By Selah Maya Zighelboim - January 31, 2018

Originally appeared here in

When President Donald Trump announced plans to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, individuals from across the political spectrum voiced their opinions.

One voice missing, though, said Robert Vogel, professor emeritus at La Salle University, was that of young teenagers impacted by the conflict. So he reached out to the Israeli Jewish, Israeli Arab and Palestinian students in his program, Writers Matter, to collect their thoughts.

“I don’t understand why it is a big deal that Trump says Jerusalem is the capital of Israel — it always has been. I just think that if he were really a leader he would know what we all learned in the kindergarten — it’s best to share,” a 13-year-old Jewish Israeli girl wrote.

“I will not keep my hands tied … but I struggle with all of what I have, I feel a revolution inside me that arrests my heart, so much sadness clouds me resulted from this occupation that steals from us all good and precious things,” a 13-year-old Palestinian girl wrote.

Writers Matter, which operates out of the University of Pennsylvania, has 250 students participating in eight schools in Israel and the West Bank. The program encourages 12- to 14-year-olds to express themselves through writing.

“The important thing is not for the readers who want to read this to take a side, it’s to take a step back and listen to these young kids and what they’re thinking about,” Vogel said. “These are the young kids who are going to grow up and hopefully make some changes down the line.”

The Israeli program is based on a Philadelphia program of the same name. While the Philadelphia one seeks to empower students in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, the focus of the Israeli program is to empower students whose entire lives have existed in the context of political conflict.

In the program, the young teens write about themselves, their families, their challenges, how they live their lives, their aspirations, their dreams and their fears. Occasionally, they do other assignments as well, such as responses to the moving of the embassy, or the 2015-16 knife attacks in Israel. Sometimes, specific teachers will have their students write about other topics in addition, such as religion or the environment. Read More