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How Baladna realizes these goals
05/09/2011 - 08:46

In its first years, Baladna created a special space in which Arab youth could meet to discuss issues unique to their experience as members of a marginalized minority and an oppressed nation, as well as a neglected yet essential population in the wider Middle East. Today, Baladna is working to strengthen the ability of these youth to make changes in their communities. And through international exchanges and seminars, we offer means for these youth to convey their needs to the wider public. In a social and political atmosphere which discourages questioning and free-thought amongst Arab youth, Baladna sincerely believes that youth must be given the space, time, and knowledge-base necessary to come to their own conclusions. Through Youth Groups and Leadership Development Trainings, Baladna empowers youth with resources, information, and critical thinking skills, offering the essential background that allows youth to engage in an informed inquiry that leads to community involvement and social change. During discussion groups, lectures, films, role-play and a variety of other activities, Baladna Youth Groups explore a number of issues, including identity and equality, democratic values and behavior, human and minority rights. This concrete capacity-building aims to foster and enable a collective youth movement within Arab society, assisting this and the next generation of youth in propelling themselves and their communities out of economic decline and social stagnation. At the same time, Baladna assures that Arab youth in Israel have access to a wide range of views and perspectives by linking Arab youth with the international community, regional Palestinian groups, and local Jewish groups through Youth Exchanges, field trips, work-camps and talks. Always unique, sometimes stigmatized and oft-forgotten, Palestinians in Israel live isolated from the Jewish majority, Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, the Arab World, and the rest of the globe. Even as their identity as Palestinians is repressed within Israeli society, the Arab World and many of their fellow Palestinians regard them as Israelis. Unable to travel to Arab countries which deny entry to Israeli citizens, they live remote from millions of neighboring Arabs, whilst surrounded by Jews, a minority in the region. And at the same time, much of the world is not even aware that they even exist, much less that they are the original inhabitants of the land now known as Israel. Such a reality is quite isolating and alienating, and opportunities for exchange with "outsiders" offer welcome respite and healthy perspective on the complex environment in which Arabs in Israel live. Ultimately, with a balanced measure of self-love and self-critique, Palestinian youth in Israel must communicate their concerns to the outside world. Thus far, Baladna has managed to build a cadre of youth with stronger identities and self-esteem. Next, we must assist youth as they apply the tools for self-advocacy, creating forums in which they can raise their agenda and communicate their concerns, and including them in the process of developing future forums. After several years of developing contacts with local, regional and international youth networks, NGOs and communities, Baladna is posed to tackle its next key ambition: advocating for Arab youth in Israel on the media, government, and international levels. Meanwhile, organizers, social workers, and educators striving to better the situation of Arab youth inIsrael often note an essential stumbling block in their work: the dearth of research regarding the history, status, or future prospects of Arab youth. For this reason, Baladna aims to begin to fill the gap in coming years, commissioning studies on as many issues as possible connected with, and of concern to, Arab youth and their future as citizens ofIsrael, members of the Palestinian people, and actors in a globalizing world.

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