New York, September 30, 2010—OneVoice Israel (OVI) youth leader Danny Shaket and OneVoice Palestine (OVP) youth leader Ahmad Omeir participated in a panel discussion on Wednesday at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, titled “Envisioning the Two-State Solution: Young Political Leaders from Israel and Palestine.”
Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Middle East program, moderated the event as Danny and Ahmad addressed 40 academics, journalists, and members of various think tanks and non-governmental organizations. Reporters from the U.S.-funded Arabic television station Alhurra TV attended the event and interviewed Ahmad and Danny.
As the youth leaders shared their personal stories of growing up in the conflict, Shaket spoke of the bombing of his hometown of Netanya during the second intifada, which began in September 2000, while Omeir described how he witnessed the death of his friend. Neither Danny nor Ahmad made assumptions about the other one’s life.
“We live different lives,” said Danny. “We are working toward the same goal of peace, but I will never understand Ahmad’s experiences.”
This honesty and willingness to listen to the narrative of the other side was most effective in reaching the audience, as they remained attentive throughout.
“This kind of event touches people’s heart," said Professor Elavie Ndura-Ouedraogo of George Mason University and fellow at the Wilson Center. "The conversations shaped and inspired by personal experiences are not always known and familiar to the broader audiences.”
Despite the pain they endured, Ahmad and Danny were encouraged to become involved with OneVoice so they could help bring about a change within their respective societies.
“OneVoice encourages people to integrate dialogue and discussion,” said Ahmad. He stated that both Israelis and Palestinians are working together in parallel, but from the nationalistic aspirations of their respective people.
Ahmad and Danny emphasized that one of the biggest struggles that both sides face are from the extremists. “The conflict is not between Israelis and Palestinians," said Danny. "It is between the extreme groups on both sides.” It is for this reason that there is the need for the type of dialogue that OneVoice advocates among moderate Israelis and Palestinians.
“It’s heart-warming to see young leaders take the lead and take charge in shaping a future where we validate every human being in which we live,” said Professor Ndura-Ouedraogo, as she displayed the appreciation of the audience for Danny and Ahmad’s work.