By: Fiona Imperial It was my first time joining an inter-faith and inter-cultural delegation to a Model of United Nations conference abroad. At Model United Nations conferences, people tend to socialize, and multiple times people questioned, “what school delegation do you belong to?” I answered, “I don’t belong to a school delegation, I belong to a delegation that consists of Muslims, Jews, and Christians that debate for peace.” Every time I stated that I belong to such a delegation, there was this hint of surprise on their faces.
The hint of surprise on their faces led me to contemplate why they had such an expression on their faces. After two years of belonging to such organization, it has become conventional to me that we coexist despite the cultural and religious differences. Debate for peace consists of people who set aside the differences between identities and view each other as equal human beings. However, in most settings such model of coexistence and diversity is rare.
It clicked in my mind that the reason why there was this hint of surprise on people’s faces was due to how we defied the norm of polarization based on identities. This realization has made me believe that we are doing something transformative. As an inter-faith and inter-cultural youth delegation, we aspire to establish change for the present and the future. Not only did we end our conference becoming a family, but we strengthened our connections with one another with the common goal: to promote peace, coexistence, and change.
The process of the trip, and the trip itself, all happened in the whim of an eye. I, being a mere MUN ‘trainee’ with no experience at the time, had heard of the MEDIMUN delegation and decided to give it a shot, making my first time a delegate my most memorable experience so far.
Workshops, research, and learning had to be done before the actual delegation. After a few weeks full of that, it was time for us to go to Cyprus. The first night was hard and uncomfortable, I didn’t really know anyone yet and was about to spend the next 3 days with them; the thought of it was a bit scary to be honest.
I learned a lot within the three days that were spent there. A lot that I haven’t realized before as a Palestinian individual. Rather than going into the “Jewish-Arab coexistence, peace, and love” mush, I’d like to write about how talking with the people I’ve spent time with there made me grow a bit as a person; I had a talk with a Catholic and a Jew about belief and similarities in Israeli history in comparison with Palestinian history, I had a talk with a multilingual, potential psychologist about music, languages, and life, I told a girl a series of life stories that had happened to me and it made her laugh, which in turn, made me laugh. I made friends I don’t think I’ll be able to ever let go of. Not to mention the relations that were made with the Jordanian delegation and the Shanghai delegations, who were the two other foreign delegations in MEDIMUN.
If I were asked to go to MEDIMUN with DFP again, I’d do it without thinking twice.
We can learn a tremendous amount from books, but the knowledge that is attainable through those means is limited. There exists a whole other understanding of reality that is impossible to obtain through reading.
One can only be exposed to that reality through personal interactions and experiences. Interactions and experiences like staying up all night and talking with someone belonging to a people that you have been taught to fear and avoid since birth. Interactions and experiences like explaining your perspective to a group of people from a foreign land who probably haven’t even ever met anyone from your country and actually getting positive responses. Interactions and experiences like listening to someone who, according to the media, sits on the opposing side of a conflict with you and actually finding common ground. Interactions and experiences like hearing opinions from real life people from different cultures and different backgrounds instead of just relying on hearing them second-hand through the media and your community.
These interactions and experiences that I encountered on my trip to Cyprus are only the beginning of a long list that completely changed my perspective on the world. I could have stayed at home for those three days and read every single book on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Jewish people, and the Palestinian people, and the information I learned would have been nothing compared to the wisdom I gained in Cyprus. I will never forget this trip, and I will never forget the friends that I made along the way. Not Jewish friends. Not Palestinian friends. Just friends.
When my parents drove me to the airport and asked me if I was excited and happy I told them I was. But in reality I could hear my heart beating so fast, and I started to think about the worst thing that could possibly go wrong during this trip. The moment I walked in the airport and saw the group that I was going to be with the next couple of days I let my judgmental nature take over and I immediately tried to distance myself by sitting on side benches. During the security checks I slowly started to bond with some and by the time we got to the airport terminal we were cracking jokes and my judgement was completely gone.
After our flight and long tiring ride to the apartment, we were shown to our rooms. I shared the room with two Muslim girls and the first night was a little rough given the fact that I didn’t understand Arabic. The next day we had breakfast and rushed to the competition.
When we got to the building we got tags that had our names and the rooms we we’re going to be in during the conferences I got to bond with the Muslim girls and meet new people. Even though the conference was both mentally and physically exhausting, the endless laughs with the girls really got me through it. The next couple of days were defiantly the most meaningful days I’ve had in a long time.
During the weekend we got to meet kids from Jordan and talk about Palestine and its meaning to them. Even though I did not agree with everything that was said, I was open to different point of views and their views mattered to me. I also got to learn a bit more about Islam and its values. I got a chance to know people for who they are.
I think the biggest lesson that I took from this trip is to look at every person as an individual and not judge a book by it’s cover.
