New York, November 3, 2010–The fifth and final International Education Program (IEP) tour of 2010 will commence at the University of Denver in Colorado on Thursday. OneVoice Palestine’s (OVP) Mohammad Asideh and OneVoice Israel’s (OVI) Eliran Eyal will take to the stage as the tour’s keynote youth leaders. The two stopped by OneVoice’s office in New York to introduce themselves.
Speaking with Mohammad, one can’t help but get caught up in the air of altruism he exudes. Mohammad, 23, is from the village of Til, near the West Bank city of Nablus. He graduated from An-Najah National University in Nablus with a bachelor’s degree in political science and aspires to enter regional politics. After giving up early childhood dreams of becoming a Palestinian soccer player, he has made it his mission to make sure that future generations of soccer playing youth have a national team for which to try out.
Mohammad has made the future generations of Palestine the focal point of both his civic service and personal life. His time is dedicated to a number of organizations geared toward improving the lifestyles of Palestinian youth, as well as sharing the responsibility of looking after his three younger brothers and sister. Besides serving as president of OVP’s Youth Council, Mohammad is an active volunteer in the Tomorrow’s Youth Organization refugee camps based in Nablus, as well as being a “Peace Pioneer” for Generations of Peace.
“I like to help children work through the tough experiences they’ve encountered,” he says. “There are so many opportunities in this world that I don’t want children in Palestine to be without, and I wish for them to take advantage of the opportunities I lacked. I want whatever they dream to be within the grasp of reality.”
It is clear that Mohammad is grateful for his role at OneVoice, and takes pride in the fact that he and his fellow OVP Nablus chapter members feel like, “We’re a big family. When I go to [An-Najah] university, we all sit together. Other students know us and that we are from OneVoice,” he states.
Mohammad has found OVP to be a suitable platform from which he can not only effect positive change for the Palestinian people, but nurture his political aspirations as well. His interest in politics stems from an incident in 1998, when the Palestinian Authority rounded up about 45 men, four of which were his cousins, and charged them with supporting opposition leaders. An 11-year-old Mohammad frequently visited his jailed family members and listened to the relentless political conversations that took place from the other side of the bars. The enthusiasm for civic action captured in that cell spread to Mohammad much in the same way he hopes to encourage others to prepare for the future.
“It is very important for an organization like OneVoice to say what needs to be said. We’re not a political party. Our job is not to change minds, but to get people thinking about the future and coming to their own conclusions,” he explains.
The idea of focusing on the future instead of clinging to the past is paramount to the philosophy of both OneVoice members and its programs. This is none the more prevalent than in OneVoice’s Imagine 2018 campaign, aimed to create a more future-oriented discourse among the grassroots. Israelis and Palestinians are being asked to envision what the future will look like if there is a peace agreement versus maintaining the toxic status quo or worse.
“I think the 2018 campaign is very important because it asks people to think about a solution,” he adds. “My vision is for Palestine to become a free democratic state with a healthy economy, airport, and of course, a soccer team.”
Catch Mohammad and Eliran on tour this November, as they bring their message of an end to the conflict at these universities and institutions around Southern California:
University of California, San Diego – November 8, 11:30 am - 1:00 pm (Bear Room, Sungod Lounge)
San Diego State University – November 8, 6:00-8:00 pm (Hepner Hall 130)
University of California, Irvine – November 9, Time TBA (Room TBA)
University of California, Los Angeles – November 10, 6:00-8:00 pm (Dodd 121)
Santa Monica College – November 11, 11:15 am-12:30 pm (LS 103); 3:00-4:30 pm (Math Complex 11)
Occidental College – November 11, 7:30-9:00 pm (Fowler 202)
Leo Baeck Temple – November 12, 6:00 pm (1300 N. Sepulveda Boulevard)