Frequently Asked Questions
Here we seek to answer your most basic questions about NSL.
- Where are you politically on Middle East issues i.e. two-state solution?
- Why do you specifically focus on the 18-27 age groups?
- Is NSL also based in the Middle East?
- What is so innovative about NSL compared to other programs?
- Is NSL just another example of normalization?
- Who do you partner with in the Middle East?
- Who do you partner with in the USA?
- Do you have a Board and who do they represent?
Where are you politically on Middle East issues i.e. two-state solution?
NSL is deliberately not political, not affiliated with any political party or position, and does not believe it has the right or the authority to advise on One State or Two State or any other core issue. NSL is committed to young people having the freedom to debate all sides of all issues. It abhors censorship or other attempts to silence legitimate viewpoints. Our students from Palestine have debated One State V Two State while on the program, and our Israeli students from both the liberal left and the orthodox right have publicly debated settlements. Because we know how conflict grows violent when voices are silenced, NSL is eager for the young leaders to create a lively, respectful and healthy debate. At the same time, NSL does not believe in being neutral when it comes to advocating for young people to have a voice and to demand a seat at the table where the decisions that most affect them are being made. viz Washington DC, the UN and in the region.
Why do you specifically focus on the 18-27 age groups?
NSL focuses on young adults because at this developmental stage of their life, they are most open to another culture and world view. NSL directors’ experience over many years with young adults from Ireland, South Africa and America suggests that this age group of 18-28 can be successfully challenged to step out of their comfort zones in pursuit of new experiences and opportunities.
Are you also based in the Middle East?
First of all, it is important to understand that NSL is focused on bringing students from the region to a neutral and safe space to have the sort of conversations that are difficult or impossible in the region. The work of NSL in the region is carried on by an active alumni network who help recruit and select candidates for each class, and organize briefings with the State Department and other relevant agencies. In 2014, there are plans to establish a more formal NSL office in the region which will be run in coordination with a negotiation program that one of our alums has established.
What is so innovative about NSL compared to other programs?
NSL is a narrative program. What sets it apart is how it uses stories to inspire change. No other Middle East program does this. Our motto sums it up – Change the World? Change the Story. NSL is not a dialog program. It is not even a peace program in any traditional sense. Peace as “a story” means ending war. NSL cares more about beginning something by creating a new possibility for progress and shared prosperity. It is not focused on airing the dual narratives of the tragic past to find common ground. It is more interested in creating common ground through the shared experience of living, working and learning together in Washington DC. That is the new story. NSL has also developed the innovative PFC model where instead of offering a program that starts and ends with one summer, students come with a definite project for change to implement on the ground and NSL becomes the catalyst of cooperation to achieve that goal. NSL is growing into an incubator for daring social entrepreneurs.
Is NSL just another example of normalization?
Many programs come under heavy criticism because they appear to be treating Palestinians and Israelis as equals in power and status when the imbalance of occupier/occupied makes the power differential decisive. NSL understands this point of view. It does not condone the systematic inequality that our young people suffer. But too often, the young people on either side are interrogated as if they represent their government, or are asked to defend policies they have no say in. Young Palestinians and young Israelis are equally victims of a system that dictates their options in life. Any anti-normalization view that demands segregation is in danger of replicating the system it seeks to condemn, creating another power differential, telling young people what they can and cannot do. NSL challenges that normalization, where it is normal for young people to be seen but not heard, to be treated as subjects of power, not the authors of power, to be conscripted into roles that serve the State before anything else. That is not the normal status of young people in the USA and the developed world where the joy of being young is that you get to create your own future. Young Israelis and Palestinians deserve no less. NSL is not so much about creating peace, but about imagining, creating and building a better future. Peace of course is necessary but we don’t believe in waiting. The time to start is now.
Do I have to be studying at University to Apply?
To be eligible you must be a full-time University/College student studying at a University or third level college based in Israel or the Palestinian Territories or a student from these regions but studying elsewhere in the world. Alternatively you can be a recent graduate if you have completed your studies within the past three years. NSL will only recruit young people who can demonstrate a curiosity and a deep willingness to learn and have their own views tested and expanded. If you don’t want to risk having your mind changed, NSL is not the program for you.
Does NSL offer Career Enhancement and Professional Mentors ?
Yes, we do. Each year we offer a variety of different work exposures where mentors who partner with NSL will guide the students through experiences that show what being a professional in Washington entails. If the applicant has a particular career interest, NSL tries to customize these opportunities to the student’s interest. Once the student has firmed up the PFC, the placements are designed to maximize the learning opportunities to enable the student to implement their Project For Change.
What if I cannot afford the travel costs, can I still apply?
Yes, however you must work to find your own sponsors and devise a way to raise the funds to cover the costs of airfare and visas. In some cases, where possible, NSL will assist in that effort.
Who do you partner with in the Middle East?
NSL has strong working relations with the USA Embassy in Tel Aviv and the USA Consulate in Jerusalem. It also works with various Institutions such as Bethlehem University and Hebrew University. It also has an informal network of alums who lend their support and who are working with the Israeli Government, in the PLO and with various media and non profit organizations such as Peace Now.
Who do you partner with in the USA?
NSL has strong working relations with American for Peace Now and the American Task Force on Palestine, with the PLO mission and the Israeli Embassy in Washington DC, with John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, with the French Embassy, with the Taj Hotel Group and the Hotel Pierre in NYC, with the Foundation for Middle East Peace and its Director, Ambassador Phil Wilcox who is on our advisory Board, and with members of Congress such as Rep Jared Polis from Colorado and Rep Chris Van Hollen from MD. NSL also works closely with local faith communities such as the Seekers Church in Takoma MD. This community host the NSL office and are the HQ for the summer program. NSL also partners with the Bradley Hills Faith Community that comprises of a Presbyterian, Jewish and Muslim community. We are always eager to find other communities of faith who might partner with us.
Do you have a Board and who do they represent?
NSL is a 501 (c) 3 registered Charity in the State of Maryland. Its EIN is 27-1076407 and is therefore legally obliged to be governed by a Board. The NSL Board is a working Board consisting of the key volunteers who know the type of program NSL is from their past experience of working with the Irish Young Leaders program. Members also include two alums of the program who live in the region: Hamze Awawde and Gal Raij . Among the members are leaders in the Non Profit world, people who have worked in Jerusalem and the West Bank, former heads of Senate offices on the Hill, educational experts from Montgomery County, and people with MBAs and experience in international business and finance. One member worked for Eunice Kennedy Shriver and her non profit. Another member is the Host Family coordinator who oversees the selection and training of the Host Families. another is the Director of a local AmeriCorps project.
How will my donation be spent?
Your donations largely go to the running of the program, such as airfares, stipends, costs associated with the preparation and delivery of the program events, and the fees for trained professionals to design and deliver the leadership and narrative curriculum. Because NSL is a volunteer driven program, more than 90% of the funds go directly to program costs and very little to administration and overheard.
Who funds NSL?
Most of the funding for NSL comes from a community of small donors who regularly contribute. Members of the Board and organizations such as Foundation for Middle East Peace, the Seekers Church Community, Bradley Hills Faith Communities make larger contributions. And the other two main sources are the State Department and funds NSL raises through its own fund raising events.
How much does it cost to run NSL each year?
The full costings of a program each year are just under 200,000 dollars.
“Change the World? Change the Story!”