Last Sunday a group of Palestinian and Israeli girls joined together in Tel Aviv for a unique animal-centered program.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals sponsored the get-together for the elementary aged students from Beit Shemesh and Jericho in coordination with the Peres Center for Peace.

Dubbed “New Spring – New Hope,” the program aimed at finding common ground between the girls and help encourage kind treatment toward animals in need.

“The concept behind the event is if Palestinian and Israeli children can work together in cooperation for the benefit of animals in distress, it proves that change is possible, and it starts with education,” Yaviv Ovadia, the director of the SPCA’s humanistic education department, told The Jerusalem Post.

The girls were treated to cuddle time with the SPCA’s cat population was well as chance to walk and bond with some of the homeless dogs under the SPCA’s care.

A highlight for many of the girls, though, was a trip to the stables to see the horses.

Ovadia said that letting the girls get up close with animals helps them treat animals with respect when they return home.

“It makes the girls feel empathy to the animals before they even see them,” Ovadia explained. “The girls understand that this kind of attitude helps the animals to trust people once again.”

In addition, the girls listened to brief talks – conducted in both Hebrew and Arabic – that discussed the importance of animal welfare.
To top off the day, the girls were treated to vegan versions of cake and pizza.

Ovadia said animal welfare is the perfect way for the Israeli and Palestinian children to learn to work together.

“If Israeli and Palestinian children can live together peacefully, despite their differences, then animals also have the right to live among us in harmony and coexistence despite the fact that they are so different than us,” he stressed. “Animals don’t care about religion and nationality. There is a strong connection between the way we treat animals and the way we treat each other.”