Mutual Respect and Equality
Young Leaders Jerusalem Youth Group
“We, the Jerusalem International YMCA Young Leaders Group, Jewish and Arab youth of Jerusalem are, foremost and above all human beings, working together on the basis and foundation of mutual respect and equality.”
This powerful statement opens the Young Leaders group contract, a social contract for the group members, written by the group members.
For the last month the group have been discussing norms of behaviour, looking at norms in society, in their cultures, neighborhoods, schools and homes, and within the group itself. This process has enabled the group members to point out norms they feel are positive which they want to strengthen, and the norms they feel are detrimental to the group. The process provided a platform for each group member to say what bothers them within the group while voicing their vision for the group, culminating in the group contract.
Building this contract together, through hours of discussion and debate, the group a has grown together, finding ways to accommodate one and the others needs while also focusing on the ways in which the group can reach it’s goals – not forgetting to have fun on the way.
Much of this process was completed during an awsome group SLEEPOVER here at the Y! This sleepover was a great opportunity to bond, have fun and get lots of work done.
Maddy, our group volunteer has written some words about it from her perspective:
Madeline Winnard, Young Leaders Youth Group, Volunteer
As a former participant of youth groups and summer camps, I had a blast spending time with the young leaders at their Leadership SLEEPOVER this past week. Not only did it bring back memories, but it reminded me the power of friendship, community, and youth work.
It’s clear that the young leaders are more than just peers now, but friends. Not only do they cook together (delicious meals I must say), but they work together, plan activities with one another, and have important conversations. The best part about this SLEEPOVER was that it was totally planned by the youth. Everything from the menu, to the activities, to the sleeping arrangements. After preparing for weeks in advanced, the youth slept in their homemade forts, ate a delicious dinner that they cooked together, including “shukshuka”, Manakesh Zaatar (traditional bread) and Banana split with ice-cream. Later we all got silly in games of charades and karaoke. Because they worked so hard leading up to the event, they all took ownership of their work and success with enthusiasm, laughter, excitement, and teamwork. It was awesome!
Later, they all broke out of their shells and shared their singing voices in a ridiculous round of karaoke. Girls and boys sang together, and broke down racial and ethnic boundaries. They sang classic songs including Adele’s latest Hello, and of course the classic YMCA.
They were even able to play charades, using their very own inside jokes and political figures (not so easy when you consider that they speak different languages – Arabic and Hebrew). This was great, as they now have a shared sense of humor that they can all engage in as a group.
The most amazing part was watching their ability to discuss serious issues as a group. The group spent hours discussing norms in their communities, and specifically within the group. These 14-16 year olds were able to critically think about their roles within society, and the roles they play within the YMCA. They were able to acknowledge the positives, such as being able to communicate within their native tongue with one another with the translator, as well as their ability to make positive change within the leadership group. Even more impressively, they were able to acknowledge some of the norms that they want to improve, so that they can truly be a coexistence group. They acknowledge that they often sit more with their fellow Jews and/or Arabs, splitting into ethnic sub-groups, as they gravitate, naturally to what they know, and people who speak their language, but, now that they are aware of this as a group, they are making even more of an effort to break down these social barriers and excited to establish new norms for the leadership group as a whole.
One of the best moments of the SLEEPOVER was when they walked to the top of the YMCA tower together. The kids laughed, supported one another up the many, many, MANY flights of stairs, and smiled the night away. They all cherished the beautiful view of Jerusalem, and smiled as they called it “the most beautiful city in the world.”
Although Jerusalem may be a tense place now, these teens come together because of their love for the city and their communities, and are working together to share something special.
Planning in Action – The YMCA Jerusalem Young Leaders Youth Group
Check out next week’s blog!
The Young Leaders Jerusalem Youth Group has now entered it’s 4th year, bringing together teens from all over East and West Jerusalem to practice methodologies in group leadership, personal commitment, cooperative group projects and discuss issues relating to their everyday lives in Jerusalem….and have a lot of fun!!!
The group is facilitated by Khaled Rishek and Asaf Shahar of the YMCA Youth Department