On the weekend of February 9-11 I participated in MEDIMUN, a model UN conference in Cyprus. Going into this trip I was completely in the dark, walking into the unknown. I have never been to Cyprus before, never participated in a Model UN conference with MEDIMUN’s procedure, and only met the rest of the Debate for Peace delegation a couple of times before the trip. However, this weekend exceeded all of my expectations, through the long drive from the airport and the intense days at the conference we all stuck together, helped each other, and became one big family.
The majority of the delegates in MEDIMUN were Cypriot, but apart from our delegation there were two other delegations coming from abroad: the Shanghai delegation and the Jordan delegation. On our last night in Cyprus we had dinner with them, but first we met with the Jordanian delegation at their hotel. We were divided into two groups where we had the opportunity to discuss significant topics with very diverse point of views.
My group had to discuss the Palestinian flag. At first I didn’t think I had anything to add to the discussion because how will I, a Jewish girl, have anything to add to this conversation when around me there are people who are much more relevant to the subject. However, as we went around the circle and each person said their opinion I realized that there is no such thing as not being relevant to a topic. That is a great thing Model UN taught me, no matter where you live and what is your ethnic background every topic around the world should be admissible to you. This trip further implemented that ideology into my mind and I hope the next time I feel like I did in that circle before I decided to speak, I would remember this realization.
After the discussion all three delegations went to a nearby restaurant to eat dinner together. Towards the end of the meal a Jordanian girl, a Jewish girl, and I exchanged words regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. During this conversation I noticed that even though we were at opposite sides of the conflict we had similar experiences with people outside of the conflict. This made me relieved, it was proof that we are not different like some claim and that frankly we are more the same than we are not.
This experience has been truly eye opening and I have gained so much knowledge only in that too short of a weekend. I would like to thank Steven Aiello, our director, for giving me this wonderful opportunity, taking 18 teens abroad, and providing us with an intense, but enriching schedule. This couldn’t have happened without your motivation to inspire us to step out of our comfort zone and achieve our full potential.
It was a really amazing opportunity to achieve our goals and a worthy experience. Despite some social obstacles, the debate took its course… As a student in Debate ForPeace, I was really so proud and honored to participate in the MEDIMUN conference. It gave us new experiences for creating unlimited goals for ourselves, as it made us aware of our position towards our society by giving us confidence in ourselves and the opportunity to improve our abilities as young people. “Builders of the future” for making a positive change in our community to the next generations for better future✌.
In the debate, we had many wonderful opportunities to develop social skills and work to devise new ways to build bridges of peace, cooperation and brotherhood between all different communities. I am really fortunate and proud of myself for being a part of the debate. And, indeed, the world would benefit from more projects to achieve peace and success in all scientific fields. Traveling to Cyprus has played an important role in encouraging young generations to improve the future and make the place a peaceful and safe place. In the end, the main role in the society is we “young people”. We are the future generations. So we must believe in a good and beautiful future✌
The weekend of the 9th-11th of February was a unique, fruitful, and educational weekend. In which, I learned a lot about countries, MUN conferences, and most importantly, about other people around me and myself. I learned that I could be living near a person who comes from a totally different background, but can still share a similar perspective with me concerning so many topics.
It was definitely not my first co-existence, bi-national and out of country experience, but it sure added *a lot* to my previously gained knowledge and to the idea of certain topics that I have been forming, for quite a few years within the beginning of my journey to co-existence.
Arabs, and Jews, *we* shared the same food, hostel, and jokes.
On Sunday we all together went into a Church: Christians, Muslims, and Jews.
As a Christian, it was normal for me to enter the Church, and the prayers were very familiar even though they’re in Greek, but for the hijabi Muslim and the Jew wearing a kippah, it might not have been. As where I still remember how people inside the Church were very surprised and looking at them constantly for the 5 minutes that we were inside. It surely wasn’t normal, but surely it was beautiful! I remember how my heartbeats were fast and focus on people around me was strong.
I wanted to read those people’ minds and know what they’re thinking, at last I looked behind me and there I saw a member of us explaining to a local citizen what is happening and why we’re here, which briefly comforted me, that our pure intention of love, unity, peace and co-existence, was actually being explained and passed in the right form.
As for the MUN conference it was my very first abroad and second at all, working and preparing for it was tough but very beneficial and knowledge gaining. It was very competitive and intense during the first day of lobbying time, to make sure that your opinion is heard and taken into consideration while forming resolutions, I had to use all of my leadership skills and experience and put it into action. At last, things were working out and I was doing well enough for the second conference, maybe the lack of experience made it harder for me to know how to find things to say and participate more in my committee, (when in addition it was the biggest committee in the conference). Yet, still, I cannot deny that watching other delegates act and speak had taught me a lot for the upcoming MUN conferences.
At last I would like to thank our amazing director Mr. Steven Aiello for all that he had done, whether it was taking a *huge* responsibility for 18 teens abroad or for being a peacebuilding teacher, or for being an example to each and every one of us of how to reach our goals and build a better future for ourselves and the ones around us in the beautiful world that we share.