Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Right Way (to go)

Israeli and Palestinian Teens Mix at MEET
Felice Friedson, Arieh O'Sullivan
The Media Line
August 4, 2010 - 12:00am

Most people don’t believe Israeli and Palestinian high school students can get together and get along. But a summer program in Jerusalem proves they can.

For four weeks this summer, 100 Palestinian and Israeli students cross paths as they learn not only basic science and business skills, but also how to communicate with the other in a unique program aptly called MEET – Middle East Education through Technology.

“It was a great opportunity in MEET to meet Israelis and see their point of view,” said
Rawan Abu Lafi, a 16-year-old Palestinian junior from Shuafat, a neighborhood bordering Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Ramallah.

“It was a great opportunity to meet Palestinians,” chimed in Adam Ochayon, 17, from the Israeli town of Mevaseret and a fellow participant in the program.

MEET is a private initiative set up in 2004 by Israelis and Palestinians who met as students abroad and dreamed of creating a “social start-up” that would engage youths from both sides.

“I had to fly over oceans to meet people who lived 10 minutes away from me [in Israel].
We created relationships and a feeling that changed the way I looked at the world and my ability to solve problems. It made it very clear to me that we had to create a generation for whom the reality was very different,” said Anat Binur, founder and member of the executive board, who grew up in the Israeli town of Herzliya.

Fellow board member Abeer Hazboun, a native of Bethlehem in the West Bank, said the aim was not necessarily to make the students best friends, but to teach them to work as partners.

“We wanted to create an alternative model for classical conflict resolution and try to bring students who we believe have the potential to be leaders in the future and invest in them, empower them, educate them, provide them with skills of 21st century,” Hazboun said.

Meeting at the computer labs donated by Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Givat Ram campus, 100 high school sophomores, juniors and seniors spend four weeks in intensive computer and business studies.

The first year of the three-year program focuses on computer systems, using JAVA software. The second and third year also include business development. It costs about $5,000 per student, who all receive a full scholarship.

The rigorous selection process involves testing, group dynamics and personal interviews where students must show their commitment to the three-year program. Only 44 are accepted out of 530 applicants. Including returning second and third year students, there are 100 participants. The budget is $800,000 a year provided by MIT, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Al-Quds University, various foundations and Israeli and Palestinian donors.

[For more details, go "google" MEET, Middle East Education through Technology]