Palestine

The Palestinian side of Jerusalem in the East suffers the side effects of the occupation. If the families cannot afford one of the private schools, the children go to schools of the Jerusalem Municipality. These schools have overcrowded classes, and include a division between girls and boys schools, and even the teachers might beat their pupils. Moreover there is no place for young people to go. Unemployment and a lack of life perspectives caused a massive drug problem especially in the old city. Finally there are not many possibilities for cultural activities like cinemas for young people. Except for ‘The Youth Times’, a newspaper published by a Palestinian NGO, there is no forum for youth at all.

Palestinian youth have so many problems, from different points of view, first as youths with their own problems, and with the occupation as a problem which affects every Palestinian, especially youth. They are open-minded and they want to know and build bridges with the world. They have their own ways but they need to develop them. Palestinian youth do not face common problems as drugs but they have their own problems, of living in an atmosphere where they cannot express themselves in many situations.

The situation of youth in the Arab world faces one more time the critical role that it will play in the future of the region. Palestinian youth is certainly not different. It is in need of training and education, including education in democratic governance. In addition, the critical question of good governance in developing countries was highlighted at the Millennium Summit, where the world’s leaders met and decided to spare more effort to promote democracy and strengthen the rule of law, as well as respect for all internationally recognised human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development. Intellectuals and experts have a consensus to improve the quality of democratic institutions and processes, and managing the changing roles of the state and civil society in an increasingly globalised world. We must underpin national efforts to reduce poverty, sustain the environment, and promote human development.

There are millions of young people in the world who have one thing in common: they are in the process of preparing for adult life, seeking to ensure economic independence and to become productive members of their societies. For that to succeed, young people require the support and help of their families, the conditions to live in peace, access to educational and health facilities, and productive, enjoyable leisure time. These are basic necessities for young people in the world irrespective of their race, sex, colour or religion. The problems of young people, like the problems of the rest of society, need to be approached from a scientific and interdependent perspective. Despite differences, admitted by all, some problems and their causes are the same regardless of the country and the time. In other words, there is a close link between the development of young people and society itself. Therefore, beyond the existence of different realities lies a youth reality which should be taken into account in redevelopment policies. Despite some similarities in the problems of young people around the globe, the reality of Palestinian youth is still special and different from any other place on earth. The complicated political and economic situation resulting from over three decades of Israeli occupation of the Palestinian land has caused, and is still causing, severe damage to the youth sector. The absence of any proper political solution to the conflict, uncertainty about future perspectives and hopelessness reinforce the feeling of alienation and confusion among youths. Palestinian youth participation in public life is very limited and never on a decision-making level.

Most of the Palestinian society is composed of youths. 65% of this society is between 13-38 years old. But this category suffers from several problems whether psychological or social, such as occupation, education, health, boarders, restrictions in travelling, Israeli practices that affect the psychological state of the young, like the killing, and the destroying of buildings. Also, Israeli forces try to part the Palestinian lands into several parts by boarders, continuous closures, and separating walls. Moreover, they face cultural problems in that they do not find a good chance to practice their own activities and interests. Simply, we can say that Palestinian youth suffers from all these problems because of the occupation and their bad life.

All our Palestinian people are exposed to all types of violence from the Israeli occupation, but the Palestinian youth is the main vulnerable sector to Israeli psychological, physical and mental depletion. Moreover, the Israeli occupation prevents university and school students to arrive to their universities or schools. In addition, the unemployment problem becomes one of the most serious problems which threaten the entire Palestinian society. There are a lot of Palestinian graduates who cannot find jobs. Moreover, there are many handicraftsmen and professional men who lost their sources of income. The percentage of unemployment in Palestine reaches more than 70% in Gaza Strip and almost 60% in the West Bank.

There are two kinds of Palestinian youth. The first is Palestinians in diaspora which are almost marginalised because they sometimes lack essential needs like health, education and work. The UNRWA and the UN are trying to make the situation better. The second is young Palestinians in occupied lands, and these suffer from daily injustice and fear and unfortunately do not even have the opportunity to practice basic social rights because of the blockade imposed on them since 1967. They only hope of a happy future and a peaceful life. Generally young Palestinians are involved in politics but of course far from extremism. They especially like folkloristic dance and painting as well as related sport activities.

The Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip and West Bank totals approximately 3.3 million people (2.1 million live in the West Bank and 1 million live in the Gaza Strip). Children and youth from 0-24 years make up 68.8% of the population in Palestine. Youths whose age ranges between 15-24 constitute 19.5% of the population. Since the outbreak of the current crises in September 2000, which increased violence between Israelis and Palestinians, the decline in the rights and livelihoods of Palestinians has been rapid and profound. This is directly linked to the violence and mobility restrictions Palestinians experience daily, including damage to their property, demolition of their homes (at least 1108 Palestinian homes since September 28, 2002, resulting in at least 5,124 Palestinians becoming homeless), and the miserable life they have including the frustration and poverty they sustain. The situation has been characterised by unprecedented levels of violence and by the most severe, sustained mobility restrictions imposed on the West Bank and Gaza since 1997. Israeli military-imposed closure and curfews along with border closures and other mobility restrictions have had severe impact on the Palestinian economy (if there is still something called Palestinian economy). The decline in economic activity has been accelerating further in recent months, and prospects for any short-term economic recovery are now grim. The resulting loss of income is one of the primary causes of increasing poverty and the deepening humanitarian crisis. According to World Bank estimates, 60 percent of the population of the West Bank and Gaza live under a poverty line of US$2 per day. Twenty-seven months after the outbreak of violence, the number of poor has tripled from 637,000 in September 2000 to nearly 2.48 million in September 2003. Unemployment has increased dramatically from 10 percent in September 2000 to over 50 percent in March 2003. The cost of direct damages to institutions and infrastructure caused by Israel’s spring 2002 reoccupation of the West Bank amounts to about $361 million, as shown by an assessment conducted by international donors (LACC 2002, 15 May 2002, Damage to Civilian Infrastructure and Institutions in the West Bank, Joint Press Release by Co-Chairs UNDP, World Bank and Government of Norway). For the period between October 2000 and August 2002, total physical damage to institutions and infrastructure resulting from the conflict was estimated at $728 million. Youth’s lives, behaviour and attitudes have changed dramatically since the onset of the current conflict. Approximately 75% of Palestinian adults report that youths are experiencing greater emotional problems and behavioural changes compared with a year ago. Many youths react to the atmosphere of violence by becoming increasingly aggressive themselves, especially towards peers and siblings. Traumatic events such as the death or injury of family and friends, house-to-house searches, and the humiliating round-up and detention of fathers and brothers lead to particularly acute psychological problems. These problems include long-term, irreparable damage to youth’s confidence in adults, increased acceptance of violence as the preferred method for resolving problems and diminished hopes and belief in a just future. Although the political future of the region remains uncertain, humanitarian assistance has been provided to the Palestinians, including rehabilitation of damaged facilities, and re-establishment of services and psychosocial interventions to ensure protection of the social and economic status of youth.

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), 63% of the population of Palestine is now below 24 years of age. Palestinian youth have played a pivotal role in the struggle for Palestinian rights and statehood, especially trough the Intifada, during which this population sector grew up and was affected by the experiences of that particular period. Closure of educational institutions, extended curfews, confrontations with Israeli soldiers, house demolitions, long imprisonment, strikes and the breakdown of authority have all left deep marks on the often called ‘Lost Generation’s’ attitude and aspirations. Following the Oslo Accord in 1993 and its political changes, the roles and responsibilities of youth have greatly shifted. Instead of leading demonstrations and confrontations with Israeli soldiers, youngsters should now begin to build their society in a democratic and civil manner. The current context of the Al-Aqsa Intifada which begun on the 29th of September 2000 has dramatically degraded the already precarious conditions of living of the Palestinian youth. In this tragic context the need for youth education and a democratic society is bigger than ever, and the Youth Development Department aims to be part of this vital process for the Palestinian youth. While Palestinian youth organisations in Palestine have adapted to the new political environment, they have to face several challenges. Primarily, the magnitude of the target group. With 63% of the population in Palestine now below 24 years of age and 21% between 15-24 years, the target group has expanded past the capacity of local institutions. This growing segment of the population is left extremely vulnerable to conditions which remain grossly inadequate. Secondly, the many problems faced by the Palestinian youth. For one, the poor economic condition leaves many youngsters unemployed. The lack of adequate educational facilities in Palestinian areas has also left many of them without a proper education. One study even indicates that 40% of Palestinian secondary students drop out, mostly due to reasons of substandard education and financial responsibilities to their families. These difficult circumstances have given rise to a host of symptomatic problems resulting in drug abuse, child labour and domestic violence, among others. These poor economic and social conditions in Palestine have also limited the development of youth institutions.

