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The opening conference, hosted at Jerusalem’s YMCA, welcomed participants and partners from these areas. David Geer, speaking on behalf of the EU Delegations to Israel, Palestine and Jordan, and Michael Mertes, Director of KAS Israel, both expressed their enthusiasm for the PRL project. Mr. Geer conveyed the EU’s sentiments in extending their unwavering support for programs that promote youth engagement and women’s empowerment.
Ashraf Al-Ajrami, the former Palestinian Minister of Prisoner Affairs, welcomed all participants and discussed the challenges of those seeking peace. He celebrated projects like the PRL project that works towards creating grass-root measures aiming at conflict resolution through mutual understanding.
Dr. Edna Calo Livne, Director of the Beresheet LaShalom Foundation and Israeli partner in the PRL project, brought her youth theatre to the opening ceremony, in which they performed “Masks Off”, a dance interpretation of the lives of individuals affected by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The theatre troupe themselves devised their own performance and created their own language through music and dance. She reflected on the fact that “all children want to dance and we are responsible to give our children dreams and hope”.
A Palestinian teacher from KAS Israel’s EU project that preceded the PRL project (2007-2009) shed some light on the experiences of the youth in projects like the PRL project: “In Ramallah, my students have ideas about society that were incorrect. Once the students meet face-to-face they may begin by arguing, but eventually they realize they have the same suffering.” She explained to the audience. “At the end of the program, the students ask one another “What can I do for you, how can I help?”
A former Israeli EU project participant explained that coexistence programs helped students and teachers develop a common language through participation. A colleague of her highlighted the benefits of such programs by illustrating the fact that many of the participants come from an area where problems are solved in a non-peaceful manner, which causes mistrust. He further explained that projects like the PRL project dissolved preconceived notions of the “other” and that the encounters with one another they render possible are significant, because they share not their anguish about the conflict but personal experiences, which creates understanding.
Susi Doring Preston
TELEPACE Video about the Opening Conference of the trilateral EU Project “Partners for Regional Leadership”