Joint Leadership for Peace: Israelis and Palestinian youth met in Nazareth for a weekend seminar

On May 6-7, the Geneva Initiative brought together 18 Palestinian and Israeli young political activists for two days of lectures, discussions and joint work in the city of Nazareth. The weekend seminar focused on key issues of the conflict and solutions proposed by the Geneva Initiative, and provided participants with detailed knowledge and a toolkit for promoting the two-state solution. 
Our carefully selected Participants are all inspiring young activists: youth leaders, educators, party activists as well as media professionals. They are all highly motivated and politically active, and engage on a daily basis with diverse Israeli and Palestinian communities from across the political spectrum. Now that they have the necessary knowledge and tools, the group is better equipped to effectively advocate for the two-state solution within the Palestinian and Israeli political systems and discourses.   
 
For many of the participants, this was the first time they have met someone from the other side, notwithstanding their short and often very negative interaction at checkpoints. Despite the language barrier (which they overcame thanks to plenty of patience and the help of some Arab-Israeli participants who are fluent in both Arabic and Hebrew), the participants were able to immediately bond with each other. By the second day, we could see Israelis and Palestinians who have never met before engaging in open and candid discussions on their daily lives and political activities, and trying to come up with ways to stay in touch and work together on promoting peace. 
 
The seminar opened with presentations by Nidal Foqaha, Director General of the Palestinian Peace Coalition; and Dan Rothem, Senior consultant for the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Peace. Nidal (who is Palestinian) presented the Israeli narrative to the conflict, while Dan (who is Israeli) presented the Palestinian narrative. Participants were then asked to share their thoughts on the presented narratives and the tensions between the two, and talk about how these relate to them and their own experiences. The purpose of this exercise was to inform participants on the two national narratives, but it also served to show how national narratives are themselves extremely complex structures, that contain a multitude of perspectives.
 
Working together on creating new peace promoting initiatives 
 
The seminar continued with a series of lectures by experts. For example, Shiri Levines, co-director of "Mind the Conflict" and co-founder of "Women Wage Peace", talked about how Israelis and Palestinians can move from a 'conflict to a conciliation state of mind' by increasing their societies' awareness to the many biases and psychological barriers that affect them.  
 
Later, participants worked in mixed Palestinian-Israeli groups to create new and creative initiatives for promoting the two-state solution. From bringing Palestinians and Israelis together for a short after-work meeting so that both can learn about the other side's point of view and experiences, to creating a new social media peace platform – participants came up with amazing new initiatives they will now work together to carry out. In the upcoming months, the Geneva Initiative will be there to guide them and help them make these ideas a reality. 
 
At the end of the seminar, one Palestinian participant said: "I wish our leaders were here to see how easily and freely Palestinians and Israelis can talk to each other, how natural it is for us to be together and work with one another". We also wish they could see these inspiring young activists. They have a lot to learn from their commitment, tolerance and respect for each other.
 
Opening session on the two national narratives 
 
This seminar was made possible through the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).