Days before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel and the United Arab Emirates had hopes of signing a historic peace deal, a new organization seeking to change Arab-Jewish relations held its first meeting. “Atidna is a coalition of Arabs and Jews, a grassroots [group] of social [and] educational leaders from both sides,” Atidna’s co-CEO, Arab-Israeli scholar and social organizer Dr. Dalia Fadila, explained to The Jerusalem Post. The NGO’s senior youth leaders, aged 15-18, gathered in the Galilee village of Deir el-Asad.The young activists sat in a hall and discussed the importance of their Arab identity in a Jewish state. They also prepared for the expansion of the NGO’s activity amid the second wave of the coronavirus crisis.“What’s different about Atidna is that the coalition is between Arab leaders and Jewish leaders from the center-right wing of Israeli politics,” Fadila said. “This is an innovation in terms of the Arab-Jewish coalitions around the country, NGOs, or civic society organizations, and this is very meaningful.”Recently, the new NGO began giving out scholarships to its members who will begin studying in various universities across the country in the next month.Fadila said that because of the coronavirus, schools have been closed in most Arab towns since late March. Young people are out there with basically no framework in most of the Arab towns.“This is why our youth movement is right there, filling this gap in the lack of educational frameworks,” he added.Atidna started as a volunteer movement.“We started formulating it around the principles of the youth movements with the help of ‘Shoko,’ which led the whole building and organization of the youth movement,” Fadila explained. “So, in a way, this [coronavirus] crisis has been an opportunity for Atidna – and it proved that it is the right time.”“Shoko,” whose full name is Mohammed Abu Alhiga, is the organizer of Atidna’s youth movement and the director of the informal education department in the town of Tamra, which lies east of Haifa.At that first meeting, Shoko led a discussion on Arab-Israeli identity.“I am Arab and I am proud,” Alhiga told the teenage activists, adding that Israel’s Jewish nature does not make him less Arab. He then told the Post: “I come here to educate the youth for leadership with an Arab identity and to be a part [of society] as Israeli citizens.“I do not come here for assimilation; I come here for integration, to serve my Arab identity inside [Israeli society],” he added. “We come here to make a youth movement.... We come here to educate them, to make them belong in their society, to be a part, to [put] pressure on the people who are making decisions, to make a new leader.”The co-founder of Atidna, Reservists on Duty CEO Amit Dero, said that “criticism begins when there is something that is effective, when they see power. Otherwise, you are irrelevant: Nobody would criticize you if you are irrelevant.”He added that the people who criticize the movement – and there are many – “see power that seeks to spark a revolution, make a change; one that brings something new [to the table], so that there is resistance.“That very resistance is those voices saying this situation [Israel being a Zionist state] will change someday, and that reality should not be accepted,” he concluded. He said he wants to break the misconception that Arab-Jewish partnership is inherently left-wing. “In the long run, we also hope that the social movement will turn into a political movement and will be part of the coalition and part of the government,” Fadila concluded.