As a part of its Model United Nations program, the Walworth Barbour American International School (WBAIS) offers a Conflict Resolution Program to provide a unique opportunity for students throughout Israel to receive training in conflict resolution skills in a neutral, highly professional setting.
Each year, professional conflict mediators conduct an intensive 45-hour training program for 20-25 students in grades 10-12, ideally representing a broad range of backgrounds (Israeli, Arab, and international) who might otherwise never have the opportunity to come together and share their perspectives.
Unlike the more traditional Model United Nations experience, students in the Conflict Resolution Program do not pretend to be diplomats who represent a country addressing pre-determined issues. Rather, they represent themselves. The issues discussed are the issues that the students decide are the most important to them and their lives in Israel.
The purpose of the program is not to lead the students into taking any particular position or adopting any particular perspectives; instead, they are taught skills for listening and communication and techniques to better understand their own beliefs and positions, as well as those of others.
For many of the students, this is their first opportunity to have an honest and open dialogue with “the other side.” These meetings are, of course, not easy, and often highly charged, but the challenge is to learn from the huge gaps between their viewpoints not just about the depth of the conflict but also about the importance of dialogue – effective speaking and listening – as a major key to peace between the nations.
Through the program, students gain tools for conflict resolution, negotiation, and mediation, and experience the real-time application of these tools in their meetings together. The WBAIS students often serve as bridges in this Arab/Jewish meeting and offer an outside perspective on the conflict.
During the TIMEMUN conference itself, the CRP students engage in a simulation based on a real-life conflict scenario drawn from the everyday life of Israelis and Palestinians. They use the mediation tools they have learned to reach a consensus that benefits all sides.
Students who have completed the Conflict Resolution Program consistently find that they understand themselves and their broader society in a much richer way and feel that the time committed to the program resulted in one of their best experiences in high school.
The program is conducted in English.
Sample reactions from past participants:
- Yair, from Petach Tikva: “I came to the meeting to voice my own opinions, hoping to gain understanding from my Arab peers, but I left with an understanding of my own that the other side has its own narrative that I also have to listen to.”
- Hiba, from Sachnin: “I have met Jewish students in the past but have never spoken with them about these issues. I felt I was allowed to speak my own truth, and to learn to listen differently. Young people have to be the leaders in changing the relationship between Jews and Arabs.”
- Katia, from Germany: “ It was amazing to see how both the Jewish and Arab students underwent a transformation. At first, no one wanted to speak; then there was a lot of shouting and blaming; finally, they learned how to speak differently. Even if there are many difficult problems to solve, we have to begin with children and the youth who are the future.”