By Abigail Klein Leichman - December 21, 2017

Originally appeared here in Israel21c

It took Steven Aiello about 20 minutes to drive from a high school in the Jewish Israeli city of Petah Tikva to a high school in the Arab Israeli city of Kafr Kassem to lead debate clubs based on the Model United Nations (MUN) model he so enjoyed during his graduate diplomacy studies at IDC Herzliya.

But the two schools’ geographic proximity belied a wide cultural gulf separating them. And even the most talented members of the two clubs could not get into official MUN groups due to a lack of English fluency and money.

So Aiello, a Jewish interfaith activist who served on the national Israeli MUN team, solved both problems by organizing MUN-style debates between Jewish and Arab schools in 2012.

Assigned to represent a particular country, whether or not they personally agree with that country’s stance on the issues, the novice debaters were given a cost-free way to polish their English and rhetorical skills while making friends. Aiello’s students loved it.

In 2016, he formalized the program as Debate for Peace (DfB),  a volunteer-run project of the Interfaith Encounter Association in partnership with Jerusalem Peacebuilders and supported by the US Embassy in Tel Aviv. It grew quickly. Read More