See more Photos and watch short Video of the Journey.
This past week, the YMCA-YWCA Joint Advocacy Initiative (JAI) carried out another Journey for Justice international youth tour in Palestine from July 16th to 24th. We had participants from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Argentina, the United States, and Palestine, many coming from the YMCA-YWCA communities in their own countries.
The tour was filled with rich conversations between Palestinian and international youth participants as they travelled around Palestine learning about the current situation of conflict and occupation in the land. The group was eager to learn with one another, seeking earnestly to understand the struggles of the Palestinian people the best they could.
During the week the group met with many organizations and advocacy groups all over Palestine, and learned about various topics including the JAI work, Kairos Palestine. They toured the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, participated in dialogue about occupation at Bethlehem University, and visited the Museum of Natural History in Bethlehem. After learning about the Olive Tree Campaign run by the JAI, the youth participants joyfully assisted one of the program's partner farmers with picking tomatoes and almonds in his fields.
The group heard from both Palestinian and Israeli perspectives when they toured with a Palestinian guide and an Israeli worker for ICAHD (The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions) in Jerusalem. Participants learned about the BDS Campaign (Boycott-Divestments-Sanctions) all throughout the tour, but gained special insight when they met with the BDS National Coalition in Ramallah. Visits were also made to Addameer to learn about Palestinian political prisoners and to the village of Bili'n to hear about the community's popular resistance and weekly demonstrations. A lecture on geopolitics was given to the group by the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH), as well as a lecture on Palestinian refugees and human rights by the Badil center in Bethlehem.
The group also made visits to the apartheid wall and checkpoint in Bethlehem, Aida Refugee Camp, Ibrahimi Mosque and Shuhada Street in Hebron, and historical sites in the city of Jericho.
All throughout the week, participants never ceased to ask thoughtful questions, seeking to hear the perspectives of a large range of Palestinians and understand this situation the best they could. Both the local and international youth on this trip shared how helpful it was to learn facts from legal, international, and personal perspectives. The international participants expressed gratitude for being able to become well-informed about this situation first hand so that they may go back and share these things with people in their own communities.
Words from Participants
- Majdi, a local Palestinian participant, shared that "even though I know all about this situation, every time I learn new things - like new numbers of settlers that have increased or the amount of land that is controlled."
- After visiting Badil resource center for Refugees, Helle from Denmark explained that it was really helpful to hear legal facts. She said, "it will help in arguments back home. Like Israel is breaking international and human rights laws - end of story."
- After visiting the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, Marian from Denmark shared that "it was meaningful to hear our guide (a local) explain that pilgrimage should mean interacting with the people here and hearing their stories."
- After visiting the checkpoint in Bethlehem at 5:00 am, the group expressed that they were very glad we went. Ella from Sweden said "it was very tense and a bit scary at times, but I'm glad I saw it."
- One night as the group debriefed, Adriano from Argentina asked Georgina if she liked life in Palestine. She responded with a nod a slight smile. She spoke fondly of her culture - "I like the food we eat, I like our way of life, I like the way we talk and yell, I like the way we dance and our weddings, but our situation - it's not good. But we will manage, we will endure."
- During debrief on the first night, Bana, a local participant from Palestine, explained to the group the dangers of normalization and the roadblocks between being able to have relationships with Israelis. Bana shared quite honestly, "we can't sit and have tea while you are oppressing us, while our land is still occupied. When our land is not occupied, then we can sit and have tea and talk about peace. I really would love to sit and talk with Israelis and make friendships, but it's just not possible in this situation."