‘RACISM IS not me,’ this image from the Bokra Facebook page promoting coexistence proclaims in Hebrew and Arabic..
(photo credit: BOKRA.NET)
Thirty computer-savvy Jews, Palestinians and Bedouin are participating in Tech2Peace – a two-week, hi-tech seminar in this Negev city of 9,000 – which aims both to serve as a springboard for a career in the startup world, and to promote dialogue between Jews and Arabs.
Organizers hope that after the seminar ends Thursday, the graduates will become mentors for future participants.
Participants, who range in age from their early 20s to 30, come from across Israel, the West Bank and east Jerusalem. They stay in Yeroham, share meals and partake in cultural and social events in the evenings. Participants pay a symbolic fee of NIS 100.
Jamal Alkirnawi, founder and CEO of A New Dawn in the Negev, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday it was “amazing to see how much [the participants] connected.”
He is hopeful that the participants will continue to work together after the program. “We offer a platform to connect over something that interests Bedouin, Palestinians and Jews. They have shared dreams... Ideas have no nationality,” he said.
All of the participants want to learn more in the field and to learn it together, Alkirnawi added.
While English is the participants’ lingua franca, Alkirnawi noted that he has seen Palestinians learning Hebrew and Israelis speaking Arabic. “It’s very refreshing,” he remarked.
Apart from the hi-tech classes, participants discuss their individual backgrounds, and the Arab-Israeli conflict
. Those discussions are facilitated by professional Jewish and Arab moderators, “for each side to learn the other’s reality, to be exposed to the complexities and to recognize that it is not black and white,” Alkirnawi explained.
“We have a long-term vision,” he said, noting the many shared interests between Jewish, Palestinian and Arab young adults.
The Rahat-based NGO A New Dawn in the Negev seeks to close gaps between the Bedouin and Jews in the South by promoting education, leadership and employment.
Tech2Peace is also supported by YadBeYad, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the New Israel Fund and the World Zionist Organization.