[Alumni news] Historic meeting between Mahmoud Abbas and young Israelis organized by Hilik Bar MK

Hillik Bar and Mahmoud Abbas

 

Hilik Bar visited the US on his ACYPL exchange in June 2001 as Chairman of the National Student Organization-Israeli Labor Party, and since that visit he has risen through the ranks to become the Secretary General of the Labor Party, and Knesset member, and most importantly, the Chairman of the Knesset Caucus to Resolve the Arab-Israeli Conflict.  It was in this role that he and the OneVoice movement organized a rare and unprecedented meeting for 300 Israeli youth leaders and students with Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah last week.

 

As Hilik himself noted:

“The event was really something else. Exciting, different, unusual. Unlike any I could recall. It was not easy – it was complex and often difficult. Encouraging and, at times, discouraging. But even I, with my experience of similar events, understood that this was exactly what needed to be done. Us and them. Speaking. Two hours of questions and answers. Questions full of hope, many of them difficult.  Evidently this was also true of Abbas’s answers. Honest and inspiring hope on the one hand, difficult and frustrating on the other, but deeply heartfelt. It was an elegant and respectful ‘battle’ between the Palestinian president and the young leaders. Their questions were proffered to him enthusiastically, and he replied to them with honor and affection. Don’t get me wrong, there was not necessarily love or admiration there, but there was lots and lots of mutual respect, from him to them and from them to him. A desire to understand; a thirst to listen.”

 

Mutual respect, difficult questions, complex, encouraging– these are the words of ACYPL and of public diplomacy.  We can only hope that these meetings become less rare because every ACYPL alum knows that there is no substitute for substantive, in-person conversations to establish strong, lasting relationships and understanding.

 

Media coverage of the meeting:

The New York Times

The Jerusalem Post

Arab News

Yahoo!

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