Tuesday, February 23, 2010

An Innovative Approach to Building a Common Trail and Understanding for Peace

Guest Post:

Reuven Gal, a youth civic engagement practitioner in Israel, is pursuing a new idea for a Middle East Peace Trail (MEPT) to connect diverse young people, differing nations and adversaries in building a common trail and understanding for peace. Reuven shared his idea with ICP for our blog readers.

The MEPT project involves engaging young people in building a 2,000 kilometers (approximately 1,240 miles) long trail, across four neighboring countries in the Middle-East. The cross-regional trail would start in Alexandria, Egypt, west of the Nile Delta, cross the Sinai Peninsula and the Palestinian Gaza Strip into the southern Israeli Negev desert and over to the Jordanian hills, and continue all the way to the Iraqi border.

To build the trail, a number of young cohorts, coming from Egypt, Jordan, Palestine and Israel, will be organized interactively to perform a meaningful and visible mission, of an internationally significant scale. The impact of accomplishing this mission, throughout a prolonged period of time, will be two-fold: on the one hand, these young people will create a significant change in the Middle-East's map; and on the other hand, they will experience themselves a meaningful transformation in their own perceptions about their respective neighbors.

The construction of this entire system will be carried out by young volunteers, members of Middle-East National Youth Service frameworks, together with some young volunteers from other countries across the world. These volunteers will be grouped into twelve-member teams - three individuals (preferably a mix of males and females) from each of the four participating nations (Egypt, Jordan, Palestine and Israel). Each team will be assigned to build a section of the trail (e.g. 10 miles). It is also proposed that there will be two official languages mandatory in all teams -- Hebrew and Arabic.

While the trail itself will be well-paved, clearly marked and strolling through scenery paths, it will also include along its route numerous rest-areas, picnic-areas, observation-points, camp-grounds, etc. Note that the term 'trail' indicates a walking and hiking route, rather than a road that vehicles can drive along.

While during the day-time the volunteers will be occupied in the physical labor of the trail, their free time afterwards will be devoted to learning each other's 'language' and backgrounds, through team engagements. These will include interactive activities, group discussions, and other vicarious experiences that nurture close familiarity among these youth.

Thus, throughout the period of this cross-cultural, inter-state project, approximately 1,500 young men and women will return each year to their respective countries, with a different and new perspective about the Middle-East: not as mutually-hostile states, but rather as an all-inclusive region; not fragmented, but potentially united. They will also be free of distorted prejudices and false stereotypes about their former foes.

The mixed teams working along this trail would not only experience a road without borders, but also a collective accomplishment without rivalry. These thousands of youth will then become the future leaders in their respective states, and will disseminate their acquired new perception into actions and onto many other people.

The high visibility of the project would be further leveraged and utilized, both for political reasons (namely, advancing peace relations in the region), as well as for the continuation of the project itself. With the sophisticated applications of current electronic media (e.g. Google Earth, Google Earth Pro etc'), it will be possible for anyone, anywhere, to follow in real-time, after the gradual progress of the trail construction. This, in turn, would enable individuals and organizations, throughout the globe, to take part in the project – either by means of sending contributions, communicating with the youth in the field, spreading the information and more.

This creative project seeks to bridge deep fears and mutual hatred through a prolonged period of shared activities between adversaries. They will be challenged together with a common goal, that requires significant effort, inter-reliant cooperation and close acquaintance. This will be characterized by a sense of "service," have high visibility and symbolic (in addition to practical) value, and carry an overall positive and optimistic message.

The site of the trail can also become the meeting place for leaders of the region in their peace-keeping endeavors. The picture of two (or more) previously-opponent leaders, conducting a friendly walk-and-talk session along the surfacing trail route – can be very appealing…

For other examples of young people engaging in post-conflict reconstruction and peace building projects, please see the January 2010 issue of ICP's newsletter, Service News Worldwide.

1 comment:

helena said...

Thank you for your nice blog.Its really very nice blog .I really thankful for that.


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