A new school in Israel has opened its doors to students from Gaza, the West Bank, Afghanistan, Yemen and beyond

A new school in Israel is bringing students from around the world together in the hope that a shared education can unite people across the Middle East.

140 teenagers are part of the second class of Eastern Mediterranean International School (EMIS) near Tel Aviv: 20 per cent are Israeli Jews and Arab, a further 20 per cent are Palestinian or from the Middle East, and the rest of the student body comes from all over the world - from Germany to China, New Zealand to Ecuador.

Almost none of the foreign students are Jewish, and there are even students from Afghanistan, Yemen and Venezuela, countries which don't have diplomatic relations with Israel.

Almost all EMIS students receive full or part scholarship for their study, funded by charities, private donors and Israel’s Ministry of Education.

Founder Odel Rose was inspired to create the school because of his own experience at Pearson College in Canada, part of the United World College movement started in the 1960s along a similar ethos.

He told the Times of Israel:

I came back to Israel and had a long career in the local high-tech industry. But all along I kept dreaming of bringing my experience to our region.

I was 25 when I said to myself, ‘a school like this that teaches peace. We should have one here in Israel, where we really need peace.

At the age of 50, Rose realised his dream.

The school has a heavy focus on community service and fostering friendships between people who might not have a chance to come into contact otherwise.

As part of the International Baccalaureate (A Level equivalent) programme, students volunteer at refugee centres in Tel Aviv and with outreach programmes for local Arab children.

A few weeks ago, Rose and some students packed into a car and drove across the border to Jordan to help at a Syrian refugee settlement over the weekend.

It’s international, it’s not just about the [Arab-Israeli] conflict...It’s defusing the whole conflict issue, and people just become people: Mohamed and Roey and Sofia.

Rose hopes to open more schools like EMIS as long as he can raise the money.

It’s like a lightbulb in the darkness. Things have become pretty bleak around here. If we have a few more bulbs, it’s better than not having anything. In the dark, even a small bulb can be seen from afar.

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