Everything Starts with a Story

YaLa Academy Peace Institute in Honor of Nelson Mandela final project: Imagine what the MENA region would look like in 10 years, if peace was established today? How did it happen? What practices and institutions were put into place in order to establish this peace? Remember to draw on the skills we’ve learned from our lecturers throughout the semester. You can write a blog, make a video, write a song, create an infographic… Feel free to get creative!

By Nicolás Paz, Spain

I remember the day, the 28th of February 2017. We couldn’t believe it. I had been taking a course about peacebuilding in Jerusalem when they announced it on every media. Israel and Palestina had signed a peace agreement. We thought it was going to be another not respected agreement, as it had happened many times in the past, but it was not. It was real. Everything started to change quickly. We didn’t realize and, in fact, we had the feeling that nothing was going to change. However, six months later, Israel started to destroy the wall. I remember how children stared at the event astonished. For many of them, the wall had always been there, so they didn’t know what to think. One week later Palestinians made a huge peace march through all the region. At the end of the march, all the armed groups voluntarily disarmed and made a monument in Jerusalem with all the old weapons. In Israel nobody could believe it. There were many people saying that it was a cheat, propaganda. But it was not, it was real.

Palestina started to build their own state with their own strong institutions. Many young Israeli people were called to help during the first years. Lawyers, doctors, mediators, engineers…all of them working under Palestinian leaders who wanted to build a new country, modern and open, and to do it in cooperation with their neighbors. There were also many local conflicts, but people always found the way to solve them. They had so much future to build that they did not have time to loose. Two years after the agreement, both presidents announced the most amazing cooperation. Everybody in Palestina and Israel thought it was only propaganda but again it was not. They decided to make a common special army for the region. Although each state was independent, they realized that security for both countries was no longer something related to Palestinians or Israelis, but with other threats. So they established the Special Common Peace Forces: Palestinians and Israelis defending both states together, and showing other countries how to build peace together. It looked like a dream. Nobody had even imagined that something like that could be possible.

I was going to stay only six months to study here, but I couldn’t go. I wanted to be part of it, and to help somehow to build that peace. That’s why I’m still here. It seems unbelievable to talk now about the war in Syria, the conflict in Iraq, or the terrorism in all the region. All that is over and everything started just here, in this small city with centuries of history and in a chat group at YaLa Academy. When we started, people thought we were naive, stupid or just too utopic. Later, all the region followed us. Not at the beginning, because they didn’t trust each other, but when they saw so many different people working together, all of them wanted to be part of that future. It was so inspiring. We started as unknown people, then classmates, and afterwards true friends. Some of them are the leaders of this process. We feel proud to have helped them. Today is an important day too. United Nations Headquarters are going to be set here in Jerusalem and I’m still here. Who could imagine that we were going to be here, ten years later, talking about this? I remember exactly the day everything started. It was the 28th of February 2017 and I had to submit my final assignment for the course. If I had imagined it…

To learn more about the YaLa Peace Institute in Honor of Nelson Mandela, click here.

To view more final projects, click here.