Model United Nations conference in Israel

Trip Start Aug 15, 2007
Trip End Jun 01, 2012

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Toward the beginning of this school year I decided to create an opportunity for a small group of students to attend a Model United Nations conference at the American International School in Even Yehuda, Israel. For those of you not familiar with the MUN organization, it is an after school activity that can be found in most international schools as well other schools around the world. Students joining are taught conflict resolution via the United Nations model of creating resolutions to global issues ranging from border conflicts to environmental issues. Students form a delegation representing one of the world's countries and "play" that role as the country would perform it as it would be played out at actual United Nations conferences and meetings... It is a great challenge that requires a high level of writing skills to draft specifically written resolutions, enhanced speaking skills used to persuade and convey positional perspectives and an enormous amount of patience as delegates play their sometimes corrupt "political maneuverings" on the sly...
Many of the students at my school were a bit dismayed at the thought of heading off to Israel to attend a conference based on conflict resolution... as well as to a slice of the world where many thought they might not return from... due to the long history of violence and strife... Needless to say I ended up with a full delegation of 7 students... 7 very brave young women that were up for the challenge... So I contacted the Israeli school and signed our school up... We were accepted and started planning for the journey... Days later I received an email from the director of the conference letting us know that they had chosen my delegation of students to represent the country of Israel... WOW! Sharing this with the students brought wide eyes and many statements of grave concern... one of my leading students asked if I thought it was a good idea to have a Turkish, moslem student act out a Jewish, Israeli role at a conference filled with mostly Jewish Israelis... My response was that it sounded like an incredible challenge... and one I thought they all would be able to delicately perform... and that they would walk away with innumerable skills that they could only imagine building... Shortly after this meeting the war between Israel and Gaza kicked in... I wrote letters home to parents about possible cancellation of the trip... talked with the students about their concerns... they all decided to stay the course throughout the entire gut wrenching of events that continued for weeks... Many of my coworkers and students throughout the school were concerned about the safety... The "war" ended and parents and students felt a bit of ease about continuing our trip... until... Turkey's political leaderhip felt insulted by Israel, with words of anger, blame and shame being thrown around on the world stage... exacerbated by the media of course... causing ethnic, national and religious discrimination between the countries of Israel and Turkey started heating up... I wrote additional letters to parents, talked with my students some more and had a few meetings with my school Director to get his okay to continue... All those involved still stayed the course and in the end we headed off to the "Holy Land"...
I could write volumes about the amazing, incredible and astute performances that each and every one of my students performed as they struggled with the hardest "country role" to portray... and with the current conditions, it made it almost an impossible role to play out... especially for a group of students from Turkey... I have been teaching for many years and have coached and trained numerous students to manage through not only the challenges of "knowledge conveyance" but also the harder challenges found in "public speaking"... My students performed at a level that left me highly impressed and proud... At the closing event of the conference many of them were recognized, by their committee chairs, for their high level of performance and acute negotiations with which they performed... They are an amazingly strong group of young women, that left many of their new found friends, be they Jewish Israeli, Christian, Palestinian Moslem, Bahai, Druze, Palestinian Christian, in addition to a multitude of Internationals with a positive image of Turkish citizens... I often find that the young adults that I work with are much more respectable and considerably more diplomatic than their adult counterparts... And as I sat back and simultaneously watched my students perform the role of diplomats on a small school stage , as the leaders of Israel and Turkey did so on a global stage, I found this perspective deeply enforced...

In addition to attending the conference we were treated by our school hosts to an array of experiences... A delicious meal of Middle Eastern cuisine ranging from hummus, baba ganouj, skewered lamb and sadziki sauce...
We also spent a warm and sunny morning at the ancient site of Herod the Great's city of Ceasarea...
Spent an afternoon with an even warmer Bahai family in Haifa who fed us a gourmet meal that they "whipped" together... before giving us a private tour of the famed Bahai Gardens spilling off the steep hills of Mount Carmel...

And of course, a journey through the Old City of Jerusalem... which ended up being the highlight for my students...
In closing I would like to thank all of those individuals that helped make this journey a remarkable and memorable experience for a small group of high school students and their gray haired teacher... that traveled from Ankara, Turkey... to the multifaceted and highly coveted land of Israel...
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