In historic move, students from Israel and Morocco meet virtually for the first time
The meeting formed part of the second meeting of the Abraham Accords Youth Forum hosted by StandWithUs’ youth leadership program TEVEL
By ILANIT CHERNICK
In a historic first, youth from Israel, Morocco and the US met for the first time virtually to celebrate the new-found peace agreement.
Last week, the StandWithUs’ youth leadership program TEVEL held its second meeting of the Abraham Accords Youth Forum.
During the virtual meetup, 90 Israeli teenagers and a number of teens from Morocco held discussions about their countries with the Israeli participants seeing this as an opportunity to talk about life in Israel to other young people and grow peace “from the ground up.”
Organized by TEVEL director Alon Sternberg and Walid Tamtam, a Muslim Canadian student of Moroccan descent, who is working to strengthen the ties between Israel and Morocco, the two see this meeting as an important step in building peace between the leaders of tomorrow.
Tamtam told IsraelNewsStand that he “strongly believes that the Abraham Accords-inspired relations can be expanded, as far anywhere as it can be expanded anywhere else, so I needed to reach out to Alon and get the ball rolling in Morocco.”
“What excites me the most is that I knew that Moroccans would be very interested in such opportunities to both make new friends but also understand our revived allies in the people of Israel,” he explained. “Peace is peace, but warm peace is the goal and the warmth comes from the people’s connection [and] the best way to start is with the youth themselves.”
Asked about the importance of such meetings he said that the reason he has so much confidence in this model “is that it pertains to my journey opening up to Israel and becoming an ally to my Jewish cousins.”
“When I could meet Israelis, even some of the Moroccan descent, it became much easier to see a consistent narrative of who they are as people and what their nation stands for,” Tamtam added.
During the meeting, Ambassador David Govrin, head of the Israeli mission in Rabat told the students during the meeting that “Morocco is a unique model for tolerance and coexistence between Jews and Muslims that was proved by the very good relationship between Jews and Moroccans here in Morocco.”
He encouraged that students not only to develop “a fruitful dialogue but also a close friendship.” “It is really very encouraging to see you, [the] young people meeting talking and discussing only outstanding issues,” Govrin said. “I personally believe that face-to-face meetings are very important. It is very important to get to know each other and to be exposed to different cultures, different ideas, and to see and to seek together what can be done to improve our relationship between our two people.”
For Sternberg, it was the relationship with Tamtam that formed after the last meeting of the Abraham Accords Youth Forum, in which the Israeli Youth Delegates to the UN and their counterparts from the UAE were hosted that led to last weeks meeting.
“Walid reached out to us with the hope of connecting youth from Morocco to the Forum as well, and we excitedly agreed,” he said. “We hope that in the future we will get to meet teenagers from additional countries and that once COVID-19 leaves us we will be able to meet in person.”
Speaking to some of the participants, Israeli student Noya Shemer told IsraelNewsStand that taking part was important to her “because I feel like it’s a big step in getting to know each other.” “I believe that being a part of the forum is actually being a part of the creation of history,” she said.
Adding to this, Moroccan student and participant Ziyad Sellami explained that what he was “most excited about…meeting Israeli students because I have the opportunity to learn about the different and similar aspects of teenage life between Moroccan and Israeli teens.”
StandWithUs Executive Director Michael Dickson said that “the Abraham Accords Youth Forum is reason to feel hopeful and inspired about the possibilities of Middle East peacemaking.”
“The ties that are developing here have the potential to create life-long relationships promoting coexistence and investment, peace and prosperity rather than the divestment and division of the past,” he concluded.