Our youths in Palestine in general and in Jerusalem suffer from many problems which are regarded as the obstacles to proceed in development processes. The Israeli strategies and occupation have negatively affected the youth situation in Jerusalem and in other parts of Palestine. There was no infrastructure for assuring the proper development for youth in Jerusalem, as it is very difficult for youth groups in Jerusalem to build their own programmes and projects, even more when they cannot practise any of their rights.

Young people in Palestine are facing a lot of problems, and the lack of education is a huge problem. There is a cultural barrier and networking with other people is very weak. But the creative scale of young people is very high. In spite of this they have to get the materials to put a lot of skills into practice and make Palestinian youngsters shake off their lack of motivation. The Israeli occupation also has an impact on Palestinian students and makes them think only about war. They never think about the future. For them the future is always bleak. Graduates have chances for jobs. Students feel frustrated because they do not get to practice what they have learnt and feel useless. As a result some quit studying and go working.

All are suffering from the political situation. Most of them are willing to participate in exchange programmes. Many of them are educated and graduated from local universities but have no employment. They have the knowledge to support their ideas, and are capable of arguing culturally, traditionally and politically.

In all societies, youths represent an important social category as they enjoy strength and vitality. They form an important source for prosperity, progress and development in society. Youths are considered to be the backbone, the future and the shield of a nation and its wealth. Palestinian youth, those between the ages of 10-24, constitute a basic pillar in society, as its size is relatively stable (33% of society for several years to come), due to what it represents for the Palestinian future. The utmost significance of this category of society (in its size, reality and challenges) together with its being is the most affected group to both the positive and negative phenomena within society. Special care is required by policy planners and decision makers involved in development and progress to secure the comprehensive assimilation of this category into any national programme for the purpose of progress and sustainable development. The Palestinian young have a good potential and would like to contribute in international youth activities. There are a lot of local activities that we cannot do over here because of the restrictions that we have from the closure, especially after building the Israeli wall that separates the Palestinian cities from each other, such as the West Bank which is totally separated from Gaza. The young were affected mentally and physically, mentally by being hopeless and thinking just to leave Palestine, and physically by being under pressure and being in big jails. Youths spend there time at home. Data shown by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics states that 47.3% of the young stated that free time is quite enough. 27.2% stated that they have too much free time. On the other hand 53.3% of youth aged 10-11 stated that free time is quite enough, as well 56.9% of those between 12-24, 46.5% of those between 15-19, and 36.4% of those between 20-24. The great challenge is how youths will spend positively their free time due to the unstable political situation prevailing in the Palestinian territory where it constitutes the main reason for not practicing desired activities at 26.9%. 76.6% of youth spend free time at home. We are, as a Palestinian NGO, facing a big challenge and trying to do our best to keep in touch with the young and give them the hope of today and tomorrow. We started doing some projects that make the young know and believe that they are the decision makers of today and will be the leaders of tomorrow, and they can do positive changes in our community by dialogue and negotiations.

Youth of Palestine is a generation that has known only life under Israeli occupation or in dispersion throughout the region, mainly in refugee camps. It is a generation of strugglers and survivors. They are youths who have suffered from discrimination and injustices of an oppressive and harsh occupation, from economic hardships due to high unemployment and crippling occupational policies, including the frequent closures, and from recurrent violent confrontations with the Israeli army and settlers. Also, youths suffer from the bad economic status and absence of opportunities which negatively affect their future and plans in continuing education, or in finding proper jobs, and other life aspects like marriage, travelling and so on. The majority of females have difficulties to be active in the community because of socially conservative elements in the local community and religious restrictions of having mixed gender projects.

Bad socio-economic conditions are the major problems of rural youth in my country. Within our organisation and local gatherings of PARC we are trying to offer the capacity and logistical and financial support to help these youth to establish income generating activities and to share actively in building their civil society in Palestine. Organising them and bringing them to view the future is one of the most important goals for us.

