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March 29, 2017 9:42 am

Jewish High School Students Representing Iran at Model UN Competition Describe Challenges Defending Islamic Republic on Road to Victory

avatar by Rachel Frommer

Rochelle Zell Jewish High School’s winning Model UN team. Photo: Rochelle Zell.

Jewish high school students who won a Model United Nations (UN) competition earlier this month told The Algemeiner on Tuesday about the challenge involved in simulating representation for the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Jonah Karoll, a member of Illinois’s Rochelle Zell Jewish High School Model UN team — which, for the third consecutive year, won at the March 18 national competition held at the UN’s General Assembly Hall in New York — said, “It almost felt wrong at first to have to take stances that are against Israel and the human rights values the Jewish people stand for. But our job is to step into the shoes of the country we are assigned.”

Zev Mishell, one of the team leaders, said putting himself in “the mindset of Iran” has changed how he feels about the country.

“It really teaches you to put yourself in their perspective, and try to see the world through their eyes,” he said.

Arielle Small, who spoke at a Human Rights Council simulation on women’s rights in conflict zones, said the team visited the Iranian consulate in preparation for the competition, where they met with diplomats and had an opportunity to ask questions. “It was a crazy thing, 30 Jews in kippot (skullcaps) walking into that building,” she noted.

Eli Nasatir, who sat on a mock International Atomic Energy Agency, said that having visited Israel, his teammates had a unique advantage over the average American student in understanding some of Iran’s cultural challenges.

“When we walked into the consulate, the first thing we see is this huge picture of the Ayatollah, glorifying him. It hit me how ingrained religion is in that country, while, at the same time, it is modern and modernizing, which is the balancing act Israel is doing all the time — though, obviously, Israel is a lot better at it than Iran,” he said.

Karoll attributed his school’s three years of success at the Model UN to the team’s dedication to being “mentsches.”

“It’s important to us that we represent Jewish values. We walk around with kippot on; we are known as ‘the Jewish Team,'” he said.

The victorious Rochelle Zell team beat more than 2,800 students from 23 countries at the three-day annual conference.

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