The International Youth Exchange Program (Zajel), came as the result of a dream. The dream was to develop an exchange program that would assemble youth from diverse backgrounds to interact with Palestinians, and to learn about Palestinian society and political realities. The Zajel program is based at An-Najah National University in Nablus.
Zajel is the Arabic word for a carrier pigeon: a symbol of communication and a symbol of peace. The Zajel Program offers a peaceful way by which Palestinian youth can be part of their cause. We seek to answer the misunderstanding and unawareness of people in the West, by representing Palestinian youth in a positive way and by acting as ambassadors for the Palestinian cause.
The intention is to provide international youth and university students with a venue to create a type of symbiotic relationship that will surpass what other exchange programs have offered.
Zajel focuses on three main ideas:
- To challenge the stereotypes about Palestinians that exist in the West, this is accomplished by making our students aware of these misconceptions and providing them with the historical and cultural education needed to counter this.
- To foster international communication and intercultural dialogue, to empower our students to accept and deal with different opinions, religions and cultures by bringing them into contact with people from across the world.
- To involve the Palestinian youth in organizing activities that serve their community; this builds the self confidence and experience of students, which will help them play a larger role in the future building of a Palestinian state.
How do we bring these ideas into practice?
- Voluntary work placements allow international volunteers to help our efforts in a variety of ways, for instance: teaching English and establishing contacts internationally with youth organizations from across the globe.
- Summer work camps are organized annually for a period of three weeks: volunteers from all over the world are brought together to work at the university and local refugee camps, This camp aims to foster a lasting relationship between the international volunteers and the Palestinian community.
- Video conferences aim to engage lecturers and students from Palestine and the rest of the world in an open dialogue about important and controversial topics within the Middle East.
- Study visits allow participants to see another side of the conflicts in the Middle East. Study Visits last for one or two days, and include workshops, lectures and meetings with leaders of the community, giving invaluable insight into this complex region.
- The Palestine Information Unit promotes Palestinian culture, tradition, history and news. It gives a voice to those usually overlooked by a media that focuses solely on the conflict.
The Zajel Youth Exchange program was founded at An-Najah National University in 2001 through the ideals of a Palestinian NGO called Nashama.
To promote peace and further the Palestinian cause through cultural exchange and mutual understanding between Palestinian youth and the rest of the world.