The IS group at the final presentation, 33rd voyage, 2001


Looking Back: How did the International Student (IS) Programme for students from conflict areas start?

May 22, 2020

The 33rd voyage in 2001 was the start of the International Student (IS) Programme for students from conflict areas. This programme went on to be organized on several subsequent global voyages, and has generated many other educational and exchange programmes for students and youth from all over the world, institutionalizing peace education as one of the core programmes on Peace Boat.


The IS group during field study in Eritrea, 35th voyage, 2001



The main purpose of the IS programme was to give a chance to young people from conflict areas to travel in an international environment, to talk about the nature of their conflicts, and to share personal stories and visions for the future, particularly with people coming from the “other” or “enemy" side. This first IS group gathered students and peace activists from Palestine and Israel and all regions in conflict from the Balkan states for half the voyage, from Tokyo, May 22, until Las Palmas, July 12, 2001.


A pamphlet from the 37th voyage with IS from Northern Ireland, Palestine, Israel, Bosnia, and Serbia, 2002


An extraordinary story marked the 33rd voyage, which remains one of the most inspirational stories in Peace Boat’s almost 40-year history.

Rami Nasser from Palestine and Keren Assaf from Israel, participants of the IS programme, hardly talked to each other when they met for the first time onboard Peace Boat. They didn’t shake hands when they met. For both of them it was the first time to meet somebody in person from the “other side” of the conflict.  With time, during the sessions, events, and workshops onboard and in ports of call, Rami and Keren built up a unique relationship, which led them to deciding to establish a programme similar to one onboard Peace Boat in their region, giving the opportunity to other young Palestinians and Israelis to meet, to listen to each other’s stories, and to talk about the future. For their brave and visionary work they were awarded the Mount Zion Award by Benedictine Abbey in Jerusalem in 2003.

The IS newsletter from the 37th voyage, 2002. A great document of IS work, reflections, ideas, and plenty of good humour!



When asked about their experiences, Rami said “Peace Boat has given me so many ideas for the work of my organisation in Palestine. If Peace Boat continues to work as it does, through cultural exchange, information sharing, and solidarity with oppressed people, I believe Peace Boat can help to change a generation of young people - and sooner or later we will have peace." Similarly Keren said that “I think this voyage gave me a good perspective and proportion, to step outside and examine myself and my situation and clear my head.”


Rami Nasser is still involved in work with Peace Boat, organizing educational programmes in the Middle East and onboard exchange programmes for the students from the Middle East

IS programmes have brought together students and activists from Palestine, Israel, the Balkans, Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, China, Taiwan, the USA, and Colombia.

Sonja Stojanovic (Serbia) and Sandra Sapina (Bosnia), on the 37th voyage, in Nanjing, China

Sonja Stojanovic: “Exploring the issue of the massacre in Nanjing helped me understand that there is a receipt, a mechanism of creating a war and an environment in which ethnic cleansing and genocide start to be “justifiable”. It was easier to realize it on Peace Boat, detached from the emotionally heated atmosphere that surrounds these issues at home.”