At first glance, Rami Rabayah and Yaniv Sasson appear to have been friends for a lifetime.
But the men have not been friends for long. They come from a conflict zone. One is Palestinian and the other Israeli. The people have been in dispute for decades.
“We’ve been dealing with the same issues for 60 years and we have gotten nowhere. It’s like one step ahead and two steps back. It’s just dancing. I really feel sorry for my people,” Sasson said.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been going on since the United Nations created the state of Israel by partitioning Palestine after World War II. Rabayah and Sasson were raised on opposite sides of the division, yet in 2008 through the organization OneVoice, the two young men have come together to speak to American university students on the conflict.
Sasson, 29, an Israeli, was born and raised in Yahud, Israel. “I’m a patriot. The state of Israel means a lot to me and I’m doing whatever I can to empower my country,” Sasson said.
Rabayah, 30, is a Palestinian. “Because I believe in my state and because I feel we will be able to create the most beautiful, dynamic and great country, I will always work for peace,” Rabayah said.
The visitors “will be raising awareness about the conflict, the work they are doing with their communities to prepare each side for compromises that will arise from a final-status agreement and the important role that the Americans, especially young people, have to play in being part of the solution,” OneVoice said in a statement.
Rabayah and Sasson through OneVoice are working with their communities in the Middle East along with American university students to prepare each side for compromise that will arise from a final status agreement.
“I think there is a lot of speculation in America and all over the world about this conflict. People have a lot of expectations from Palestinians and Israelis, and I think that of course Palestinians and Israelis are major factors in this conflict but it’s important to realize that Americans, Arabs, Muslims, etc. are very important in this conflict as well,” Rabayah said.
Since Rabayh graduated in 2002, he has devoted himself to helping marginalized and poor communities. His focus is on rural communities and on improving private sector performance in Palestinian agriculture.
Rabayah believes in ending the conflict and wants global peace. He wants Palestinian leaders to achieve peace through a two-state solution.
“Two state solution is the solution that provides hopes for Palestinians to establish their national entity. And it is the solution for Israelis also to live within their states, and within a secure environment in building their future,” Rabayah said.
Sasson believes that both Israelis and Palestinians need to make changes in order to end the conflict.
“If one side disagrees with the other, we achieve nothing but by sitting together and knowing we must end the conflict we can achieve a very painful solution, but a solution and this is something that has to be done,” Sasson said.
Both speakers stressed the importance of Americans understanding that not everything the media displays is the truth. In fact, the media often chooses not to cover certain events.
“I think the most important thing is if we can solve this Israeli Palestinian conflict Americans will understand how this whole thing is working, because right now there is a misunderstanding. Just to say you are pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian doesn’t really necessarily help. Don’t be pro- something, be pro-peace,” Sasson said.
Yet still the two newly acquainted friends do not agree on every issue. Their countries futures are uncertain but they plan to continue raising awareness in America and across the world.
“We do not agree on everything. We have had many disagreements but what we do agree on is that this conflict needs to end,” Rabayah said.