Despite recent events of Middle Eastern conflict, Johnny Taic pushes toward cultural unity by breaking rivalries and building friendships here at Phillips Exeter Academy Summer School.

A Tel-Aviv, Israel, native, 15-year-old Johnny is the only Israeli representative in Summer School 2015. “So far my time here has been very exciting and it has been rewarding to meet all of the different culture groups from all over the world,” said Johnny.

Like most, he enjoys the many freedoms Exeter encompasses such as the great opportunity he has to interact with friends from conflicting nations.

Israel has been known to clash with Lebanon, yet Johnny, along with his two Lebanese dorm mates, Sandro Khoury and Karl Azarian, ignore enmities in favor of  fellowship.

“I’ve made a lot of Lebanese friends that I would have not encountered in my every day life because of the conflicts of our countries,” said Johnny.

They find themselves interacting in many ways, such as playing ping-pong in the common room or simply discussing politics in relation to the Palestinians and the Two State Solution.

Taic also noted that in meeting each other he and his friends have broken the stereotypes they had in the past. “Many of the stereotypes that we assumed of each other were related to politics and once we got to know each other we became good friends,” said Johnny.

With Hebrew being the national language in Israel and Arabic/French being the national language of Lebanon, these friends are still able to communicate and gain understanding without fear of prejudice.  “It is interesting to see both sides of our worlds,” said Johnny.

Johnny also hopes to continue the bridging of friendships by involving the Phillips Exeter Academy Summer School in some of his Jewish traditions. He hopes to engage his friends from Lebanon or anyone who is interested to be part of a Friday night Shabbat dinner he is organizing. In this he hopes to grow his understanding as well as teach others to understand his country and his beliefs as a member of the Jewish faith while also embracing everyone else’s cultures.

“It feels good to know that Exeter has linked such different people to allow them to have an exciting summer,” said Johnny.