Jan 12, 2021

Starting Anew in Jaffa

A Virtual Tour of Jaffa
A Virtual Tour of Jaffa

A New Beginning

For many years, Sadaka-Reut has been running a bi-national activism program for young adults from the Jaffa area, called Community in Action. As we have shared with supporters in our final report on the program’s GlobalGiving page (‘Support Palestinian & Jewish Youth Leaders in Jaffa’), we have decided to re-vamp our program so it can be better tailored to the young people of Jaffa and better address the needs of the local community. We have seen how the localized and acutely felt ramifications of the COVID-19 crisis and the deep-seated discrimination that preceded it, have served to disillusion young people in Jaffa, leading them to become rightfully frustrated with decision-makers and lose faith in their own ability to change their own, and their communities’, circumstances. We realized that in order to strengthen communities we must strengthen and empower the potential young leaders within them, countering hopelessness and providing them with practical tools, a community of learning and partnership, and guidance, to instill and sustain their commitment to pursue social and political change.

For this reason, we decided to halt the Community in Action program and begin something new. We decided to adapt and expand our tours department to engage young people in Jaffa and train them to facilitate alternative socio-political tours of Jaffa. Our experience through the years of working with young adults has taught us that providing participants with concrete tools and hands-on experiences, can present powerful educational opportunities that teach young people about their social-political context, and instill in them the confidence to act. In all our years of leading the Community in Action groups, teaching participants to build and lead tours of Jaffa proved one of the most impactful, teaching, and empowering experiences participants had undergone. We believe that in the current political moment, the process of empowering young leaders in the community must begin at this fundamental level. 

 

Developing the program

Since we have changed course, our dedicated Tours Coordinator, Amoneh Asfour, has been working to develop the training for the young tour facilitators. As part of our program, we have decided to open two groups:

The Community Group will be a group of local 18-21-year-old participants, both Palestinian and Jewish, who come from marginalized communities. The purpose of the group is to provide participants with concrete tools and a community for learning and action. The tour facilitation training will enable participants to place their own experiences in their social, political, and historical context, and will function as an introduction to possible paths to activism. Beyond tour facilitation training, the training of the young group will focus on providing participants with additional practical self-empowerment tools (such as resume writing, public speaking, etc.). Participants will receive a scholarship to participate in the program. We are currently recruiting participants for this pilot program, which is due to last for 5-6 months. 

The Facilitators Group will be a group of local 22-30-year-old participants, both Palestinian and Jewish. The purpose of the group is to thoroughly train a small group of facilitators who will continue to lead tours of the city and receive an income for doing so. Throughout the training program, facilitators will meet with local experts (residents, activists, and scholars) to enrich their understanding of Jaffa’s history and current reality so that they can, in turn, provide an elaborate and complex picture of the city. As this is a professional training, participants will be paid for their time. The training program will span the month of February, with a total of 10 sessions. 

All throughout the process of developing these educational programs, we have continued facilitating virtual tours to expose individuals and groups to the untold and erased story of Jaffa. 

We are very excited to get started with these pilot programs. As a next step, we hope to guide our facilitators in developing additional tours, to create educational content for schools around the country, and to engage local groups of high-school students in the process of developing their own tours of the city. But for now, we are grateful to be able to get our Tours Department in motion and begin engaging young people around the history, and potential future, of Jaffa.

Socio-political Jaffa Tour Booklets
Socio-political Jaffa Tour Booklets
Sep 29, 2020

The Closing Chapter of Community in Action

Participants at Closure Events
Participants at Closure Events

Community in Action participants closing the year

In the last months, we have closed up our activity with the 2019-2020 Community in Action cohort. In June, as schools opened up again, participants finished their volunteer work with students in Jaffa. In July, we had several closing activities to provide a sense of closure for the disrupted year. We held a political tour to the Occupied Syrian Golan, where participants were able to learn about the specific context of the region, and spend one last tour together. Participants also had a closing gathering, whereby they reflected and talked about the significance of the process they went through.

Following are some of the reflections participants decided to share:

“I was able to connect my own experiences with the political map and learn that I am able to lead change.” (Palestinian woman)

“I realized that society needs to change and that I have a responsibility to take matters to my own hands and lead that change.” (Jewish woman)

“In the beginning I only got up to volunteer because I had to. Now I understand the meaning of it all – how I must give back to my community and I have a responsibility towards making my community better.” (Palestinian woman)

“I remain with the desire to continue developing my activism, to act for change, and to support efforts to resolve the conflict.” (Jewish man)

“I feel that I am more responsible and more confident. I learned to express my opinion and now thanks to the group I want to express this opinion.” (Palestinian woman)

“This entire year made me develop my understanding of our society, and also develop my sense of empathy.” (Jewish man)

“The same way I am going through a meaningful process, I think I have to give back to the kids in my city so they can also go through a meaningful process. The scholarship I got for volunteering was helpful, but that is not the reason I stayed. I felt solidarity with the kids, and I realized it is important to give and not just take.” (Palestinian woman)

 We wish our alumni all the best, as they begin to apply the lessons they learned in their activism and future work.

 Community in Action staff adapting to the needs of the community

Over the last years of carrying out the Community in Action program, we have seen the program's impact on its participants, who went on to be socially and politically engaged activists. Alongside this, we have noticed that over the years it has become increasingly challenging to recruit young Palestinians from Jaffa to participate in the program. This has led us to reflect on the role of our programming in Jaffa, and re-evaluate how we might best adapt to meet the need of young people in Jaffa while also working to promote a just and shared society. We decided to re-vamp our Community in Action program. We talked to young people in Jaffa, and to our participants, and the main barriers to participation became clear. A first barrier was the fact that it was unfeasible for young Palestinians in Jaffa to take a whole year to volunteer and learn when many have the responsibility to work and support their families. A second barrier was young people's lack of faith in their own ability to lead change in the face of an unequal political reality. A third barrier was the understandable lack of willingness to participate in bi-national initiatives due to increasing lack of trust between the two societies and the crucial and legitimate desire to prioritize the Palestinian community.