The Palestinian territories’ population is being identified as young. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics’ survey published in December 2001 the majority of the population is below 24 years (66.0%). Yet Palestinian youth suffer from high percentage of unemployment. Despite the fact that the participation of youth between the ages of 20-24 in the work force in 2000 was 73.7% for males and 13.6% for females, the unemployment rate in the fourth quarter of 2000 for youths between the ages 10-24 has reached 53.2% because of the Israeli closure. Latest data shows that the school drop out rate for youth aged 10-24 was 20.8% for male and 16.9% for females. The high rate of unemployment and school withdrawal gave the Palestinian youth quite enough leisure time. Problems encountered here were how to spend this time positively with the prevailing unstable political conditions. Nevertheless and despite the continuous cycle of violence, poverty and unemployment, in a recent poll made by the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics in 2003, a percentage of 79.7% of youth aged 10-24 expressed their refusal to immigrate from the Palestinian territories, while 91% are optimistic about the future. Youth forms an important and distinguished social sector because of their strength and vitality. They are the country’s key natural resources and the future income earners. They are the pillars of the future. Any good development planning should take this social segment into account. Meeting youth needs, empowering them and creating job opportunities for them is therefore crucial.

Young people. Sometimes it is wrong to say young people in my country because all of us are old people. That means that even the kids care about politics, types of weapon machines, tanks, inflation and all the topics that old people care about. We have a great need to give the kids a new chance to live their childhood, take them to trips, swimming, dancing and singing, like most of the people around the world do. Most of the youngsters try to immigrate to safer countries mostly Sweden, USA, Canada, Latin America, etc. There are no jobs, and no chances to get married.

According to PCBS, 52% of the nation is less than 18 years old. Young people in Palestine are very motivated. This country is very poor in natural resources but it is very rich in human resources. Despite the occupation and home demolishing, youth is the key to the future and the target of change towards the best if we manage to use the available resources and to gather international solidarity. You can also visit this link: www.afsc.org/israel-palestine/learn/friends-timeline.htm .The Palestinian population of people who settled in Gaza Strip, West Bank, and East Jerusalem is about 3.8 million. The formal statistics declare that 60% of the population is aged between 15 and 45. This percentage is considered to be a very high percentage compared with the average of youth age in Palestine. However, because of the political and economic hard conditions, one finds that nearly half of Palestinian youth is suffering from unemployment and passing through hard psychological and social conditions.

I am a Palestinian young man. I consider myself as a representative of the largest category in Palestine, as people from 18 to 25 years old form about 52.3% of the total population. I have just finished my bachelor degree in French education from Al Aqsa University. This university is one of four local universities found in the Gaza Strip, in addition to two technical colleges. Most high school certified youths join one of them looking forward to establish a strong career in the future. While studying, many students usually volunteer into institutions to enhance their opportunities in seeking a job after graduation. Only highly qualified young people can find work. This is because of the lack of jobs and bad economic situation caused by the Intifada. In addition, young people in Palestine lack participation in sports because sport clubs are rare. The usual small gyms that we have do not develop the expected sport lives and social relations within young people. Furthermore, young people usually spend their free time in small groups chatting at a friend’s house, surfing the Internet, or cheering up football stars on TV. This shows the sort of entertainment that we have in Palestine.

The Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza is 3.6 million. One third lives in Gaza and two thirds in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. More than 700,000 are youths aged 15-25. Almost 40% of the population in the West Bank is made up of refugees, mostly living outside the camps. In contrast, more than 75% of the population in the Gaza Strip is made up of refugees, and more than half of the refugee population lives in camps. Although UNRWA is primarily responsible for providing basic health, education and social services for refugees, it is poorly financed and incapable of addressing issues of deteriorating living standards for the refugee community and prospects for youth in particular. The psychological pressure emanating from closures, curfews and the consequent lack of accessibility to opportunities multiplies the sense of frustration among Palestinian youth. The same challenges apply to youth living in rural areas, representing 28% of the total population, where sporadic and permanent check-points, frequent military closures and barricades have isolated them from outside opportunities and influences. In many situations urban centres can be as close as 10km from a rural village but remain inaccessible.

Youth represents approximately 66% of the population in Palestine. However, they are a marginalised group. Deprived of the right to evolve democratically and culturally, and isolated through repeated closures of Palestinian areas, young people are left with little exposure to outside ideas, customs and cultures. Only few resources like clubs and associations are available to them to engage in stimulating and enriching extra-curricular activities. Youth in Palestine lacks constructive and productive outlets through which they can use their time to their own and others’ benefit. This increases the chances of becoming involved in dangerous activities or increasing their frustration, making them more susceptible to join extremist groups. The Israeli occupation has had a negative and serious effect on Palestinian youth culture. First and foremost, the occupation implies insecurity and threatens the lives of youth. Soldiers have killed and injured mostly young Palestinian males. Since September 2000, approximately 22% of those killed have been children aged 18 years or under. Furthermore, of those injured in the West Bank, 36% are children, and in the Gaza Strip 20% of the injured are under the age of 18. Furthermore, the occupation has stifled independence and freedom of young people, which limits their creativity and ability to create better futures. It hampers their ability to develop a positive self-identity and tries to dismantle the Palestinian culture.

