There have been many powerful programmatic achievements over the years. Perhaps the most impactful results come from our flagship youth leadership initiative. The 3-year Leader in Training Program has produced over one hundred graduates, many of whom are changing the landscape as rising stars in the medical, technological, sports, and political fields.
Zeinat Awwad as Ultimate Peace US Camp Director 2023
UP GRADUATES CHANGING THEIR WORLD – Zeinat Awwad
Zeinat entered the UP program in 2011, when she was 14-years-old. Coming from Tamra, an Arab city in Northern Israel, Zeinat stood out early, developing impressively over 8 years as an exemplary camper, LIT, Head Coach, and Program Evaluator.
In 2016, Zeinat began studying engineering and medicine at the prestigious Technion Institute in Haifa. Enrolled in a grueling M.D./Ph.D. program, she studies in a cohort of 20 students who come from different cultural and religious backgrounds. In her first year, Zeinat quickly noticed that Arab students sat on one side of the classroom, and Jewish students sat apart on the other. When the group traveled on a bus, one group sat in one section and the other sat separately.
This division was very upsetting for Zeinat. One morning she’d had enough – she got up and crossed the invisible threshold. Speaking perfect Hebrew, she introduced herself to one of the Jewish students and sat down. Her classmates were alarmed, yet soon this “disruptive behavior” became a regular occurrence, eventually spreading amongst her peers.
Zeinat’s simple yet courageous act created a chain reaction: A Ramadan dinner at her home, where every student in the cohort showed up and broke bread together; A Lag B’Omer meal at a Jewish student’s home, with full attendance.
What compelled Zeinat to shatter those boundaries? As she put it: “Being in the UP program for so many years, I felt responsible to act. I could not accept this division as status quo because I know better.”
There are many more barriers to confront. Zeinat initiated a bold new cross-cultural dialogue group with other Technion students and professors in 2019. She began a tech start-up with a Jewish man in 2020, and joined the Middle East Board of Unifly (new program name of Ultimate Peace) in 2022.
Zeinat is why this program works, why it exists. We are so proud of her.
Testimony by Hala