Journey for Justice

Once a year, the Joint Advocacy Initiative of The East Jerusalem YMCA and YWCA hold journey for Justice. It was initially a project with the Denmark and Norwegian YMCA/YWCAs, but we are always trying to bring participants from YMCAs/YWCAs around the world. This year we had some from Ireland, Wales, Argentina, Spain and Italy.

Once a year, the Joint Advocacy Initiative of The East Jerusalem YMCA and YWCA hold journey for Justice. It was initially a project with the Denmark and Norwegian YMCA/YWCAs, but we are always trying to bring participants from YMCAs/YWCAs around the world. This year we had some from Ireland, Wales, Argentina, Spain and Italy.

We take all of these youth and, for nine days, we put them with Palestinian youth and travel around the West Bank to witness and experience the occupation. That's the whole marketing spiel, but really, I have to say this is probably one of the best things the JAI does here.

The accompaniment of Palestinian youth on the trip changes everything.  It is a simultaneously depressing and fun experience. Just as the international youth are struggling to come to terms with the things they see the Palestinians are there laughing through everything as only they can.

It's the odd sort of contrast you find here, where a Palestinian girl who spends all day playing the drum, singing songs and dancing debka will turn to me in Jenin and say, "We live the life of dead people.  There is no future for us."

A long-time friend, a remarkable guy full of love and respect, will say to me at the Dead Sea, where we are swimming surrounded by Jews on their Sabbath, "You know it has been many years since I have heard the Hebrew language. I hate hearing it." For years he has only heard the language come from the mouths of soldiers - invaders and conquerors.

Everyone has a story here, and for some - like me - it never translates until they are a brother or a friend. This one escaped from Dheisheh when they rounded up all the males. He fled into the hills where he was shot at, but he evaded the bullets. This other one spent two weeks without seeing any light, not even approaching a window. He sat with us on his balcony and pointed out the sniper nests, the tanks, painting them on the buildings and fields around us, recreating
the invasion. Another one was shot in the leg, but the blood was all over her body. Laughing, she tells about how the paramedics, looking for the wound, were cutting her clothes and she was trying to tell them, "The leg! The leg!" so they wouldn't cut her shirt and expose her breasts. There is always something to laugh at.

So with Journey for Justice, youth from YMCAs/YWCAs around the world get all of this crammed into one tough week. It is similar in most ways to any fact-finding trip/witness visit, but the accompaniment of Palestinians and the focus on youth give this project a special dimension. The occupation is written first and foremost into the Palestinians who endure it, and every night the youth sit together they are developing a relationship with the occupation.

Nathan Wright


Nathan Wright served as a short-term volunteer from September 1, 2004 through February 28, 2005, with the East Jerusalem YMCA in Jerusalem.  He worked with the YMCA's computers and technology office as well as youth and advocacy programs.