The youth of Israel’s mixed cities are on the front lines of the struggle to create a shared and more equal democratic society. At best, the interactions between the young Jews and Arabs in these divided cities can strengthen ties and understanding between the two communities. At worst, they can quickly devolve into violence that creates further tensions, and widens the divide.
CAF created the Youth Parliament of the Mixed Towns of Israel to empower Jewish and Arab teens to take responsibility for their own lives, and to improve the relationships between their communities. CAF's extensive experience working with youth in the mixed city of Jaffa was the impetus for creating this program. This experience clearly demonstrated that adolescents can promote tolerance and prevent violence if given the opportunity and support needed to do so. These youngsters will be the leaders who transform the way in which Israel’s Arab and Jewish citizens relate to one another by sharing responsibility for their own lives.
The Youth Parliament changes Jewish and Arab high school students’ perspectives on the conflict. Through the program, participants learn how to reject violence in favor of dialogue and negotiation, and thus to address the most basic causes of tensions. CAF successfully established the Youth Parliament of Jaffa in 2010 and the Youth Parliament of Akko in 2011; each is comprised of 40 high school students with equal numbers of male and female members.
Based on the success of the program, two additional groups were established in Lod and Haifa in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Since the founding of the Youth Parliaments, members have had joint celebrations for various Jewish, Muslim, and Christian holidays, through which they have learned about each other’s cultures and traditions. They also attend the Annual Celebration of the Jaffa Convention, after which students go back to their schools and share their experiences with classmates.
FEATURED YOUTH PARLIAMENT: AKKO
The different Youth Parliaments have been invited by different local and national authorities to different events and meetings. The delegations have presented to them their expectations for a working relationship between the Parliament and the Municipalities. The authorities have expressed their full support for the collaboration and, in turn, gave the youth a voice and role in the city’s decision-making processes (Youth Parliament in Akko).
A National Youth Parliament event has been held annually since 2013 at the Arab-Jewish Community Center in Jaffa. This event begins with a session of the National Youth Parliament, which focuses on building leadership abilities such as persuasion skills and public speaking. A large-scale gathering is held with the participation of delegates from all the Youth Parliaments and hundreds of local youth accompanied by their parents. The program consists of musical and dramatic presentations, gives the Youth Parliament delegates an opportunity to showcase the project, and brings their activity to the attention of local community members.