What's Going On At The Jerusalem Ymca

Volunteering with the ACTV Video Youth group

Volunteering with the ACTV Video Youth group

by Katie Potere

Achvat Amim Volunteer, 24 February 2016

ACTV Jerusalem Video Youth Group




For the past four months, I have had the pleasure of volunteering with the ACTV Youth Program at the Jerusalem YMCA.

This is one of four Youth groups at the Jerusalem International YMCA Youth department, that brings together youth from East and West Jerusalem, Israelis and Palestinians, to meet and creatively interact and express subjects of their lives and the conflict, creating a common experience and visual-verbal language bringing about individual and social change and promoting co-existence.

I’ve lived in Jerusalem for five months, and I can honestly say that of all the things I have done here, volunteering with the Jerusalem YMCA ACTV Video Youth Group has been the most rewarding and important experience I have had. I believe it may also have been one of the most influential experiences of my life.

I spent the this time meeting kids from East and West Jerusalem who come together because they want to learn about filmmaking and because they want to share with each other. These kids have inspired me more than I can really explain. They are smart, honest, interesting, funny, and sweet. And beyond all that, these kids are brave. They do every week what other kids and adults are too afraid to do – listen to their peers from the other side. They constantly impress me with how they behave as if there are no boundaries between them at all. They talk to each other in whichever language they have in common, even if it’s limited English on both sides of the table. These kids appreciate each other and share their artistic creations with each other. They also share experiences with each other in a safe space to encourage dialogue, understanding, and empathy. Then they all turn around and work together to create new art and movies.

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Watching this process unfold and develop has been incredible. On the first day of the program, some of the kids came to learn about ACTV. It was difficult because of how intense the situation in Jerusalem had gotten in October, and it was great to have the attendance that we had. The group used video cameras to explore the beautiful YMCA building and to get an introduction to filmmaking. That was the first time I had the chance to connect with two youngsters who have since completely changed my perspective of life in Jerusalem through the stories they share and the videos they make. Being a part of the educational workshops and helping these youngsters learn about things like storyboarding and camera angles showed me how simple and natural it can be to work together.

Hearing about some of the dialogue sessions and how personal and detailed they can be proved to me that real work is being done here, and real change is possible.

Today is my last day here, and my heart is so full.

These kids have taught me how to laugh when life gets so chaotic, it seems unreal and unbelievable. They have increased my limited understanding of Arabic and Hebrew and showed me that learning languages can be fun, even if it’s hard! They have inadvertently taught me to open my eyes and my ears to artistic expression of life experiences in Jerusalem that are very different from my own. They inspire me each and every week just by coming together as a group.

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I respect and admire everyone involved in this amazing, barrier-breaking project.

Asaf and Khaled, the group facilitators, give these teens the freedom to take the conversations in whatever direction they wish and challenge them to create whatever they want – together – in a film, while facilitating a safe and respectful dialogue setting. They have the creativity and the unique perspective to make a real difference in the lives of these kids, and the kids have the opportunity to take artistic risks to share their own truths. I wholeheartedly believe that because they come together every week and have the opportunity to hear narratives from the other side, understand and empathize, and make themselves heard to someone from ‘the other world,’ means that they would be less likely to take their emotions out in any other way.

The videos they are making are journalistic and captivating, and I believe that this creative outlet is both a release and a motivation to keep their bright futures in mind when dealing with the extreme challenges of this land. It’s situations like these that make me so desperately wish languages weren’t so difficult to learn so I could better understand these amazing kids. Instead, I just have faith and believe in them pursuing what is right and just and safe. I truly believe these kids will grow up and save the world.


ACTV – Video Youth Group


Communication through Video – ACTV Jerusalem Video Youth Group

Youth from East and West Jerusalem come together to learn how to make movies

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The ACTV Video Youth program has now entered it’s 4th year, bringing together teens from all over East and West Jerusalem to learn how to direct, film and edit their own amazing movies, sharing experiences and creating new narratives together.

The group is facilitated by Khaled Rishek and Asaf Shahar of the YMCA Youth Department

Want to find out more about the Youth Department’s ACTV  Video Youth group and other Jerusalem Youth Groups and activities?



Yasmine Guerin, Youth Department Coordintor

+972 02-5692677 | yasmine@ymca.org.il

Naxeeh Ansari, Youth Department Director

+972 02-5692676 | nazeeh@ymca.org.il

You can also check out our Young Leaders Youth Group