In our country young people are facing two major problems: first, the occupation which implies sadness and bad political and economic circumstances that mean loss of safety and dignity in our ordinary life. We help to decrease the agony of our people. Secondly, we, as part of the third world, suffer from the absence of human development, which affects seriously different sectors of life, and the absence of human resource management which affects the job vacancy for youth in both general and special sectors. We, as P.N.A.Y, are trying to help in reinforcing the abilities of youth in order to increase their chances for a better life. This is a serious attempt to bridge the gap between our youth and the modern world so that we can use their experiences in solving youth problems. Moreover, our young people play vital roles in building their nation, and have a rigid belief of the importance of voluntary work in different social organisations.

The current situation has had significant impacts on the Palestinian community in general and on youth in particular; for the unprecedented escalation of violence and the severe restrictions imposed upon the Palestinian people left a very limited room for democracy and human rights. In addition to this, the hard social and economic conditions and the absence of the rule of law have complicated the situation and added more burdens over Palestinian youth. Currently, youth in Gaza is more segregated and marginalised than any other time in the past. These youths, who constitute about 20% of the Palestinian community, have no chance to express themselves freely or participate in their community issues, or to be active citizens to reach a situation or set up conditions where they can express themselves, participate in their community issues and initiate ideas and activities that make them active, democratic, and good citizens. Therefore we have to work with the youth community and democratically empower them and activate their role in enhancing democracy and employing the rule of law as a way of life forever. In the Gaza Strip, like the other marginalised areas in Palestine, the youth community is deprived of all elements of democracy and is suffering from marginalisation. They complain from various problems that need immediate intervention. They have no role in deciding the priority of the projects provided to them, for many of the projects that are being designed for them are done without the slightest consultation with them or their community. Youths are suffering from neglect and lack of youth services such as fair competitions, activities where they find a chance to release some of the suppression and depression that they feel due to the current political unrest. Therefore PCHRD is doing its best to save the youth community to lead a normal life and assist them to go back to their normal practices and take their role as the agents of change and development.

A study of Needs Assessment will be provided according to a study made by YDD.

As part of Mediterranean countries, Palestinian youth in general suffers from poverty, unemployment, lack of opportunities, in addition to several social problems. The fact that Palestinian territories are occupied by the Israeli army increases these problems and adds other unusual obstacles to youths’ daily life. Palestinian youth suffers from daily suppression represented by being the target of daily killing and arrest campaigns. They also suffer from mobility difficulties, denying their access to medical, educational and social services. This situation is particularly true for rural youth since these services are concentrated in the main Palestinian cities. Under this social context and believing that young people of today are the leaders of tomorrow, our programmes are derived from youths’ needs. We develop activities that build their capacities and their leadership skills, through forming youth gatherings and developing them into youth centres in their own villages. In these centres youth could meet, exchange experiences, and have training on subjects that are of interest to them, launch various voluntary campaigns and get proper education on civil society and intercultural concepts.

More than half of the Palestinian people are youth. However, the services provided to them almost mount to nothing. We found also that like other youths from different nations, Palestinians are really into sports, but because of the little resources and the lack of sports knowledge in the Palestinian areas, youth are underserved in this field. This section, sports, is the least looked upon in the international and local assistance programmes. This is what gives uniqueness to our program. It is the only one that tailors its services to youth directly and promotes something they are looking forward to master: sports.

The situation of young people in my country cannot be described in words since it is terrible. Every day there is more than one young man or woman killed by Israel forces. Children cannot go to their school because of checkpoints and separation walls, as well as other young people cannot go to their colleges or jobs. We cannot forget the poverty and unemployment that increase every year because of the occupation, and all these issues force Palestinian youth to search for jobs in other countries or to continue their studies in a country that has more stability and chances for success. Also, the percentage of uneducated youth increases every year because of poverty and the need for money. So they leave their school to work. We cannot forget the large number of young people that live in refugee camps. Only learning about their harsh situation makes me cry. Since they do not have food to eat or a place to live in, all these reasons make them lose hope for a better future and make their life without a meaning, which forces them to sacrifice their lives to the country. The separation walls are also creating a large problem for the Palestinians since they are separated from their land and their houses and some students cannot go to their schools or colleges because of these separation walls. So every city in Palestine is getting exactly like a big jail that requires a permission from Israeli soldiers in order to get in or out of that city. All these issues make the life of young Palestinian people very harsh and make me want to revenge for the lives of Palestinian people that were killed. But in the end, I believe that fighting or wars do not solve the problem but create a larger problem. So peace is the best way to settle the conflict.

