7th - 15th July 2012
See more photos of the Journey
24 international youth from various countries including the United States, Denmark, Japan, Sweden, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Canada, Ireland, and Argentina, beside 12 local Palestinian youth, from various areas including Bethlehem, Hebron, Ramallah, Nablus, Jerusalem and 1948 Palestine went through the JAI youth Journey for Justice between the 7th and 15th of July 2012.
The journey included guided visits and tours, arranged meetings and presentations with community figures and representatives, as well as grass roots figures that included farmers, refugees, the youth, families and students.
On the first day in Bethlehem, an ice breaking session was organized at the YMCA in Beit Sahour, followed by orientation on the journey schedule and introduction to the work, programs, and campaigns of the East Jerusalem YMCA, YWCA of Palestine and their Joint Advocacy Initiative. After having lunch in the old city of Bethlehem, a guided tour was organized inside the Church of Nativity and through the old city of Bethlehem. After which the JAI campaigns officer guided them to witness the wall, settlements, confiscated lands and others under threat of confiscation in the Bethlehem area. Participants also had the chance to meet and chat with a farmer, who is one of the JAI Olive Tree Campaign beneficiaries.
On the second day, early in the morning, it was arranged with the EAPPI Bethlehem team to accompany the participants for witnessing the Bethlehem-Jerusalem checkpoint, which they crossed afterwards to go to Jerusalem. In Jerusalem old city they had a guided tour inside the city, Al-Aqsa mosque and holy Sepulchre church, after which they went to the YWCA where they were further introduced to the work at the headquarters and met the General Secretary and some staff. In the afternoon, a guided tour was arranged by the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition (ICAHD) who took the participants on a tour around Jerusalem to witness house demolitions and settlement construction from an Israeli human rights perspective.
In Ramallah on the third day, some briefing was given on the way about the alternative route Palestinians have to take instead of going from Bethlehem to Ramallah through East Jerusalem, with the checkpoints and settlers' bypass roads in the way. At Birzeit University, near Ramallah, they met with some students from the Right to Education Campaign, followed by an arranged meeting with Sahar Francis the director of Al-Dameer organization for Palestinian Prisoners rights at the Israeli jails. Sahar briefed the participants about the conditions of prisoners, administrative detention, what they are subjected to, and their demands with the ongoing strikes for many prisoners.
In the afternoon, a visit was arranged to the village of Bili'n near Ramallah, where they met with the head of the village popular resistance committee against the Israeli wall and settlements, who guided them to the site of the weekly demonstrations and showed them the changed route of the wall due to the impact of these demonstrations. The participants then had free time in Ramallah, before they headed back to Beit Sahour where they watched a documentary movie about Jerusalem.
The forth day was in Nablus, north of the West Bank. The day started at Al-Najah university, where the manager and youth from Zajel youth exchange programs received the Journey for Justice participants, briefed them about the university, difficulties faced by students due to the Israeli occupation measures, and the Zajel program. The participants had a guided tour around the various university faculties. After lunch at the university cafeteria, the participants were guided in sub-groups on tours inside the old city of Nablus, were they witnessed old buildings, visited Turkish baths, soap factories and spices factories.. A visit was then conducted to the Gerizim Mountain and meeting with a Samaritan priest, who introduced them to the Samaritan belief, culture, heritage and presence in Palestine.
The participants visited Hebron on the fifth day, where the had a briefing by the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee about the city, settlements and closures and checkpoints inside, as well as settlers and soldiers harassments to the Palestinians. They were then guided into the old city and markets where they witnessed settlements on top of Palestinians houses and shops, shop closures and visited the Ibrahimi mosque. After lunch, they were guided by a Czech staff member of the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee into the Shuhada (martyrs) street that is forbidden for Palestinians, and only settlers are allowed to walk in, where they witnessed closed Palestinian shops and houses.
The group then had some free time shopping in the old city. After which the participants headed back to Beit Sahour, but stopped on the way at a glass factory to witness the glass and pottery production. Inside the Shepherds' Grotto at the YMCA Beit Sahour, participants had a devotion session with prayers from the Bible, Quran, and Franklin D. Roosevelt quotes.
Later in the evening, it was arranged for the ex-members of the JAI youth group to meet the participants and chat with them about their experience at the JAI and what they gained from it.
On Friday the 13th, the participants had a session at Badil center for refugees' rights, where they were introduced to the Palestinian refugee issue, right of return and ongoing displacement. A meeting was then arranged with the Lajee Centre at Aida Refugee camp, where they met some refugees who talked to the participants about their life in the camp and toured with them around the camp. In the afternoon, the participants had the chance to swim at the YMCA Sport Centre, after which they there briefed about the Kairos Palestine and the International work and campaigning of the Olive Tree Campaign.
They were then distributed to local Palestinian families to stay overnight to witness and experience their day and evening social life.
On the following morning of the seventh day, participants were briefed about the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions Campaign, followed by a discussion on future follow up and advocacy work back in their countries, movements and communities. They headed then to Jericho, where they had lunch and a briefing about the work and activities of the YWCA centre. Despite the hot weather, participants went up the Mount of Temptation, and visited the museum of the 10,000 year old Jericho, Tel El Sultan.
In Beit Sahour, a cultural evening was organized with Dabka folklore show, followed by an oriental music performance. A farewell BBQ was arranged for dinner in the YMCA Beit Sahour garden.
Integration with the Palestinians participants, who stayed at the hotel with the international ones, was one of the main goals of the journey. This gave the international participants a chance to hear personal stories of life under occupation and to reflect on various issues and future dreams and expectations of the Palestinian youth. It is hoped that communication will be maintained among all participants. The JAI will also follow up with the participants to support and encourage their advocacy activities and actions.