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The Joint Advocacy Initiative hosted the Journey for Justice between the 10th and 18th of August 2013, with the participation of 17 international and 9 Palestinian youth. International youth came from Denmark, Argentina, Norway, New Zealand, Sweden, the Netherlands, the UK, and also a JAI volunteer from Ireland. Palestinian participants came from various Palestinian areas including Hebron, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Ramallah and Nablus.
Palestinian youth shared details of their daily lives, stories and dreams with the other participants and over time there was a strong harmonious bond formed within the group. By the end of the journey the international participants had gleaned a very good understanding of the Palestinian situation, acquired personal stories and experiences to share back home,,and discussed and planned various advocacy activities, actions and campaigns to become involved with in their respective countries.
The journey included guided visits to various areas and sites, and professional presentations and discussions on issues related to Palestinian life under occupation.
On day one, the participants were welcomed in the morning by the JAI team and they were introduced to each other through some icebreaking activities and games. Afterwards there was an information session on the work of EJ YMCA, YWCA of Palestine and their Joint Advocacy Initiative, including the Olive Tree Campaign (OTC). In the afternoon there was a guided tour to witness the wall, land confiscation, settlements (colonies) expansion and bypass roads. The group also visited a field which has been planted by the OTC and were invited to tea with a Palestinian farmer who explained how he and his family are being affected by these Israeli policies. This was followed by a guided tour inside the Church of the Nativity and Manger Square in Bethlehem. After dinner, in small groups the participants reflected on what they had witnessed and how they felt after the day.
Day two was in Jerusalem, where the group had a guided tour of the checkpoint 300 with an EAPPI member, to witness the humiliating procedures Palestinians have to go through every day just to get to work. They crossed the checkpoint and in Jerusalem were taken on a guided tour of the old city, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre Afterwards the group were taken to the EJ YMCA’s headquarters where they were welcomed by the General Secretary. Next, they headed to the YWCA headquarters where they were welcomed by the General Secretary and given a traditional Palestinian lunch. After lunch, they were guided by a member of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition (ICAHD) on a tour around Jerusalem to witness house demolitions, the Apartheid wall and settlements.
On the following day, the trip was to Ramallah, where, at the YWCA center, they had a briefing and discussion on the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions (BDS) campaign with the BDS national coalition. This was followed by a presentation and discussion by Addameer about Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli jails. Afterwards in Bili'n village, they met the head and other members of the popular committee against the wall and settlements who organize weekly demonstrations in the village. They were briefed about the various methods and practices used to demonstrate, the history and successes of such popular resistance, then they visited the site of the demonstrations and were shown how the route of the wall had changed due to the villagers continued efforts. Then back to Ramallah city, where they visited the tomb of Arafat and enjoyed a little free time in Ramallah before heading back to Beit Sahour.
Later in the evening they met with a group from the Palestinian Youth Ecumenical Movement who briefed them about their work and some of their activities and chatted with them over dinner.
The fourth day was in Nablus, which started with a visit to Jacob's Well Monastery and Church, where Jesus met the Samaritan Woman. This was followed by a visit to Al-Najah University, where students from Zajel center and the public relations office met the group, briefed them about the university and student life and gave them a guided tour of the various facilities of the universities. The students then guided the group around the old city of Nablus witnessing historic sites, areas and houses affected by the Israeli invasion in 2002. They were taken to see the olive soap factory, the herbs and spices factory, a Samaritan bath (Hammam), and sweet shops. A visit was then made to St. Joseph’s tomb inside the city which the Israeli settler have tried to take control off and visit from time to time with the support of their army.
The Journey for Justice group then headed to the Mount of Gerzim where they visited the Samaritan museum and were given a presentation on the Samaritan history and culture.
On Thursday, the participants went to Hebron, where they were briefed by the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee about the situation in the old city, divisions, closures, settlements and attacks on Palestinians inside the city by the Israeli settlers and army. They were then taken on a guided tour to the old city market, to witness settlements, closures of shops and streets (Shuhada), and passed through several checkpoints to enter the Ibrahimi mosque. They then visited the Palestinian scarves (Koufiyyeh) factory and the glass and ceramics factory on the way back.
Later in the evening, they watched a documentary movie about Jerusalem.
Friday morning started with field work, helping a Palestinian farmer and his family whose land is under threat of confiscation. Later in the afternoon they had a presentation followed by a discussion at Badil center on refugee issues, history, ongoing displacement and right of return. Afterwards they had a guided tour inside Dhaisha refugee camp, where they met refugees and witnessed how they live. Later in the evening they went in pairs to Palestinian families where they stayed overnight.
On the last day, they watched a short film clip and were briefed about the Kairos Palestine. They were then given details about how the Olive Tree Campaign is organized and how it works. They were then divided into groups of 5 to come up with ideas on how they can raise awareness amongst their families and communities and actions that they can take to advocate for Palestine. Later in the evening they listened to a local group play oriental music and saw a Palestinian folklore dance (Dabka) show. The night and journey was rounded off by a traditional farewell dinner in a local restaurant.