War in Palestine: Restrictions in the projects of Horyzon

2018 05 09 JAI Field Visit 6

The conflict between Israel and Palestine still has a serious impact on the lives of a lot of people. Even though so many people have been suffering from this conflict for decades, the situation has become much worse again since the beginning of October 2023. Road and area closures severely restrict Palestinians' freedom of movement and often lead to arbitrary arrests. Every day, people are injured or even killed, families are torn apart and houses are destroyed. Just before Christmas, the building of YMCA Gaza, with which Horyzon had been working for about eleven years, was also completely destroyed. At the time, several families had sought shelter there. At least eight people were killed and dozens injured in the attack. This attack is just one of many tragic events that have taken place in recent months. Not only in Gaza, but also in the West Bank, where reports of families being displaced from their villages have increased massively. Horyzon is deeply shocked and sympathizes with current and former employees as well as their families and friends.

The situation in Palestine is also being reflected in Horyzon's project activities. Activities in the "Joint Advocacy Initiative" in particular, for example the exchanges between European and Palestinian young people, can currently only be organized on a reduced scale and online. The project also supports the olive tree campaign with logistics and organizes volunteers to help the farming families plant the trees and later harvest the olives. Due to the war in Gaza and the escalation of violence in the West Bank, the harvest could not take place at the beginning of October. However, there are plans to plant around 50,000 olive tree seedlings in the fields of farming families in the coming weeks, wherever the security situation allows.

Horyzon's rehabilitation program, which provides support for young people with disabilities, also includes a few activities with restrictions. One of the most important parts of the project is the psychosocial counseling offered to young people and their relatives. Due to the tense security situation and restricted freedom of movement, these individual and group discussions currently take place mainly by telephone and no longer in person. This means that it is still possible to accompany the young people with disabilities, which is especially important under the current circumstances. The current situation is also very stressful for the employees of the local partner organization YMCA East Jerusalem, on a personal and professional level. Nevertheless, the teams continue to work and adapt to the rapidly changing circumstances. Most employees are still working from home, with a few in the offices. This remote work is working well, but it is far from an ideal situation due to the high psychological strain on employees.

Horyzon stands by the local employees and tries to provide them with support wherever possible - especially with regard to the flexible organization of program activities during this situation. To this end, close and regular contact is maintained between Horyzon and the local project managers. Horyzon is also active in Switzerland and is involved in the "Forum for Human Rights Israel/Palestine" in order to inform the Swiss public and politicians about events and developments through a human rights and international law approach.