After several delays due to Corona restrictions, a delegation of 16 Jerusalemite students landed in Dubai this week for the first-ever academic interchange mission bringing together youth from Israel and the United Arab Emirates. The program, an initiative of the Jerusalem-based PICO Kids Ambassadors program, is designed to promote collaboration between students on specific challenges facing the international community.
Elie Wurtman, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of PICO Venture Partners and Founder of PICO Kids explained, “Children have a particularly unique vantage point to act as innovators and conceive of new ideas in ways that adults might not be able to. The Abraham Accords have presented a historic vision for collaboration between Israel and the Gulf countries and it is only natural that the collaborations that we are already seeing on commercial and investment fronts should now be realized among our youth as well.”
All of the student delegates are Jerusalem residents under the age of 18 and the group represents the diverse makeup of the city’s population. “The power to think creatively and solve problems is something that we know exists within all walks of life in our city and it was critical that we ensured representation from diverse backgrounds,” said Wurtman.
To prepare for the PICO Kids Ambassadors mission, the student delegates went through training and workshops with renowned experts in the fields of diplomacy, design thinking, public speaking, English and Arabic lessons, storytelling, branding, group dynamics, and entrepreneurship.
In addition to touring and visits to cultural sites across Dubai, the educational focus of the mission was a “Makeathon” at the Dubai Future Foundation, where the participants from Jerusalem were teamed-up with student counterparts from the Taaleem Schools in Dubai to create workable solutions to the water scarcity crisis. Water scarcity has been identified as one of the most pressing developmental challenges the world will face in the coming decades, particularly for desert countries in the Middle East.
The students developed prototypes for ideas including desalination facilities, vertical farms, and portable bottle caps with integrated filters. The student delegates also visited innovation centers in Dubai and met with local entrepreneurs, investors, and business leaders. Over the next three years, PICO Kids aims to create dozens of delegation exchanges, reaching hundreds of kids.
“It’s been so fun to meet and talk to new people. We are all really the same, we were just born in different places in the world,” said a student from the Taaleem School.
Another student added, “It’s been an absolutely amazing experience and an opportunity that you can’t get anywhere else. It’s great to learn what other people are like. I’ve never met an Israeli before in my whole life. It’s time for peace and if we talk with each other, especially the youth, things will change.”
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also saluted the initiative saying, “This mission represents youth who have traveled from Jerusalem, the eternal capital of Israel, to an Arab country in order to advance collaborative efforts and create solutions to environmental challenges. There is no better time to spread the message of Israel to the world and this mission is an example of proactively spreading that light. I wish each and every one of you only success in this important mission which should bring honor to our country.”
The PICO Kids Ambassadors’ mission to Dubai is in partnership with the Taaleem Schools, Target Global, Concert Together for Israel, and the Abraham Accords Peace Institute.