Return visits to us
Visits of Palestinian, Russian and Tanzanian young people to us
The first visit of a Palestinian youth group from Beit Jala near Bethlehem took place in July 2011. It was followed by three more return visits by Palestinian youth groups from Bethlehem in 2013 to 2015, and additionally from the Ramallah refugee camp in 2015.
These visits are particularly complicated and expensive for youth groups from Palestine, as they have to apply for expensive visas (for Germany) in Ramallah and then take a bus to the Jordanian border crossing “Allenby Bridge” near Jericho when they start their journey, which is sometimes closed. There, visa fees for Israel and Jordan are due twice again.
After that we will take cabs to Amman airport (if necessary we will stay overnight in a hotel), then from Amman by plane to Frankfurt and from there by ICE train to Cologne (total time: about 48 hours). Just from Bethlehem to the arrival in Amman and for the return trip from Amman to Bethlehem these groups have to pay about 300 € per person. Also, the flight from Amman to Frankfurt is about twice as expensive as the flight from Tel Aviv to Cologne, for example, for Germans (duration for direct flight: only about 5 hours). Therefore, such return visits are only possible if we receive very high grants (over 1,000 € per person) for this purpose. In order to save further costs, the young people will be accommodated in private quarters (previously in Sankt-Augustin-Birlinghoven).
Programs with us
“Enabling peace by building bridges between cultures”.
On about 5 days in the morning we worked together in mixed groups with Palestinian and German young people, some of whom already knew each other from trips to Israel-Palestine.
Central aspects of the respective Palestinian-German everyday life were collected by the groups and recorded on posters in two or three languages. At the same time, a large symbolic “bridge” (gate) was built out of cardboard boxes, under which people could walk to see both sides of the “bridge” covered with German-Palestinian posters.
Furthermore, in mixed workshops central aspects of both cultures were worked out playfully (role plays and improvisational theater under the guidance of theater pedagogue and actor Jürgen Albrecht), with posters, sculptures, etc., in order to facilitate mutual understanding between the two cultures. In addition, painting activities and other artistic projects were offered, as well as role plays on the topic of “Angels of Cultures” or “Enabling Peace by Building Bridges between Cultures” with the artist couple Dietrich/Merten, and work in mixed groups on religious texts and artistic representations on the topic. The Indian dance group Nitryavani practiced Indian dances with both groups during a workshop and decorated their hands with elaborate henna tattoos.
Excursions and sightseeing
In the afternoons and at the weekend, the following excursions and sightseeing tours took place: Excursions to Drachenfels, Rhine boat trip, guided tour of Cologne, guided tours of the House of History in Bonn and Augustusburg Castle in Brühl, plant tour at Federal Mogul GmbH in Burscheid, visits to the open mosque in Duisburg-Marxloh, the Steyler Missionaries in Sankt Augustin, the Neanderthal Museum in Düsseldorf-Mettmann, the FlicFlac circus in Cologne, the Rheinauenpark in Bonn, the Cologne Zoo and Fantasialand near Brühl. We also visited various youth groups in Sankt Augustin and the Brunnenfest in St. Augustin-Birlinghoven as an example of a typical German local and club festival.
The most impressive and touching moments of the program, however, were the visits and partial participation in Protestant church services in Sankt Augustin and Königswinter-Stieldorf by Christian and Muslim Palestinians – even from the refugee camp in Ramallah, who even had photos taken of themselves under the cross – actually completely unthinkable for devout Muslims.
At the end of each meeting, a big farewell dinner was held together with the host parents and all participants at the Wahnbachtalsperre in Siegburg.
In July 2017 and 2019, Palestinian groups from Bethlehem and Ramallah again joined us, with an additional group from St. Petersburg in 2019.
Corona, a youth group from Beit Jala (Bethlehem) can only now come to us again – from June 18-26, 2022. Unfortunately, because of the Ukraine war, there will be no more youth exchanges with Russian groups for the foreseeable future.
These exchange programs are also very costly for us and can only be financed thanks to very high subsidies, as we have to pay the high flight costs as well as accommodation, food costs and the entire program costs including transport by bus and train for the foreign young people.
In September 2019, we also hosted a youth group from the Interfaith Center in Zanzibar.
By the way, reports from all future bilateral youth exchanges will be published on the new website under “Youth Exchange Reports”.