Israeli teens with big futures pay a visit to London

A group, brought to the UK by the Israeli Centre for Young Leaders, comprised 17-year-olds from two schools who are expected to play key leadership roles in the future


A future Israeli Prime Minister has just finished a five-day tour of London.

OK, that might be going a bit far, but among the 30 Israel “youth ambassadors” who visited the capital this week, there may very well be some future Knesset members, and an ambassador or two.

The group, brought to the UK by the Israeli Centre for Young Leaders, comprised 17-year-olds from two schools — in Hadera and Ramat Gan — who are tipped to play key leadership roles in years to come.

The trip was the culmination of a two-year programme of after-school classes as part of the centre’s Young Ambassadors scheme.

The delegation met MPs and Israeli ambassador Mark Regev and visited the offices of the EU commission in central London.

They also met groups of teenagers from different parts of London to share ideas and experiences. Course leaders have placed an emphasis on seeking out groups who do not share the Israelis’ worldview.

A football match against teenagers from Acton, west London, was arranged for Monday evening, with the teenagers getting a chance to spend time with each other after the game.

Priscila Mendiondo, from Hadera, explained: “We talked to them, we played with them, we made some connections. We even took down their contact details.

“We’re here to talk to a lot of people and organisations. Some of them are pro-Israel and some not really.

“It’s difficult. All of us love Israel and it’s tough to hear things that maybe are against our personal opinions.

“But at the same time, that’s exactly why we’re here. If we only came to places where they love Israelis, then we wouldn’t be making a change.”

The participants were united in their view that Israel is inaccurately portrayed by the world’s media, and insisted it was their responsibility to project a positive image of their country.

Dana Treitel, from Ramat Gan, said: “I think most of the time people don’t really know what’s happening in Israel. In the media we see a lot of things but most of them are not true.

“I think that if you aren’t there and you don’t see what’s really happening in Israel, you can’t know what is real there.”

But at the same time, they made it clear they would do things differently if they were in charge.

Grigori Slousch, a self-confessed “geopolitical nerd”, who wants to work for the Israeli diplomatic service, said: “Peace and keeping humankind safe and cherishing the individual is so important to me. The fact that world leaders today — especially in Israel — are not doing everything that is possible, and that they are working for their own self-interest, means there is a great opportunity to make a change.”

The centre was set up five years ago. More than 2,500 teenagers across Israel participate in its young leader programmes annually, including groups of Israeli Arabs.

Snir Dolev, the delegation director, said it was vital to train the teenagers to confront issues many Israelis find “uncomfortable”.

He said: “We talk about a lot of topics that a lot of Israelis are afraid to speak about.

“We are not perfect — we are not saying everything is rosy.

“We teach the children about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we discuss both narratives and the whole picture.”

Is it one of his aims to establish a cultural exchange between Israeli and Palestinian children?

“We want to, we really want to. If it happens one day, we will be very happy. The atmosphere around it is very heavy but we would love to do that.

“We think something like this would help bring an end to the conflict.”

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive