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Dec 16, 2012

Palestinian, Israeli Seeds simulate elections, discuss recent violence

JERUSALEM | Israeli and Palestinian Seeds met separately this week in preparation for joint post-ceasefire gatherings. Though the meetings focused on different topics, both addressed one of the main program themes of Seeds of Peace local programs: understanding core conflict issues within and between societies.

Forty Palestinian Seeds came together for a daylong seminar in Ramallah to discuss Palestine’s status upgrade at the United Nations, violence in Gaza and Israel, and the credibility of the news media.

“Most of us were waiting for this event so we could empty what was inside us after all the conflict that we saw and lived through,” said Rawan, a Seed from 2012.

The bombings in Gaza and rocketfire on Israel was a central topic of the seminar.

“We sat in groups to discuss what happened,” said Tamara, a 2011 Seed. “In that moment, I knew that Seeds of Peace will always be here to support us and that it will always be a major part in our lives.”

Director of Palestinian Programs Mohammed NasserEddin used various dialogue exercises to get Seeds thinking critically about key issues, such as Palestinian recognition at the UN, instead of simply relying on what the media tells them.

“What was interesting about these activities were that they were based on question and answer sessions where Seeds responded to other Seeds,” he said. “Political group discussions among the Seeds makes them smarter in their opinions and in their decisions.”

In Jerusalem, the Israeli seminar had a similar emphasis on interactive learning. With Israeli elections on the horizon, Seeds discussed electoral politics and what they mean for the region.

Director of Israeli Programs Eldad Levy said the two-day seminar dealt with important political issues in a fun and engaging way.

“To me, this type of seminar is the prototype of successful education: fun, interactive, interesting and still focused on learning.”

Sixty Seeds participated in the seminar, 12 of them Palestinians living in Israel. Helping lead the activities were 13 Graduate Seeds from Camp years 1996 to 2005.

One of the Graduate Seeds leading activities was Tomer Perry, a 1996 Seed and Stanford University Ph.D. candidate. Perry had Seeds simulate their roles as either one of eight political parties or as journalists. The Seeds got into character as they ran for Knesset or covered the elections in the media. Seeds even met with “Hillary Clinton” to reach an agreement to return to the negotiation table.

Simulations like these got Seeds thinking about Israeli politics in new ways, since they had to analyze all campaigns, whether they were left or right wing, secular or religious, Jewish or Arab. Seeds also had to consider each party’s economic and social goals, and views on the peace process.

“The special aspect of this seminar is that we, the participants, were very active,” said Dani, a 2011 Seed. “We managed our own small-scale election campaign and thus learned a lot about the parties and electoral politics in Israel as they are, not necessarily as they are shown to us in the media.”

“Since the seminar, I wake up in the morning looking for news in the daily papers about the elections,” said Ophir, a 2012 Seed.

Seeds concluded the seminar by casting secret ballots for the parties they would support on election day. For Program Director Eldad, the result of his Israeli Seeds’ votes was a good sign.

“We have a wide spectrum of Israeli Seeds who believe in the importance of dialogue and moving forward with the peace process,” he said. “And for me that is encouraging.”


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