To establish computer classrooms in in-need Palestinian and Israeli communities, and to provide the members of those communities, in particular the youth, with invaluable computer and IT skills, thereby enhancing their future educational and professional opportunities. Furthermore, to connect Palestinian and Israeli youth through innovative computer programs launched from these newly established computer classrooms.
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The Peres Center recognizes the obvious reality that today's world is fueled by information technology. From video conferencing and e-mailing to VoIP and Skype, the international community is more connected than ever before. Computers, cell phones and Blackberries allow for swift and immediate contact, overcoming obstacles of time, distance and space. Knowledge and information are readily accessible through the internet, with Google, Wikipedia and online news sources disseminating mass messages and further linking the world through a common awareness and shared consciousness. Yet in this region, Palestinians and Israelis have little or no contact; their worlds are separated by mental, emotional and physical barriers, including walls, roadblocks, and checkpoints, with the negative stories portrayed in the media only further exacerbating the problem, distancing the two peoples from one another. Men, women and children on both sides have lost the ability to understand the "other" as human ‚Äì as parents, siblings, friends, colleagues and importantly, as each other's neighbor. The Peres Center's IT Peace Projects Department comprehends this reality and recognizes a compelling need for cross-border educational IT peacebuilding projects that will allow Palestinians and Israelis to connect digitally and virtually. Through innovative didactic programs, the Peres Center links youth from both sides and provides them with an opportunity to communicate and form genuine human relationships with one another. The department‚Äôs flagship program is the ‚ÄúPeace Computer Centers‚Äù project, which establishes new, fully-equipped computer centers in disadvantaged Palestinian communities that lack access to infrastructure, equipment, and computer skills training. Additionally, the program links youth at these centers with youth from existing Israeli computer centers by implementing a unique cross-border virtual dialogue element. The virtual dialogue fostered by the Peace Computer Centers project allows participants to meet youth from the "other side", in most cases for the first time. In this neutral and ‚Äòsafe‚Äô environment, the Israeli and Palestinian youth gradually breakdown stereotypes, repair misconceptions, dissolve the emotional barriers and jointly go through a process of humanization, seeing their counterparts for the fist time as human beings and not the "enemy". This summer, 400 Palestinian and Israeli youth, from 14 different Peace Computer Center communities, (including West Bank refugee camps) concluded a full academic year of continuous communication. Their innovative, educational and virtual curriculum was specifically designed by the Peres Center and was complemented by face-to-face encounters. A special joint event was held for all participants (youth and educators) to mark the end of the school year. The joint Israeli-Palestinian efforts achieved by the Peace Computer Centers initiative foster an atmosphere of peace and reconciliation, affecting the state of mind of the residents of the region, and in particular, the future generation of citizens and leaders. Moreover, such cooperation equips the youth with technological skills and empowers them to become leaders in their local communities. The funds raised on The Big Give site will be used to sponsor the annual project participation of one group of school children.
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