OneVoice Europe offers 20 British students a three-day intensive training program on conflict resolution in the Middle East in July.
London, August 27, 2012—Academics, faith leaders and politicians joined OneVoice in London to offer 20 British students a three-day intensive training program on conflict resolution in the Middle East last month.
The sessions, the first of their kind to be organized by OneVoice Europe’s Outreach and Education Program, mirrored the training given to the movement’s youth leaders in Israel and Palestine. The diverse pool of participants, ages 18-26, from across the United Kingdom underwent a vigorous recruitment process to ensure representation of all views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“We've equipped and empowered a group of highly-qualified students with knowledge and skills on this specific issue that would be hard to obtain elsewhere," said Sharon Alsoodani, Outreach and Education Program director."With the potential to take influential positions within their communities and wider society, they embraced OneVoice's pragmatic win-win approach and left with the motivation to mobilize others."
OneVoice Palestine’s Executive Director Samer Makhlouf in Ramallah and OneVoice Israel’s Executive Director Tal Harris in Beersheba joined the students over Skype video conferencing and gave them an introduction on the movement and the grassroots power that fuels its work. This was followed by an open discussion with Rabbi Natan Levy, Canon Robert Reiss, and Imam Usama Hasan on the religious aspects of the conflict.
Sam Gross, an Orthodox Jew, commented how rare it was to see an Imam and a Rabbi interact with respect and understanding on such a controversial topic and felt privileged to have witnessed it.
Sessions with MP Ian Lucas, shadow minister for Middle East and Africa, academic Rory Miller, business leader David Levin, among others, covered everything from the Arab Peace Initiative to the economics of the conflict and the difference between the European Union and the United States on the issues.
“I arrived with preconceptions formed from looking at a single side of the conflict," said Ahmad Bismillah, a 19-year-old student at the London School of Economics. "Now, I realize that several issues like the economy and relations between the US and Europe have to be taken into account.”
Among the perks of the training program was a guided tour of the House of Lords, which the students were treated to after chatting with Lord Michael Levy about the challenges of achieving Middle East peace in the current climate.
On the third day, Debate Mate, a London-based social enterprise, led the sessions with the students. A set of challenging exercises helped the students focus their arguments and develop their public speaking. They then split up the group into two teams to debate such topics as the viability of the two-state solution and military intervention in Syria.
Debate Mate, which also runs international programming in countries such as the Nepal, Israel, Palestine, and the United States, had held successful training sessions with OneVoice’s youth leaders in Israel and Palestine.
Each day ended with a debrief session, allowing the students to reflect on the talks they heard and resolve any concerns. Individuals from different backgrounds were paired together for 30-minute walks to discuss the sessions and try to understand each other’s viewpoints.
OneVoice Europe’s Executive Director John Lyndon gave the closing presentation, highlighting some of the activism of OneVoice’s Israeli and Palestinian offices and injecting a massive dose of inspiration for what's possible when young people collaborate under the banner of conflict resolution.
“Many participants felt inspired by seeing the sheer scale and ambition of OneVoice’s work in the region,” said Lyndon. “They expressed interest in joining our student network to show solidarity with these efforts and help build a network of OneVoice activists from the US to Europe capable of supporting the chapters across Israel and Palestine.”
OneVoice Europe’s student network offers participants additional training, advocacy tools, and reunion activities. The student activists represent OneVoice at speaking and panel events, networking and outreach activities, and help organize Outreach and Education tours across the UK.
Rabbi Natan Levy, Canon Robert Reiss, and Imam Usama Hasan led an open discussion on the religious aspects of the conflict.
OVE's John Lyndon gave the closing presentation, highlighting some of the activism of OneVoice’s Israeli and Palestinian offices and injecting a massive dose of inspiration.