A delegation of 16 Jerusalemite students landed in Dubai last week for an academic interchange that brought together youth from Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

An initiative of the Jerusalem-based PICO Kids Ambassadors program, it’s designed to promote collaboration between students on specific challenges facing the international community. It runs in partnership with the Taaleem Schools, Target Global, Concert Together for Israel and the Abraham Accords Peace Institute.

Elie Wurtman, co-founder and managing partner of PICO Venture Partners and founder of PICO Kids, explained that “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.”

The student delegates are Jerusalem residents under 18 from throughout the city. “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 mission, the students 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 cultural sites across Dubai, the educational focus was a “Makeathon” at the Dubai Future Foundation, where the Jerusalem participants were teamed up with their counterparts from the Taaleem Schools in Dubai to create workable solutions to the water scarcity crisis, which 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 desalination facilities, vertical farms and portable bottle caps with integrated filters. They 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.

Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also saluted the initiative, saying, it “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.”

Student teams work on solutions to water scarcity as part of the “Makeathon” initiative at the Dubai Future Foundation, December 2021. Photo of Barak Alkobi.

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