Blerta, from Kosovo, realized in talking to many of her classmates at GHIS that they each thought that their conflict was unique–and the worse one. But then when they spoke to each other about their conflict back at home–in Kosovo, or Sudan and South Sudan, or Armenia and Turkey–they came to see that they don’t need to compete: they need to see what they can learn from each other to move forward in peace.
Returning to Kosovo, she decided to educate her fellow country people about the Holocaust – that she didn’t know about before coming to GHIS. For a year, she volunteered with an organization that educates local people on Albania’s positive role during this terrible time.
Currently: Blerta is in Prague, Czech Republic, where she’s completing her second year of law school at the Anglo-American University. This forward-thinker would like to go to other conflict regions and eventually return home to implement what she has learned, through her studies and experiences.
Looking to the future: While continuing law school in the US is a possibility, she’s sure that she will stay in the legal field, specializing in financial law or human rights law, working in NGO, or international agencies, such as the UN or the International Criminal Court.
Why GHIS? Growing up in post-conflict Kosovo, she felt that at home they had so much to work on and learn. So she thought that Israel, which has been experiencing its conflict for more than 70 years, would be a great place to get a useful perspective on conflicts around the world. Blerta wanted to see how people in Israel have managed to live in crisis with each other for so long, and especially in a school where these two conflicted ethnic groups would live and learn together.
The GHIS impact: Like many GHIS students, getting used to having roommates was the first transition Blerta had to go through. But as the outsider with two Israeli roommates, one Jewish and one Arab, she found that she quickly put to use the lessons they were learning in class to mediate and resolve conflicts. She found that communication and compromise were key, as was expressing one’s feelings. Unlike at home, when her parents would generally give in to her, here she learned the necessity of compromise.
She says, “Key to learning to compromise is learning to clearly communicate your feelings and listening to what others say. It’s not just about me and what I want. I’ve matured through this experience to become a well-rounded person.”
Learning about conflict: Through her GHIS experience, Blerta–and her peers–came to see that there are always two sides to a story and what is right for one could be wrong for the other, and vice versa. She says, “my Israeli and Palestinian friends came out thinking that the other side is not as bad as they had thought it was. And as an outsider seeing this, I hope that maybe something similar could happen back home where we can reach a compromise.”
Realizing her strengths: GHIS helped Blerta become a more educated and open-minded person, and it opened her horizons to what she wants to do with her life. Before GHIS, she wanted to go to medical school, but once there she realized that she can express herself well and that she likes to talk, so she decided to do something that utilized her true talents. This also aligned perfectly with her passion for human rights and conflict resolution.
Friends-for-life: Blerta, like many other alumni, treasured the friendships she made at GHIS and said they were friends-for-life–and the international visiting that goes on surely shows that! She’s already visited her Israeli roommate in Switzerland and her Palestinian roommate visited her in Prague, where she rooms with another Albanian friend from GHIS. Since they spent all their time together and were each other’s support system when they had challenges, dealing with the pains of being away from home together, their friends became their family.
A positive GHIS surprise: She was surprised how well the Palestinian, and Arab and Jewish Israelis got along with each other. Even when they were put in a situation where they had to share a room, they did it and they became friends. She thinks that ethnic Albanians and ethnic Serbs wouldn’t interact so well. But she’s so pleased to see that it is possible.
The power of the workshop: Blerta was pleased with the many activities that happened at GHIS, especially the range of workshops, including: mental health and school-related topics, as well as on different conflicts around the world. In this way she learned, for example, about applying conflict resolution techniques to personal conflicts as well as communal. As hard as they were, she found discussions on trauma, including PTSD, to be especially important, especially when she thinks about what people may experience during a long, drawn-out conflict.
Summing up 2 years ar GHIS: Blerta said that it was, “Challenging, but eye-opening and one of the best experiences of my life.”
David joined GHIS because he was looking for the right educational establishment to develop personally and professionally. As soon as he heard about GHIS, he realized that it suits his values.
“As someone who has always been committed to coexistence in Israel, I see GHIS as a great vehicle to bring young people together in an accepting and non-prejudicial way.”
As well as being a teacher, David is also trained in special needs education at all school levels.
David holds a joint Honors B.Ed. in Special Education ages 6 to 21, and BA in Literature at Oranim College