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From December 2-9, the second annual Debate for Peace delegation traveled from Israel to Kosovo to attend the KIMUN conference. This year Debate for Peace joined local hosts iChat as co-organizers of Kosovo’s only Model UN conference. In total 13 students, from the Bashaer, Pelech, Kfar Qasem Comprehensive, Oded, Modi’in democratic, Brenner (in Petah Tiqva), and Ironi Hei (Haifa) schools took part in the delegation. In addition to participating in KIMUN, the students also visited Albania and Kosovo and met with local UN and US embassy representatives and religious leaders.

The delegation began its trip in Tirana, where they received a private tour of the BunkArt facility by architect Kreshnik Merxhani. After taking the cable cars up Dajti mountain to enjoy the views, they traveled to the town of Kruje, where they lit candles for the first night of Hanukkah, shopped for crafts, and saw the home of the legendary Albanian national hero Skanderbeg.

 

 

That evening in Tirana the group met with Professor Petrit Zorba, the head of the Albania-Israel friendship association. The meeting was facilitated by the Albanian embassy in Israel. Professor Zorba talked to the students about the connection between Albanians and Jews, including the incredible story of Besa during the Holocaust, and about interfaith relations among Albanians.

On December 3, the group met with the Protik Innovation Center to learn about the startup environment and entrepreneurship in Albania. From there they proceeded to the US Embassy in Tirana, where they learned about some of the bilateral diplomatic and development work in which the embassy is engaged. Later that day the group traveled to Pristina, Kosovo.

The KIMUN conference opened on December 4th, with a panel including the dean of the philosophy department of Pristina university, the minister of sport and culture, and the directors of iChat and Debate for Peace. For the next three days, high school and university students from Albania, Kosovo and Israel grappled with topics including youth unemployment, use of social media to promote tolerance, and expanding trade relations with the European Union. On the final day, the delegates met at the Kosovo Public Administration building to vote on their final draft resolution and receive certificates and awards.

The delegates of Brazil (Layan Rabi), Italy (Ilva Hamzaj), Saudi Arabia (Erna Salihu), and Serbia (Ariella Rose) received Best Position paper awards. In the ECOSOC committee, China (Margalit Bak) and North Korea (Yaari Cohen) were chosen Best Delegates. In the UNGA committee, Iraq (Yonit Vareika) and the United Arab Emirates (Thoma Kristo) were Outstanding Delegates, and Serbia (Ariella Rose) was the Best Delegate. And in the European Council, Italy (Ilva Hamzaj) and the United States (Eliran Ben Yair) were Outstanding Delegates, and the United Kingdom (Ella Justus Segal) was Best Delegate.

On December 6th the delegation also held several meetings. In the morning they visited UNMIK, to learn about how the work of the UN in Kosovo has evolved over time. That afternoon they met with Matt Briggs, Economics officer at the US Embassy in Kosovo. Matt said that he was “impressed by their eagerness and curiosity about a wide range of issues. It was also fascinating to hear their thoughts about Kosovo and to discuss what difficulties face a country that is still working towards increasing its international recognitions.”

The delegation concluded by celebrating shabbat and Hanukkah in Prizren, as well as visiting the Sinan Pasha mosque, the Catholic cathedral, and the Halveti Sufi tekke. Votem Demiri, the head of the Kosovo Jewish community told Diplomacy: “The Jewish Community of Kosovo together with other religious communities and friends had the honor to host the delegation from DebateforPeace in Prizren for the celebration of Shabbat and Hanukkah. As the head of the Jewish Community of Kosovo, I would like to thank Steven [Aiello] for choosing Kosovo/Prizren as a visiting place for the second time. Prizren is the historical capital of Kosovo and it is our little Jerusalem as a city that embraces all the existing religions that lives in harmony during centuries.”

 

Agnessa Jashari, one of the KIMUN organizers from iChat, also expressed her appreciation for ”the amazing students coming from Debate for Peace, Kosovo students and participants coming from other countries as well. Once again we had an amazing experience during KIMUN 2018. Spending five days of the conference with these young leaders was such a pleasure and an unforgettable experience!”

 

Alaa Abu Raya was one of the participants from the Bashaer high school in Sakhnin. She said that the delegation was “an amazing experience that I will always remember, the model UN conference allowed us to meet new people from different backgrounds and make some lifetime friendships which I’m grateful for.”

 

Yaari Cohen, a student from Oded high school in Kadima, added that “The delegation in Kosovo has not only brought us closer together, it did more than that, it feels like with every step that we took together, we brought our countries, closer together."

 

The next Debate for Peace MUN delegations will be to YMUN in Connecticut, USA, and MEDIMUN in Nicosia, Cyprus.

 

Photos by Debate for Peace