As we began this thinking process, the pandemic began and we saw the barriers to participation intensify. In Jaffa, the crisis marked an increase in the already rampant police violence and profiling of young Palestinians in Jaffa. In the midst of the crisis, the Tel-Aviv municipality decided to go ahead with the demolition of an ancient Muslim burial site, ignoring the pleas and protest from the local Jaffa residents. The localized and acutely felt ramifications of the crisis and discrimination, exemplified in Jaffa, has served to disillusion young people, leading them to become rightfully frustrated with decision makers, and lose faith in their own ability to change their own, and their communities’, circumstances. We understand that in order to strengthen communities we must strengthen and empower the potential young leaders within them, countering hopelessness and providing them with the tools, community of learning and partnership, and guidance, to instil and sustain their commitment to give back to, and advance, their communities. 

We realized that in order to support local young adults in Jaffa, and in order to equip them to support their communities in turn, we should address the main barriers we have recognized. We must firstly emphasize concrete trainings, tools, and hands-on experience that will allow participants to secure future income. Secondly, we must enrich the trainings with content around the participants' wider socio-political context and opportunities for change. Lastly, the training must directly allow young Palestinians to benefit their own communities, even when done in a bi-national context. For this reason, we decided to adapt and expand our tours department to engage young people in Jaffa and train them to facilitate alternative socio-political tours of Jaffa, and cease our Community in Action project as it is currently structured. Our experience through the years of working with young adults, has taught us that providing young adults with concrete tools and hands-on experiences, can present powerful educational opportunities that teach young people about their social-political context, and instill in them the confidence to act. In all our years of leading the Community in Action groups, teaching participants to build and lead tours of Jaffa proved one of the most impactful, teaching, and empowering experiences participants had undergone. We believe that in the current political moment, the process of empowering young leaders in the community must begin at this fundamental level.

If you would like to keep supporting our work of equipping young leaders in Jaffa to promote change in our divided and unequal reality, consider supporting our 'Alternative Tours of Jaffa - Led by Jaffa's Young' project on GlobalGiving.

Political Tour of the Occupied Syrian Golan 1
Political Tour of the Occupied Syrian Golan 1
Political Tour of the Occupied Syrian Golan 2
Political Tour of the Occupied Syrian Golan 2
Political Tour of the Occupied Syrian Golan 3
Political Tour of the Occupied Syrian Golan 3

Links:

May 26, 2020

Community in Action - Before and Amid the Pandemic

Jaffa-Beirut tour, Tantura village
Jaffa-Beirut tour, Tantura village

These have been hard and unsettling months for all of us. As we send you this update, along with our unceasing gratitude for your support, we want to also include our best wishes and our deepest hope that all of you who read these words are healthy in body and spirit, and that your loved ones are safe, as well.

The pandemic made its way to our quarters in late February, and heavy and crucial restrictions on movement and gatherings began starting in early March. So our update this time around has two clear sections - 'Before COVID-19' and Amid COVID-19.'

 

Before COVID-19

Participants continued their learning and volunteer work in Jaffa; working with students at the different educational institutions where they volunteer, initiating events, and going through workshops and learning days. A crucial component of this learning, a part of the educational program, has been the series of annual tours participants take part in. The tours enable our participants to explore the Israeli socio-political landscape and interrogate their own responsibility within it. In late February, participants got to take part in one of the two tours planned for the February-May period, titled "From Jaffa to Beirut." The tour begins in Jaffa and ends at the border with Lebanon, in Rosh Hanikra. The tour moves through different points along the incomplete path from Jaffa to Beirut, like the destroyed village of Tantura or stand-alone church in the wrecked village of Iqrit, unraveling the unspoken histories of the land we all share in order to allow participants to consider the prospect of a different, less segregated, and more just, future. We believe that in order to equip our leaders to create this shared and just future, we must enable them to ask hard questions about the historical and current injustices that inform their own lives. And indeed, our young leaders left with many questions and revelations.

 Amid COVID-19

As our work deals with people and dialogue, the restrictions to limit the spread of the virus - while crucial - affected us tremendously. Still, we worked to adapt.

We adapted the volunteer portion of our Community in Action program to fit with the current needs of our community; after an initial break, our leaders either continued their work as part of the educational institutions they were working with, or supported young Jaffa students we hosted in our offices, who did not have access to computers at home for online learning. Further, our participants have been working to transition their activism initiatives online. Our participants have continued their volunteer work, activism, and learning amid the crisis in a period that has served as an invaluable lesson, demonstrating how crucial it is for everyone to take responsibility and act to make our society better for everyone who live here.

Looking forward

Beyond our project, we were not surprised to see the incitement and violence that was directed towards Palestinians in Jaffa, and beyond, in light of the crisis. The disproportionate impact of the crisis on marginalized communities directly stems from the discrimination, neglect, and incitement against which we work with our youth year-round.

While we have had to adapt our activities, there is no doubt in our minds that the need for our educational work has not disappeared, and will be even more relevant and crucial in the aftermath of the crisis. We are working today, and always, to ensure our participants have the support and tools they need in order to make sense of this situation – to process, and act.

Jaffa-Beirut tour, Iqrit view point
Jaffa-Beirut tour, Iqrit view point
Jaffa-Beirut tour, the Lebanon border
Jaffa-Beirut tour, the Lebanon border
Participants with Jaffa students amid COVID-19
Participants with Jaffa students amid COVID-19
 
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