Real Hope in the Land of Opportunities
I had to put my camera down and surrender to the scene, my toes digging into the sandy dirt, saltwater splashing at my ankles, my eyes burning because of the warm salty breezes and the lack of sleep. I enjoyed standing there. I enjoyed squinting towards the horizon, which at that moment was a chain of mountains and hills on which I could see some white-washed buildings.
I couldn’t tell if the Israeli side was prettier than the Jordanian’s, but all I could tell was that both sides were witnessing the same sunset, the same red sunset that brought nothing but peace and tranquility.
As the sun was setting, I extended my arms, like wings, and tried to hold the whole scene close to my chest, the mountains, the hills, the turquoise salty minuscule waves, the shore, on both sides; as if it was my last sunset. Then I remembered that I had promised the guards not to be absent for more than ten minutes. I did not want to leave. But I was happy about those ten minutes of spellbinding beauty that left me grateful and yet impatient to go back.
Everybody was at the hotel having dinner. Ofri was there, Sarah, Rahma, Mohammed, Marwa, Inbal, Hamze, everyone – the right people one needs to establish a successful family. Suddenly my mind started to wander.
The workshop we just attended at the Dead Sea in Jordan felt less like a workshop and more like an attempt to change the world. That was the reason for us being there- transforming our societies for the best. No other place made me feel this way, and yet this place felt so familiar. The workshop gathered twelve brilliant young people who took part in the New Media and Citizen Journalism Program organized by the YaLa Academy. We were all coming from what many people and politicians call the most dangerous and unstable region in the world. Many others call it the Middle East and North Africa, or MENA. I call it the land of opportunities.
For so long have we been in conflict because of our differences. For so long has the world judged us, portrayed us through television screens as unfortunate people, who have no respect for human rights, who disdain their women, who hate their neighbors and who struggle to climb to the top of an unmodern civilization. These forlorn images need to vanish. The Middle East and North Africa need a fresh start, a start that would gather its young people and empower them to live with understanding, unity, and with the desire to thrive. A start that would show the beauty of the red sunset seen from both sides, transforming the Dead Sea into a work of art, full of life and hope.
YaLa did not only make this start happen, but also taught us to do the same in our small communities, our neighborhoods and our families. This initiative brings together the brilliant young minds of the MENA region by offering them the tools and an exceptional amount of support to act upon the challenges that their communities face on a daily basis. The YaLa family is rapidly expanding, which proves the immense success and utility of its programs and activities. The young people who are now involved in this network are doing what others had failed to do for decades: building the future. They understand that there is no time for pointing at each other with accusatory and senseless statements. They understand that the only way to advance is through collaboration, unity and dialogue.
YaLa is a nurturing mother, an educator, a defender of peace and prosperity, a fighter against xenophobia, war and rejection. The program we were part of helped us to become diligent journalists: well-sourced, adaptable, compassionate, tenacious and open-minded. It helped us to build integrity, for all is worthless without it.
All the way from Morocco to Iraq, YaLa has touched thousands of young people who seek knowledge, want to tell their untold stories, and advance the rights and freedom of people in their communities. YaLa-Young Leaders is not only a peace movement fostering dialogue and change among youth in the Middle East and North Africa. It is also witness to the great potential of youth in the MENA region, because these youths, you should learn, are proud, overflowing, and unable to stop thriving.
This is what I was thinking while eating Moroccan delicacies, in the midst of laughter mixed with Hebrew and Arabic songs playing in the background.