Often overlooked in the shadow of war is the lingering presence of land mines throughout the post-conflict zones. Approximately 70-80 countries worldwide remain polluted by 70-80 million land mines, including Cambodia, Bosnia, Angola, and Afghanistan. Demining was pushed to the forefront of debate this past year in Israel after 11-year-old Daniel Yuval lost his leg in the Golan Heights. Young Daniel has been traveling the globe to share his experience and what he believes needs to be done to resolve the issue. Perhaps the youngest ambassador in the world, he recently visited the Stimson Center in Washington, D.C. where he spoke with fellow land mine survivor Jerry White.

Daniel, an Israeli national, was visiting Mount Avital nature reserve in the Golan Heights on 7 February 2010 where he was playing in the snow during one of the season’s blizzards. Unbeknown to the child, he was in an area populated by unidentified land mines, one of the worst remnants of war. Daniel stepped on a mine and subsequently lost his leg below the knee. After several months in the hospital, where he underwent 20 operations, he set out on a mission to help clear the estimated 500,000–1,000,000 land mines that currently plague 50,000 acres of his homeland.

Daniel was visited by Jerry White during his long stay at the hospital. White survived a similar land mine accident in Israel almost two decades prior and has been active in the demining movement ever since. The two immediately became friends and decided to work together to help shed light on the issue. So far they have been moderately successful, drawing support from a wide range of individuals of different political backgrounds and religious faiths (80 percent of land mine victims are civilians). Daniel has since spoken to the UN in Geneva, addressed an Israeli Defense Committee hearing, met with the U.S. State Department, and visited an elementary school in Washington, D.C. He most recently addressed the Stimson Center along with Mr. White to help draw attention to the issue here in the U.S.

It is understandable that Israel would want to keep land mines along the border for security purposes; however, those within the demining effort have been largely focused on inland minefields. Many of these fields were left by the Jordanians, Syrians, and even British and serve no current purpose other than as strictly hazardous areas. Clearing these fields holds the potential to open up areas for construction, recreation, worship, and even tourism. As a result of young Daniel’s activism, new legislation in Israel has recently been co-sponsored by 73 Knesset members of all political parties to clear the nation’s nonoperational minefields. The final bill is expected to be voted on in early February, exactly one year after the tragic incident.

If you are interested in watching the full Stimson Center event, follow this link. The biographies of the panelists—which include Daniel Yuval and Jerry White—can be found at the bottom of the page below the video clips.