Israeli debating team takes on Europe - and wins

The victorious Israeli high school debating team is looking towards the Washington, DC World Schools Debating Competition later this year, following their win at the Heart of Europe Debating Tournament on Friday. The high school team of four defeated the Romanian national team five votes to two in the finals of the contest, held in English, with the argument that "NATO has lost its importance after the Cold War." The Heart of Europe competition took place in Olomouc, in the Czech Republic, and featured teams from South Korea, Germany, Slovakia, Croatia and Slovenia. The deputy ambassador to the Czech Republic, Zeev Nevo Kulman, was in attendance and was invited to present the winning cup. The debating team's members, students from the Aleh High School for Arts and Sciences in Lod, belong to Siah vaSig, the Israel Debating Society. Shani Mastey, 16, Ori Mastey, 15, Yael Diamant, 17, and Nadav Barak, 16, were coached by Barak Carmielli, a student studying industrial engineering and management at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Carmielli has been debating since high school, and has been involved in debating in the international and Israeli arenas for four years. He said the team performed "remarkably well." "It was a lot of hard work, not much sleep - sometimes we'd be up until three in the morning working. But everyone is really excited. No one expected to do this well, so winning was some accomplishment," Carmielli said. "The main difference [between Israel's team and the others] is in experience. The teams around Europe and the rest of the world, they already have the establishment; I would love to see a debating institute that is renowned throughout the schools here. But in Israel it's mostly based on individual people. "There is a saying - if you find three Israelis, you will have five different opinions, and its true. "We are good at arguing, we have good logic and we are talented people. All we need is the opportunity, and debating is something special for students and the people around them. We could all use a lesson in learning to discuss different opinions and experiencing part of the world as you go," he says. Shani Mastey placed seventh in the competition of speakers overall, and her brother, Ori Mastey, is already a member of Young United Nations. "Debaters get a chance - once you've started you travel a path where you are able to speak your mind in an objective way on different occasions about world issues," said Carmielli. "The competition was social and political but also considered humorous and moral motions," he says. "During the impromptu speaking competition, where participants are given a topic one hour before speaking, the motion read, 'this house believes that love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage.' It started off funny, but the moral issue is brought up and it's interesting to hear," he said. The World Schools Debating Competition will be held in Washington in September.