We are an occupied country, which means that youth actions are restricted. Also, youth movements in my countries are still young and small, and most of our youth are without experience when compared with the other counties’ youth.

Youth from 15 to 35 years old in Palestinian society and in the Gaza Strip represent a large portion of the Palestinian population. As highlighted one more time by the recent UNDP report ‘˜Arab Human Development Report 2002′, youths urgently need further education and development of their skills in various fields. Palestinian people are dragging in violence, high level of unemployment and despair and frustration due to ongoing situations. Therefore, Palestinian youth is in particular need of training in democratisation issues. There is also a real need to empower youth who are a very central sector in the process of change and development within society. Youths are very powerful to influence and to transfer knowledge and information to others. In other words, investing in youth is the best way to stimulate changes for the future of Palestinian society.

The young generation in Palestine suffers certain special problems, not faced by the youth sector in other nations, due to the conditions imposed by the Israeli occupation. Sieges and walls are not only imposed on the transportation of young Palestinians, but also on their dreams and ambitions for a better tomorrow. Lack of education, work opportunities and talents development are among the most serious problems facing young Palestinians. They even vary from their friends living in other countries. But despite all challenging conditions and circumstances, they are determined to stay in their country and participate in its building and development, and therefore they need to interact with others in order to develop their attitude and experience. In my opinion, Palestinian youth have a very unique characteristic, which is creating dreams and an initiative to work on translating them into achievements and realities.

Palestinian youth suffers from various problems that affect all the aspects of their lives. They suffer from a very difficult economic condition. Most of them are unemployed. Most of them cannot resume their studies due to the expensive educational fees (it is worth mentioning that all of the Palestinian universities are private). In addition to that, Palestinian youth suffers from long leisure hours that are spent without any benefit. This is particularly true for those who live in rural areas that lack youth centres and proper infrastructure.

In Palestine, youth do not have the chance as in other countries to be involved in activities or share the Euro-Med programmes, because most of the youth do not work because there are no jobs, some of them are in Israel, and students in the universities have problems to reach universities because of travelling problems from one city to another. Youth in Palestine need the chance to be useful to the community, to be involved in international programmes, to be aware of peace, intercultural learning, and the themes of voluntary work.

The Palestinian Intifada that erupted at the end of September 2000 has entered its third year, as Israel continues to maintain its stranglehold on the Palestinian people and their resources. More than 4000 Palestinians have been killed by bullets fired by Israeli soldiers and settlers, most of them (70%) are youth and children under the age of 35. During the same period, over 65,000 Palestinians were injured (75% of them youth). Unprecedented restrictions have been imposed on the movement of Palestinians between different areas, and the land has been truncated into 300 isolated ghettos, enforced by 120 Israeli military checkpoints, in addition to the destruction of many main roads and side roads inside the cities, and the closure of many others with barricades. At the household level, 65% of all Palestinian households have fallen under the poverty line, and this average goes up to 80% for the Gaza Strip. Youth are more affected than others. Palestinian society is a young society. The percentage of children and youth under 24 years of age is 67%. Many institutions organised creative activities to promote the participation of youth. Some university students continue to suffer from the high cost of university education. University students practice democratic elections in selecting their representatives. There is a concrete need to activate the energy of youth in community development. The future interest of youth should be mainstreamed in development planning. 91% of Palestinian youth look forward to the future with optimism and hope. 77% of Palestinian youth see that their home is the place in which they spend their free time.

Actually to have a detailed description about the youth situation in our country, I can say that we are facing many problems. First of all young people have many needs and demands in our community, and these demands mostly can be described as financial, social and cultural. In spite of having many organisations in our country for youth, they do not cover our youth demands. This was the major reason for establishing our organisation which has only youth members. I think that to have such development for youth we need such new ideas and projects to help youth in order to provide them with good development for our country, especially that youth has great abilities which can be volunteered in a great way.

