A young girl wering a hijab and a yellow t-shirt looking into the camera and smiling.
Israel & Palestine

Creating something bigger together

Being young in Palestine means living under the oppression and violence of the occupation. Diakonia’s partner organization Tamer in Palestine brings together young people from different backgrounds to meet, talk freely and think about their rights.
“Together we’re creating something bigger,” says 16 year-old Bisen Safi, who leads the youth group Nakhael.

An image of a large wall leading down a hill.
The occupation of Palestine has meant restrictions. It is difficult for Palestinians to move around freely. A lack of democracy combined with strict norms pose an additional obstacle for the opportunities of young people, especially girls.

Wherever you are in the world, youth is a time filled with thinking, anxiety about the future, and hopes and dreams, too. Being young in occupied Palestine adds an extra layer on top of all that. Lives are affected by the constant stress involved in being surrounded by soldiers, not being able to move around freely and the violence encountered every day. Almost half of all children over 12 are suffering from mental health issues.

“Being young in Palestine involves a lot of social pressure. There are loads of problems to do with education and the occupation that other young people don’t need to think about. For example, we are very limited in terms of travel. It’s very hard to study abroad,” says Bisen.

We can express ourselves freely in the group

In this context, it’s valuable to be able to get together with other people the same age and express oneself freely and exchange ideas. This is where the youth groups that Diakonia supports across the whole of Palestine come in.
“The best thing is that we can express ourselves in the group in a way we can’t do anywhere else. This makes it different from school,” says Bisen, continuing:
“Leading the group is a very special experience. We come from different backgrounds, different schools and different kinds of families. All we have in common is our age. We’re all aged between 15 and 17.”

Developing critical thinking

Bisen says that lots of people in the group have strong personalities, and an important exercise involves being able to discuss and get your opinions across without starting a fight.

“We talk about feminism, which gives rise to some powerful discussions. Some people say feminism isn’t a practical idea. One person in the group is a very extreme feminist, and another is totally the opposite. Personally, I think we need to learn more before forming an opinion, but not everyone in the group agrees,” says Bisen.

“The group is a way for us to find out who we are, what we like and what we want to do.”

The groups enable the young people to develop their creativity and critical thinking. The discussions revolve around books, the media, art, rights and lots of other things. Bisen recounts a media criticism exercise where they analysed the people on the Israeli currency, which is used in Palestine.

A young woman wearing a pink hijab and a yellow shirt looking down in a book and writing.

“We asked people in the street if they recognised the people on the notes, and lots of them didn’t. Today the people are well-known cultural personalities. Before, they were political figures. We concluded that the occupation is no longer just political but also cultural.”

Bisen Safi

“We see that the young people who have attended the groups develop their critical thinking and leadership. We say that we are helping the young people to understand what they like and what they don’t like,” says Haneen Khairi from Diakonia’s partner organization.

The active citizens of the future

The idea is that the young people will also become active citizens in their local communities. Awareness of their rights means that they will be better able to stand up for themselves and defend their rights.

“We get a lot of ideas from each other because we come from such different backgrounds. This means we are building something bigger together,” says Bisen Safi.