UNICEF in Emergencies & Humanitarian Action

Two teenage girls in Israel and Lebanon find common ground

UNICEF Image: Middle East Lebanon shelter
© UNICEF/HQ06-1041/Brooks
A Lebanese child bounces a ball amid shoes strewn on the floor at a government school in Beirut that served as a shelter from air strikes during the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah.

By Blue Chevigny

NEW YORK, USA, 14 September 2006 – Two teenage girls, one from Israel and one from Lebanon, had an opportunity to speak on the phone last week and tell each other about themselves and their recent experiences in the war between their two countries.

The girls had never met or spoken before but had a mutual interest in talking to another young person across the border. UNICEF Radio edited their conversation down into a two-part radio story. (Click the audio link at right to listen to Part 1.)

Joy, 15, lives in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, and enjoys sports – especially skiing and football. She likes the fact that her city has so much life and so much to do.

Omer, also 15, lives in Haifa, Israel. She loves Haifa because it’s so beautiful. She spends a lot of her free time taking ballet and modern dance classes.

‘It was pretty scary’

It didn’t take long for Joy and Omer to cut through the conversational pleasantries and get to the topics that really interested them.

“I didn’t know you actually lived in Beirut,” Omer said to Joy. “We got horrible pictures [of Beirut] during the war. I was actually wondering what it was like from a personal view. I mean, were you actually there the whole time?”

“We could hear the bombs going off,” Joy replied. “They were very close, very loud. You could even see the smoke and stuff. We were in Beirut, and then we kind of ran away to the mountains where it’s quieter, safer. But yeah, it was pretty scary.”

UNICEF Image: Middle East Isreal bomb shelter
© UNICEF/HQ06-1080/Gutman
An Israeli child lies on a bed in a bomb shelter in the coastal town of Nahariya during the war, when thousands of rockets struck northern Israel.

‘People just wanted peace’

The girls exchanged more of their experiences during the war, and then Omer had another question: “What was actually the opinion of people around you, your family or friends, about Israel, about what was going on?”

“Well, I think the main thing was people just wanted peace,” Joy answered. “We hoped the ceasefire would happen soon, to stop all the killing.” She paused. “What about you?”

“For me it was weird,” said Omer. “Usually my opinions are really liberal, but this time I got so fed up that when they showed pictures of Lebanon, the first thing that would come into my head was, well, at least we’re doing something, so great. But then I would remember 50 people just got killed and I would get really mad at myself that I even dared to think anything about this was good.”

Questions and answers

Joy replied quickly: “I wasn’t happy that Lebanon was hitting Israel, and I definitely wasn’t happy that Israel was hitting Lebanon. And it was bothering me most that you would hear, for example, 50 people injured, 20 dead or something. They’re innocent, you know. It has nothing to do with the government and arguments the two countries have together.”

“That’s exactly what I was thinking, too,” Omer said.

It was just one of many instances during their conversation when these two girls who had never met before – and who came from very different backgrounds in a region plagued by war – were able to ask each other questions, and in the process, discover common ground.

Stay tuned for the second part of this radio story next week.


 

 

Audio

For UNICEF Radio, two girls – Omer in Israel and Joy in Lebanon, both 15 – talk about life during the war and find similarities in their experiences.

13 September 2006
PART 1: listen

19 September 2006
PART 2: listen

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