The newest full member of the World Alliance of YMCAs was in big difficulties a few years ago. Andre Batarseh took over a ship in rough seas and was able together with his very competent team of staff and volunteers to turn the ship around and sail it to stability and new prosperity. A remarkable achievement!
Simone, the WAY Executive Committee member takes Andre and me to an exciting concert in the Palestinian National Theatre the first night I am there – three Turkish musicians residing in Cairo and playing Oriental Jazz, a wonderful experience and the audience was full of enthusiasm.
Next day Andre, Simone and I drove down to Jericho to visit the Vocational Training Centre there, a two years’ course for the poorest of the poor.
Close to 6000 young people have been empowered and given job opportunities. The centre is doing thorough research into the needs of the society so that the young people are being trained for jobs and not unemployment
80 % of the students are employed after 1 month, and after 6 months 90 % are in jobs. It started here in Jericho in 1956, and every year 150 new students are educated at the centre.
I speak with the young people, coming accountants, plumbers and electricians, carpenters and painters, car mechanics and construction workers and it is written all over them that this is a good place to live and grow.
Several of the teachers have been educated at the centre themselves, some of them spent time with EJD in the German YMCA for further training, and therefore speak good German. Now they are back in Jericho as well educated teachers.
Jericho is known as the oldest city in the world, more than 10 000 years old, and here is also the Mount Temptation, the mountain where Jesus was taken during his 40 days in the desert to be shown all the glories of the world.
Ramallah is the biggest city in the West bank and full of young people. East Jerusalem YMCA is building a huge landmark YMCA centre here to serve the city and the surrounding villages. They still need 2 million US dollars before they can open the centre.
We are also invited to the Negotiating Team of the PLO, the team dealing with the so-called Quartet where Tony Blair is the secretary, and preparing for peace talks with the Israelis.
We are given an expert presentation of the latest political developments in the region. We see maps of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, we see the network of roads to unite one settlement with the next and we see how the wall, 9 meters high, is being built through the land, dividing people from people.
Even in the middle of Ramallah there is a huge Israeli settlement surrounded by barbed wire.
To avoid the most difficult checkpoint, Adnan drives us through the backstreets of the nearby refugee camp. We are politely treated at the checkpoint.