On the last weekend in April 2017, nineteen teenagers from all over Israel made history. The students, from Gan Yavne, Qalansawa, Modi’in, Taibeh, Gedera and Petah Tiqva, were part of the first Arab-Jewish youth Model UN delegation abroad, to BTMUN, in Botosani, Romania.

The MUN delegation was a joint effort involving the Debate for Peace program and Dr. Dalia Fadila’s Q-School program. Students spent weeks preparing to debate topics such as Kurdish rights to self-determination, the Rohingya Muslims, endangered languages, reliable reporting in an age of “fake news,” and simulated crises like the discovery of an anti-aging elixir. The Israeli delegation represented Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The conference was hosted by the A.T. Laurian High School.

 

In addition to the conference, the delegation met with representatives of the local Jewish community. A century ago Botosani was more than 50% Jewish. Today, there are less than 100 Jews left. However they still hold Sabbath services in a magnificent synagogue from 1834 which still features the original artwork.

After three days of speeches, debates, negotiations and resolution-writing at BTMUN, the closing ceremony was held. Students were recognized for their diligent preparation and leadership during the conference. Omri Raz (representing Turkey in UNESCO), Alon Mor (Pakistan, UNESCO) and Shaimaa Hoji (Pakistan, Human Rights Committee) received Honorable Mentions, Almog Vilder (Turkey, Human Rights) won the “POI Master” award, Omer Sharir (Egypt, ECOSOC) won the “Most Relentless” award, Oz Alfy (Turkey, Crisis Committee) won third Best Delegate award, and Tomer Dovzenko (Turkey, Political Committee) won the Best Delegate award, highlighting the hard work put in to the conference preparation and participation.

 

 

For the students, who were all participating in their first international conference, this was an important learning experience. Ali Akaik, a 15 year old Q-School student from Taibeh, told Diplomacy that he found the experience to be empowering, and that he had “come to Botosani to learn,” calling it “an experience that we will never forget.”

Photo credits: Ilyse Ben Zagmi and BTMUN staff

Steven Aiello, founder of the Debate for Peace MUN program (debateforpeace.wordpress.com).