Washington, July 6 — A Washington D.C.-based summer internship has given five young Palestinians and five Israelis the chance to meet, fostering a hope and belief among the participants that they can help build peace between their two nations.
The fellowship, sponsored by New Student Leadership (NSL), attempts to create a fresh forum of dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian youth by having them live, learn and work together. Through these experiences, NSL hopes to allow participants to tell their stories while simultaneously creating a new storyline for a better future.
“Stories are profoundly powerful in inspiring change. Stories have power, stories shape identity and destiny,” said Paul Costello, president and founder of NSL. “If you can change the story, you can change the world…and our job at NSL is to start a new story.”
The interns told their stories at a panel event, “Stories Changing the Future for the Middle East,” sponsored by NSL and the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). The panel featured four of the 10 young leaders participating in the summer fellowship program.
The event shed light on the participants’ readiness to change the narrative and begin writing a new story. “I have hope as I see an army of change. We are not enemies, we are sisters in our fight,” Israeli participant Nitzan Regev-Sanders said of her Palestinian counterpart. “We will not yield until we spark the light of change.”
While only four of the participants spoke, they understand that they will all be needed to bring about this change. “Together we want to shape a better future for our society. Let us not sacrifice our children but our history of resentment and burdens,” said Yara Owayyed, a Palestinian fellow.
In addition to the Palestinian/Israeli fellowship, NSL has sponsored other fellowships in past years, bringing leaders from other conflict areas together. Since its founding in 2009, NSL has held similar programs with students from South Africa and Ireland.
Alums of these past programs were present at Friday’s event, sharing insight based on their experience. “What one conflict can take from another is a reason for hope,” said John Callaghan, alum of the Ireland fellowship. “Never underestimate the transformational power of personal relationships.”
According to Costello, these relationships could be vital to solving the conflict. “This is the new story,” he said. “We can’t afford to let them fail.”