worked on creative and personal writings that documented their interactions and feelings of meeting "the other" throughout the project.
"The project gave me the opportunity to look at issues from two sides," said Karny, now an 11th grade student at Leyada.
Radan, an 11th grade student from St. Joseph Seminary, added that "there is a conflict between two nations, but this project brought us together as people, as friends. We discovered that we had a lot more in common as teenagers than what we thought."
Awad, also of St. Joseph Seminary, echoed a similar thought: "We are humans with the same fears and worries for the future. We can build together if we work together."
The event at the American Center opened with the Center’s director, Sri Kulkarni, who addressed the students and their parents. Students and teachers read excerpts from the magazine, "Voices: A Journey Through Our World," which was released to the public for the first time.
The event also featured a round-table discussion, a musical performance by the students, and special appearance by musician and songwriter Ami Yares.
Buthaina Bishara, an English teacher from St. Joseph, described the dialogue experience as difficult in the beginning. “Some of the students were held back by suspicions and doubts. Yet with some open-mindedness and a bit of courage, we overcame those doubts together."
Mona, a parent of a St. Joseph Seminary student, who was part of the project, said that she believed the project was very important for her son. "We want to be friends and live beside each other. But the politicians from both sides make this reality impossible."
Anav Silverman is an educator at Leyada in Jerusalem and one of the coordinators of this project, which also included Leyada teacher, Debora Seigel