On the 19th of February Sarah a Jewish advisor at K4P led an introduction to YaLa Young Leaders to the Leadership group.
She introduced the topic by asking them to talk about social media and the way they use technological tools. Facebook was the most popular tool as noted by the group. They used it to stay connected to their friends. Sarah then explained how something like Facebook can be used for so much more than that, emphasising its unique platform as a place of freedom of speech, cooperation and exchange. Sarah then spoke about how YaLa was formed; after the Arab Spring and the rising social justice protests taking place in Israel, social media, Facebook in particular became a key tool for the communication and expression of those people involved, it gave an outlet the social movements of the time. Uri Savir, founder of YaLa Young Leaders felt that peace in the Middle East rested with the youth of the region, not with the political elite. This thought was the driving force behind the setting up of a Facebook page; https://www.facebook.com/yalaYL. Today less than 3 years later, 440,000 young people are using the page from all over the Middle East and Northern Africa. The page has become a place where youth can meet, debate, discuss and often disagree.
Another interesting thing that Sarah spoke about was its Online University. The desire for access to good education was an expressed interest of many of the youth. In 2013 YaLa launched its own Online University. Over 300 students from across the region have participated in free online classes from well-known established Universities. This in itself has shown how Facebook as a technological tool can have a far reaching social impact. The internet does not work from borders it works sharing information freely and without discrimination.
The group were then afforded the opportunity to meet one of those students. She was Tunisian, her name was Rahma and she spoke of being an active member of YaLa, She spoke though Skype, she introduced herself and fielded questions from the group. The group were very keen to know her thoughts on the revolution and the new constitution. Rahma answered all the questions the group had for her. When asked why she was interested in Israel and Palestine she responded that she is a humanist who feels concerned each time there is suffering in the world.
The second part focused on blogging. YaLa host an online blogging platform known as the YaLa Café, approximately 60 young people aged 20-30 years contribute twice a week. Sarah spoke about some of the topics the contributors would focus on; gender equality, peace, politics, check points, religion and identity. Sarah then held a discussion where the group exchanged their feelings about these blogs, these particular themes. The group was very sensitive to the particular topics that are popular amongst the bloggers.
Sarah then asked the group to write an individual ‘blog post’. Everybody wrote a piece, for now they choose not to share them publicly but they were amazing pieces. Topics included; peace, fear and gender inequality to name but a few.
The session concluded on the note that the peace community is bigger than it sometimes seems to those of us working on the ground. The internet is one tool that we can harness for our cause, encouraging new ways to communicate and cooperate.
Maybe someday our youth will want to publically share their stories or testimonies and they may choose to do that through YaLa Café.