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  • The "Bar-Ilan Five" with their awards

    Bar-Ilan University Students Win Five Awards at International Competition

    Date: 2014-05-28 Hour: 10:20

    Five Bar-Ilan University students have just returned to Israel from Barcelona, Spain, where they each earned awards in an international Model United Nations competition, and followed up by hosting a nationwide conference for all of Israel's Model UN societies. 

    Nearly 200 students from 13 countries took part in the competition, called the Catalonian Model UN (C'MUN).  Israel sent 27 students – the second largest delegation ever sent – and the Israelis took home 12 out of the 20 prizes. 

    Just like an authentic UN diplomatic session, the competition featured roll calls, open debates, name placards, speaking time limits, position papers, alliance building, resolutions, and committees – each of which focused on a different subject.  The Bar-Ilan University winners were: Chaim Seligman and Josh Weixelbaum, who took home Best Delegation on the Human Rights Council; Keren Sherrington, who won Honorable Mention on UN Women; Jenny Havemann earned Best Delegate on The European Council and Rachel (Ro) Yeger won Outstanding Delegate on The Alliance of Civilizations, which voted through two resolutions in three days.

    Ro Yeger, who made aliya from Teaneck, New Jersey, serves as BarMUN President with Chaim Seligman, originally from Hollywood, Florida.  Now in her second year in the University's Interdisciplinary BA Program in Macro Economics, Political Science and Sociology, she made Aliyah a year-and-a-half ago, and says she joined BarMUN as a way to meet Israelis.  With delegates from Spain, Israel, Denmark, Sweden and Italy on her Council in C’MUN, the 23-year-old says the atmosphere was a very positive one and she felt as though it gave her an opportunity to change Israel's image in the eyes of foreigners.  Next month, some of them will be staying with her when they visit Israel.  After she completes her BA, Yeger wants to continue her studies for a Master's degree in Political Communications and enter into politics in order to affect change in Israeli society.  "Model UN is very good practice for this because it teaches you to be clear and concise with your ideas," she says.  

    Chaim Seligman, the other BarMUN President, and his committee partner, Josh Weixelbaum, sat on the Human Rights Council next to two students from Malmö, Sweden.  "Malmö is one of the biggest hotbeds of anti-Zionism and we were curious to see how the two – one of whom was of Iraqi Kurdish descent -- would react when we told them we were Jews from Israel," Chaim says.  To their surprise, not only were barriers broken down between them very quickly, but they remain in touch, and there's even talk that the Swedes may come to visit Israel.  Seligman, 24, also enjoyed the opportunity to spend Shabbat with the local Jewish community, where he witnessed both strong Jewish identity and encouragement of Aliya among the Jews there.  Seligman came to Israel in 2007, studied in yeshiva, volunteered on ambulances at Magen David Adom and worked with people with special needs before joining an IDF infantry unit.  He is now in his second year of study at the Bar-Ilan University Faculty of Law.

    With its multiple awards in several national and international competitions, the Bar-Ilan Model UN Society, founded in 2011, has become one of the leading MUN clubs in Israel.  The nearly thirty Bar-Ilan students and alumni involved  -- originally hailing from South America, North America, South Africa, Australia, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Israel -- perform simulations as a method of learning public speaking, public diplomacy, and international relations.  There are ten other model UN societies in Israel, totaling close to 300 students.

    Just after returning to Israel, the BarMUN Society hosted BarMun 2014, an annual Model UN conference for all of Israel's universities.   Like in Barcelona, the conference consisted of various councils – each one facing its own challenges and putting students to the test to reach agreements that serve the interest of a majority.  "This is a dress rehearsal for students -- no matter what field they choose to enter -- to fight for the greater good and  learn how to be a diplomat or future leader," says Seligman.   US Foreign Services Officer Jason Seymour, who gave  a guest lecture at the closing ceremony of the conference, emphasized the importance of interpersonal skills, likability, and teamwork in diplomacy, along with the ability to trust one another and work well under pressure.  Chaim Seligman and Ro Yeger couldn't agree more.  "Without that trust and relationship building, our win in Barcelona and outstanding conference would not have been possible," said Seligman.