A historic mission: Israeli youth visit Bahrain to combat water scarcity

December 19, 2022

By Elie Wurtman

PICO Kids will collaborate with Bahraini youth on workshops designed to address one of the foremost crises confronting the modern Middle East.

Over the course of my professional career, I have been repeatedly reminded that perhaps the greatest tool to business and financial success lies not in specific strategies or attempts to generate economic or political forecasts, but far more in the most necessary of human skills – the ability to create meaningful relationships.

These interactions are at the heart of the Abraham Accords. The success of the accords has allowed preconceptions of decades of geopolitical and religious conflict to be put aside in favor of partnerships based on the understanding that as people there will always be far more that unites us than divides us.

Youth aren't held back by cynicism

I have also long believed that the greatest ambassadors to convey messages of understanding and mutual respect are our youth. Almost by definition, children and teens live without the cynical worldviews which all-too-often hold us back as adults. Skepticism and fear are feelings that are blessedly largely absent in a child’s mind. As I have witnessed time and time again, the younger generation is far more willing to think creatively and out of the box.

I was inspired to create PICO Kids Ambassadors by my deep confidence in this vision. PICO Kids Ambassadors is an organization that positions Jerusalem youth from all backgrounds and ethnicities to serve as cultural ambassadors to other parts of the world. Over the past 10 years, we have launched missions to the Far East and more recently to the UAE.

Our latest venture, a mission of 18 young Jerusalemites to Bahrain, perhaps fills me with more pride and hope than any previous such effort.

Israel’s relationship with this particular Gulf nation should be a source of real excitement and harnesses incredible potential for forging relationships that will have lasting regional and global benefits. As I have had the chance to see on a previous trip to Bahrain that preceded the Accords, this is a nation that radiates authenticity, humanity and deep traditions of respect.

A second home

I remember one recent trip to the Gulf when I was met upon arrival with a greeting of “Welcome to your second home,” which was by no means some practiced tourist slogan or cliché – but a wholly genuine expression of friendship.

These are a people and a culture who understand the spirit of real engagement that can be traced back to our common Abrahamic genes of welcoming others into our actual and metaphorical tents. Whatever our personal, ethnic or religious backgrounds, I feel a magical sense of being at home in Bahrain and believe that exposing our younger generation to that experience will have a long-lasting impact for all involved.

This will be the first such mission of Israeli youth to this new Gulf partner. Our goal is to ensure that these kids not only experience a different culture, but also leverage their time there to confront mutual challenges facing our two societies.

Together, they will use their young minds to brainstorm creatively to design implementable solutions to benefit not just our societies but perhaps humanity as a whole.

Based on our previous interactions among Israeli youth who have traveled as part of PICO’s Ambassadors programs, I know that the relationships born between the participants can last long after returning back home. While the conversations between teens might begin over a common love for junk-food, sport or video games, they can quickly develop into a deeper relationship that allows for the mutual creativity and collaboration that is critical for addressing new ideas. In that regard, our PICO Kids will collaborate with Bahraini youth on workshops designed to address one of the foremost crises confronting the modern Middle East – water scarcity.

I, for one, will be watching with excitement and hope as this historic mission takes voyage. And not just out of personal interest, but out of the sincere belief that these collaborations are key to paving the way towards a better future for our world.

The vision is an ambitious and grand one, but I learned long ago that to set limits on a child’s ability to think, create and forge new opportunities is a gross miscalculation – and for the future of our region and our world, one that we can’t afford to make.

The writer is the founder of PICO Kids and the managing partner of PICO Venture Partners. PICO Kids is a Jerusalem-based organization that delivers STEEM education through hands-on, project-based learning designed to develop a sense of wonder and propensity for action.

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