When NSL began in 2009, we educated ourselves in part by attending as many conferences on the Middle East as possible, including J-Steet, Churches for Middle East Peace, Sabeel, The Palestine Center,and the Holyland Trust. The largest was AIPAC. Among 10,000 plus, we listened to Secretary Clinton, Prime Minister Netanyahu and a Who’s Who of Middle East experts. But there was something missing.

Most, if not all, of the speakers were from an older generation. There were young people there, but if they spoke, it was a token appearance and they were mostly American college kids.  Where were the stories of the younger generation from Israel and Palestine? The voices of the future? Not at these conferences!

It was our dream to change all that.

On Monday, March 3rd  at the 2014 AIPAC conference, Secretary Kerry got up to renew the administration’s support for the peace process in the Middle East. Towards the end, he included a new voice—the voice of Guy Cherni, NSL 2012. Secretary Kerry quoted from Guy’s speech at the 2012 SAIS Conference in DC.  He pledged that he would stand with leaders like Guy who said:

“We respect our past, but we don’t want to live it. We are young enough to dream, to believe that change is possible, and that fear can be defeated.

Kerry went on  “I think Guy is right. Change is possible. Fear can be defeated. But those are choices we have to make now.”

Secretary Kerry’s remarks at the AIPAC conference on Monday demonstrate our progress over the last five years. Evolving from a humble start-up, NSL has proven stories are powerful agents of change and that young people from the region can be heard and taken seriously in Washington DC.

We are preparing to select our 2014 team, and celebrate our 5th birthday. We will need at least five more years before we can see real change on the ground in the region, but we know we have changed the conversation here, as evidenced by Secretary Kerry’s speech.

You can become part of our 2014 program.  Help us pay the $100 weekly stipend for each student, or offer a scholarship to pay travel costs for students who cannot afford to pay their own way, ($2500). You can also help by providing an interesting and relevant work placement or by becoming a host family.

Together, we’ll ensure that the work of NSL continues and help build momentum for the peace process that Secretary Kerry is leading. He found inspiration for what he is doing in the voices and stories of the generation that our NSL team represents. Our work has never been so urgent or so important.

To hear what the Secretary said, please click on the following link: