Arab and Jewish Teens Head to the US for a Worthy Cause

Every year, five Arab-Israelis and five Jewish-Israelis make their way to New England to learn one important lesson.

Special Collections: CONNECTING HEARTS

Arabs and Jews learn more about each other in 16 days than they ever imagined (Inna Reznik /

“Before, I didn’t really understand Arab people. We don’t live together and I didn’t have plans to get to know them,” said Noam Meir in an interview with Israel21c. Meir was one of the Israeli participants in the Friends Forever program, run by a nonprofit organization that helps youth from conflict-prone regions build lasting friendships.

As part of the program, five Israeli-Jewish students and five Arab-Israeli students spend two weeks together in New England - volunteering, visiting synagogues and mosques, and taking part in trust-building activities. The program allows students to connect with each other in an environment free from the pressures of home and school and away from the everyday cultural tensions.

The point is simple and profound: to make the kids realize that people from different religious and cultural backgrounds can be friends. Over the course of the two weeks, the message started to sink in. Daniel Mordechai, a Jewish Israeli, told Israel21c, “it sounds surprising, but after a meeting or two, I realized they are just like us and I felt very comfortable with them.”

By living together, engaging in open dialogue, and consciously acknowledging and accepting differences, the 10 participants came to one conclusion: “We realized we all like to eat the same food, we all like the same games - and we all want peace.”

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