We Palestinian youths are very eager to learn and we are so keen in knowing everything that comes within our reach. Although we are suffering from financial, political, social and lack of solid background problems, we do not give up. You can find bright models of the Palestinian youths wherever you go around this globe. In order to summarise the situation, we can say that it is an interrelated and complicated situation. The political (occupation, peace process, Apartheid wall, invading the regions time after time), economic (poverty, unemployment, etc.) and social situations are so intertwined that you cannot tell if this is social or political or economic. Palestinian youths should be offered better chances and I am sure they will leave their prints to the next generation.

Youth in Palestine constitute over half of the population and are considered at risk. Due to occupation and deteriorating conditions in the past four years, the Palestinian youth undergo daily experiences of humiliation, restrictions, torture, and human rights violations. Israeli military occupation and its practices severely affected youth, resulting in poverty (above 75%), unemployment (above 65%), psychological traumas, homelessness, permanent disabilities, destruction and damage to infrastructure and educational and medical services, and dreadful living conditions. As a result, Palestinian youths are losing opportunities and rights to education, employment, freedom, dignity and even life, and are left helpless, frustrated, with low self-esteem, and little initiative or involvement. In addition, the patriarchal tradition of Palestinian culture often imposes on youth freedom of expression and participation. Nonetheless, the Palestinian youth have always displayed great potential, activism, and hope, waiting to be empowered in correct ways. According to the 2003 youth survey by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, 58.9% of youth are concerned with education, 20.1% think of immigration, and 91% are optimistic about the future. Currently, Palestinian youths are hopeful about upcoming elections, as it is a step forward towards achieving democracy, reform, law enforcement, equal opportunities, better economic conditions, and desires to live in peace and security.

Born and living under military occupation, youth has seen violence in the streets, shootings, tanks, and patrols of armed soldiers. They have experienced restricted movement, curfews, checkpoints and identity cards to be shown to armed soldiers. Living a lifetime under occupation scars. Youth became the most vulnerable and defenceless sector of society. Meanwhile, at home they witness the suffering of their parents, grandparents, older brothers and uncles. A relative is killed, or wounded, or imprisoned. Many are without work, or risk detection, making illegal entry into Israel to find some employment. Some have had their land and crops stolen, others became an exploited illegal work force; still others are unemployed, leaving their families to live on less than two dollars a day. Both adults and youth in my society are currently experiencing psychological and social stress. They are deprived of their rights to live a decent life where their dignity should be preserved.

Generally speaking, there has lately been a very dramatic change in the trend of young people’s interests in Palestine. In fact, the Palestinian young generation may be interested in more specific fields than the older one. Young people in Palestine seem to care for one another a little bit differently, since the older generation did not have access to the massive resources the young one has. Globalisation and digitalisation have together severely impacted young people’s way of thinking. They tend to have less time, but stronger desire to share information. The Internet has recently contributed to making people meet more often, for shorter periods, showing more specific interest and concerns. In sum, young Palestinians show a mosaic of knowledge and experience, including local, regional, and international norms and thinking approaches. The influencing factors may include the following points: 1 the Israeli occupation and relatively long interaction with Israelis; 2 a great portion of young people’s families’ experience and traditions slightly relate to the Arab countries in the neighbourhood; 3 a large number of young Palestinians gained multinational knowledge and cultural norms through their frequent involvement in academic and professional experience overseas; and 4 the large number of international NGOs operating in Palestine. As a result, young Palestinians seem to have great potential and willingness to cope with any dramatic change, tough situation, or potential surprises. However, more guidance and specialised training on civil affairs may be a key factor to focus on in the near future.

In Palestine, the young are faced with severe problems relating to their freedom, their educational status, and their abilities to develop as persons in a natural and safe setting. They are faced with many crucial questions about their identity and their status, such as how will peace be achieved, and when it does what form it will take. They also question what role they should play in developing their country’s future, independence, and identity. Before coming to Canada to study, I grew up in Palestine, even during the latest Intifada, and I came to realise that many of my fellow youths lacked the same opportunities as me in developing their aspirations for themselves and their countries. I was very fortunate to be given an opportunity to study overseas, but many of my fellow youths have not and so their main concern is to see that another future is possible, not one only tarnished by violence and occupation, but to understand also that they have a fundamental role in making that future a reality.

