Dalya Arussy: Ibrahim Alumni 2013, CUNY Queens College
Updated: Apr 2, 2021
In her own words:
Since my B.A. in Art History with a minor in Arabic and Business & Liberal Arts from Macaulay Honors College at Queens College, I have moved to Israel and pursued an M.Sc. degree in urban planning at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. My thesis research focused on shared spaces, those that are private and public, where people of varying backgrounds gather. Using the case study of the German Colony in Haifa, I explored both the physical and social elements that make up a space that may be inviting and inclusive to all. The goal of the research was to see how shared spaces may be better planned to encourage encounters between people of varying demographic groups.
With the receipt of my M.Sc. it was important for me to find a way to influence society rather than plan for society in a top-down approach. Therefore, I have begun working in the non-profit world with various social initiatives. I work at the American Sephardi Federation where I use my research skills to gain insights into Jewish traditions and customs from the MENA region and help create content to further educate an Ashkenazi-centric Jewish society. In addition, I have coached girls at a school as part of The Equalizer, an organization that seeks to empower children in low socio-economic neighborhoods through soccer.
When I first came to Israel, I began volunteering at the Ethiopian Absorption Center in Haifa where I would help young immigrants with their homework as well as play soccer with them. Before ending my volunteering, I matched the absorption center with The Equalizer. I have also volunteered organizing social programming for the English-speaking community at the Technion, where I studied, and its proximity. The activities included Shabbat meals (open to religious and secular students alike) as well as game nights.
Today, I am an active part of the professional women’s soccer community in Israel. I was captain of the Technion soccer team that won the intercollegiate futsal league two years in a row. The team, made up solely of students, brings together Muslim and Christian Arabs as well as secular and religious Jews through the love of soccer. Currently, I play for Hapoel Pardesiya, a national league team in Israel, in the center midfield position.
In addition to playing, I have received soccer training certification from Wingate Institute and have coached boys ages 4-6. Today, I train girls ages 10-13 who take part in a national league. I hope to continue coaching and to expand to teams that welcome diverse players. Through the love of soccer, I believe we can influence the younger generation to see beyond stereotypes and connect with their “other.”
In the past year, I have completed the YaLa Academy’s course on citizen journalism. YaLa Young Leaders creates a network of young leaders in the MENA so they may work together through dialogue and bring about change in the region. Through the program I have gained insights into better storytelling, the power of taking action and being the voice of the unheard. I have also participated in YaLa’s workshops where online YaLa friends meet face-to-face and develop a relationship to work together toward change.
Through YaLa, I have become involved with the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation where I took part in a Jewish-Palestinian delegation that participated in a FairPlay Tournament, a concept used to conduct games without a referee and for teams to resolve any differences through dialogue.
The Ibrahim Leadership and Dialogue Middle East Program has played a significant role in helping me find my passion. I had a vague interest in other cultures and a love for travel but no real vision of making a change. Traveling in the Middle East and gaining on-the-ground insight into places we’d only read about in print, was an invaluable opportunity. More so, experiencing these places and talking through what we were hearing and seeing with Americans of varying backgrounds, significantly enhanced the program. It highlighted for me the power of individuals meeting individuals, rather than advertising political slogans. It showed me humanity of different demographic groups and the way they can create a united front. It enlightened me with a hope for a shared future.