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Mideast Seeds of Peace, Part 2 - 2002-03-16

Though the violence between Israelis and Palestinians seems to intensify each day, a group of young Israeli Arabs and Jews are engaged in a different kind of struggle. They are learning to understand and respect one another. In the second of a two part-series, Ross Dunn talks with young Israeli Arabs and Jews about their plans for the future.

Netta Berg admits she is no longer as optimistic as she was before the start of the Israeli-Palestinian fighting in September 2000.

A 16-year-old from Haifa in the north of Israel, she says that as the death toll keeps increasing, she thinks more and more frequently about leaving Israel. "I am having a really hard time with what is happening in this country, and I am not sure that if this situation continues, if this is the place, where I would want to raise my children, and continue on living," she says.

But having said this, she quickly adds that, even if she were to re-locate, she would do all she could to help bring peace to the region. Miss Berg is a participant in a program called Seeds of Peace. A private initiative based in the United States, the program aims to help increase understanding among people of opposite sides of a conflict.

Like Netta, 17-year-old Julia Resnitsky, another Seeds of Peace member, is wondering whether she will stay in Israel. She goes to boarding school in Jerusalem and has lost friends in some of the bombings that have rocked the city. She says she cannot imagine raising a family amid such violence. "I hope that one-day things will get better because I would hate to think that another generation will be sacrificed by war. I'd hate to see my children raised in a war situation. I don't want to expose them to such terrible things. I have seen blood," she says. "I have buried my friends. I don't want my children to do the same."

Eighteen-year-old Bashar Iraqi is an Arab member of the Seeds of Peace program. He also has a friend who was killed. Shortly after the start of the violence in September of 2000, a Palestinian friend was shot dead by Israeli soldiers during a demonstration in the north of the country.

He shares with many members of the group an ambition to study international relations as a first step to becoming a diplomat or political leader, and a catalyst for change in the region. "I am thinking about joining the United Nations or any kind of political position in the world that would give me a chance to control things and move things," he says. "I believe that one can make a difference in the world."

Bashar says he intends to study in the United States and return with a degree that will enable him to make his voice heard.

He believes education is a powerful weapon and the only one that can bring lasting peace to one of the most violent regions in the world.