The Palestinian community in the Old City of Jerusalem is considered youthful, where 24% of the total population is from the age group 0-14. Statistics show that the medium age is around twenty years and the mean is twenty-five. Youth aged 12-25 constitutes 32% of the total population. There are 19 NGOs working in the Old City of Jerusalem where the bulk of their work is focused on education and health. Only four NGOs offer youth programmes. One belongs to the Israeli municipality and another has limited youth activities in the form of scout activities. Youth suffers from a difficult situation that could be summarised as follows: an increase in the unemployment rate, an increase in the dropout rate from schools particularly in the age group 14-16 as a result of the deteriorating socio-economic status, together with the absence of recreational clubs as well as youth cultural and social institutions, an increase in the number of drug addicts amongst youth, where the previous study has shown that there are more than one thousand three hundred addicted in the Old City of Jerusalem whose youth constitutes the majority, and an increase in delinquent behaviour among youth. There are no activities or places such as social and sports clubs where youth meet and socialise. There is nothing available in the way of social and recreational activities or facilities. Therefore there is no way to relieve stress. All this can lead to socially, morally, and sexually deviant behaviour, for example, bored teenagers sometimes might turn to delinquent behaviour. Youth in general in the Old City of Jerusalem have too much time on their hands and nothing to do. With few jobs available and usually overcrowded houses, they go outside most of the time. Therefore there is a great need of rehabilitation, education, social and culture programmes for youth. All previous indicators show that youth problems are on the increase in the old city of Jerusalem. In spite of the fact that these youth problems are widely known within society, nothing was done to show that this category of the population on which the development of the whole society depends is cared for. Another important point that is worth mentioning here is the negligence of most international NGOs towards Jerusalem in general and the Old City in particular, which leads to the acceleration of the problem.

I want to say that young people in Palestine have no chance to live like other youths in other countries because of the hard conditions of life under Israeli occupation. Young people in Palestine are prohibited from the freedom of movement. There is a large number of them in Israeli prisons spending their life hoping that one day they will live in a Palestinian independent state. They struggle to make this hope come true.

Young people in Palestine have a lot of problems related to occupation together with psychological problems, unemployment and poverty. The development situation becomes so difficult to build for the future. We have to build the human being while the occupation destroys everything, even youth’s souls.

Young people in the Occupied Territories in general are facing many difficulties in their day to day life. First of all they are the main target of Israeli occupation forces, as they represent the future of Palestine. Many of the educational and voluntary centres for youth were shut down or attacked by Israeli soldiers, and that limited the space where youth can spend their time in a productive manner. In refugee camps youth are facing such a hard time because, first of all specialised youth centres do not exist in most of the camps. The daily pressure is affecting each aspect of their life. Many of them are forced to leave school due to several financial difficulties. Such conditions are imposing on youth a different style of life that can push them away from their own society, and so it is very important to mobilise youth and provide different opportunities for involvement in social work and voluntary activities beside intensive educational programmes.

In my country, young people have a really bad situation. They cannot do anything without taking any big risk. But they still keep on living, doing their jobs in the difficult atmosphere they are surrounded with, they keep playing sports under fire, they still go to universities although they stand on checkpoints for hours daily, they still love peace and will hope forever that one day we will all live in peace and love.

Well, as we all know, the situation in my country, Palestine, is doing very badly and unfortunately Israeli occupation closed all the ways to make young people meet. It created checkpoints and many things that make life very hard to live. Nobody can really succeed in making youth change their mentality because they all think that their future will be harder than now.

I think that the situation of young people in Palestine is known. Its present bad life suffers from the Israeli occupation. Freedom is the biggest problem. We study in our universities under suitable conditions. There are little clubs that take care of young people, and as a result were closed by the Israeli government. In addition to that, Palestinians are killed daily.

Although there are some similarities in the problems of young people around the globe, the reality of Palestinian youth is still special and different from any other place on earth. The complicated political and economic situation resulting from over three decades of Israeli occupation of the Palestinian land has caused, and is still causing, severe damage to the youth sector. Young Palestinians are particularly affected by the harsh and unjust policies of collective punishment such as frequent closures of educational establishments, curfews, mass arrests, and lack of freedom of movement. Youth, which should be a time of exploring the world and its possibilities and opportunities, is instead reduced to a constant struggle for freedom, dignity, economic and cultural survival. Additionally, the participation of Palestinian young people in public life is very limited, and almost never on a decision-making level. Despite these problems, Palestine youth continues to strive for peace and respect between people, cultures and nationalities, both at home and on the international level. They are the hope and the building blocks of just societies in the future.