New York, November 21, 2012 – The last International Engagement Program (IEP) tour of the fall semester is in the books, and OneVoice Israel youth leader Shai Parnes visited university campuses and community organizations around Northern California from November 12-16. Shai was kind enough to talk to OneVoice about his time on tour.
OneVoice: Why did you come on tour to the U.S.?
Shai: I came to the United States through the International Engagement Program because I believe that the U.S. – and the entire international community – plays an important role in this conflict and has the capacity to influence it greatly. I believe that if the American people would press their leadership and elected officials in Washington to help us pressure our leaders to work on the two-state solution there is a better chance that we can in live in peace.
OneVoice: Did you face any challenges that came up during the tour that you weren't expecting?
Shai: Actually, not really. There were some tough, but fair questions, and audiences were very polite and respectful of each other. They could have yelled and screamed at us and each other because they are so passionate about what they believe, but they didn’t. People see us [Obada and I] representing our respective communities, therefore they have the opportunity to ask us questions and see the two-state solution before their eyes.
OneVoice: Do you believe your audiences left their events feeling engaged and motivated? How did they show this?
Shai: I was inspired by many members of our audiences throughout the tour. People came up after and wanted to know more about the Movement and I can see that some gradually saw that we at OneVoice are not picking sides in this conflict. Many people signed the petition; others said they would talk to student associations and organizations to see if they can do more to help our cause on their campuses. And actually, one student from a university not on our tour found out about it and decided to join us in Santa Cruz. All in all I believe they took a lot away from our tour.
OneVoice: How can you apply your experience on this tour to your work on the ground in Israel?
Shai: These days, people are very concerned with what is going on in Israel right now: the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza. Our audiences remained respectful and they actually listened. I learned the most from my Palestinian colleague, Obada, because now I can answer with more certainty questions that Israelis ask me about ordinary Palestinians and about their needs and desires. It was a great learning experience.