Juso-Leadership visits Israel and Palestine – October 17-24, 2019

The national board of Jusos in the SPD (Young Socialists in the SPD) visited the WBC and Israel and Palestine in their annual Leadership Delegation from the 17th to 24th of October. After their arrival to Jerusalem, chairperson Kevin Kühnert, the general secretary, six members of the board and the international secretary were welcomed to the Willy Brandt Center. The delegation took part in the Political Café “50 Years chancellor Willy Brandt“, and a get-together with the partners.

After being briefed by the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation in East Jerusalem on the political and economic situation in Palestine, the delegation met Xavier Abu Eid from the PLO Negotiation Support Unit, in the olive groves of the Village Aboud. The board of Jusos supported local farmers in the harvest of their olives, while receiving more information on the area’s political situation. In Ramallah, the delegation was invited to meet the Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh and discuss the internal challenges for the Palestinians, as well as the deadlock of Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic talks. After meeting the leadership of the Fateh Youth Organization, the delegation arrived in Nablus to meet the partners and the Palestinian representatives of the Political Team of the WBC.

In Nablus, the board of Jusos visited the Balata Refugee Camp, focusing on the work of UNRWA providing medical services and education to the 32,000 refugee residents of the camp. Meeting the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU), Jusos and the General Secretary of the Unions discussed various topics such as labor rights, Palestinian workers’ migration to Israel, and the failed social security law. Next came an extremely inspiring meeting with The First Women Incubator in Palestine (Iradah) and a conversation on feminist struggles in Germany and Palestine, after which our partners took us on a tour through the Old City, followed by a joint workshop.

As the delegation left Nablus in the early morning and headed for the Golan Heights, the fourth day focused on security, the strategic importance and the geopolitical situation of the plateau occupied and annexed by Israel after the Six-Day War with Syria. During a tour guided by Colonel (Reserve) Ron Shatzberg, who is an expert on the topic, the delegation learned about the history of the Golan Heights and its preset situation. A Meeting with representatives of the Druze community in Majdal Shams offered the participant an important understanding of the diversity of the population and political views in this region.

In Haifa, we started off with a political city tour, focusing on the rich history of the workers’ movement and socialist groups of the Red City (as this port town is also called). When meeting a representative of the Arab section of the Noar HaOved VeHaLomed (partners in the educational project), the delegation discussed the realities and challenges for Palestinians holding an Israeli citizenship. In the afternoon, we visited an urban Kibbutz and the Rabin Premilitary Academy, both run by an alumni of the WBC.

A visit to the Ghetto Fighter House was an important part of the program, not only in order to deal with the past and commemorate the dead, but also to see different ways of doing so. the uniqueness of this Museum, in comparison to others such as Yad Vashem, stems from the fact that it was established by survivors, and focuses also on resistance. After meeting the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation in Herzliya, and discussing the two elections in 2019, we met with our partners in Tel Aviv. During the sessions with the leaderships of Young Labour and Young Meretz, we debated not only the current political situation and the crisis of the political left, but also the future of our joint cooperation.

On the last day in Tel Aviv, we met with the relatively new grassroot organization Standing Together, campaigning for social justice, equality and peace. After a city tour we met our Israeli partners in a joint workshop to discuss and plan future activities.

The leadership delegation was an important exchange that allowed us to learn new things and meet new people, but more importantly, to strengthen the ties of the political cooperation on a personal level.

Political Café “50 Years Chancellor Willy Brandt“ – October 17, 2019

October 2019 marked the 50th anniversary of the chancellorship of Willy Brandt. In the general election in September 1969, the SPD become the strongest party for the first time, and on October 21st Willy Brandt was elected as the fourth Chancellor of the Federal Republic Germany. Therefore, we dedicated a Political Café on October 17th with Kevin Kühnert, chairperson of Jusos (Young Socialists in the SPD), to look back at Willy Brandt’s Chancellorship. We further discussed the question of Willy Brandt’s policies and slogans’ relevance and usefulness for present times, and the cooperation of young political actors from Israel, Palestine and Germany within the framework of the Willy Brandt Center Jerusalem.

Kevin spoke about his personal views on Willy Brandt, and how the political and public arena have changed over the past decades, making it hard to imagine a “second” Willy Brandt today. The Political Café was concluded by a quote of Brandt from 1992: “Nothing comes by itself. And little is permanent. Therefore – remember your strength and the fact that each time needs its own answers”. This quote was adapted to the present: let’s be strong together and find our own answers for nowaday’s challenges.

Political Café “Let’s Move Together“ with Johanna Uekermann – September 19, 2019

In Israel, there’s no public transportation on Saturdays;in Germany – no public transportation in remote regions. For this reason, we hosted a Political Café on September 19th with Johanna Uekermann, Secretary of labour union EVG for train and mobility, and former chairwomen of Jusos.

We discussed not only mobility as a basic right for all citizens, whether living in metropolitan areas or the periphery; the discussion soon focused on climate protection, green mobility and the future of public transportation. In order to reduce CO2 pollution, the infrastructure and principles of public transportation need to change drastically. During the discussion with guests from Tel Aviv, we debated the issue of e-scooters: are they a supplement to public transportation, or a new threat and challenge. The conclusion of the Israeli participants was that more light rails are needed in the cities, as well as more busses on Shabbat (Saturday). A representative of the Shabus-Cooperative in Tel Aviv announced that public transportation will soon be introduced on Saturdays in Tel Aviv.


WBC & Hans-Böckler-Delegation: Trade Unions and Social Justice – September 11-19, 2019

Along with the abovementioned activities, from the 11th to the 19th September we also hosted and supported a delegation of 16 scholarship-holders of the Hans-Böckler-Foundation. The focus of the delegation was meeting the partners of the foundation and of the WBC, learning about the role and work of trade unions and aim attention at relevant topics like social justice.

To do so, we met with the social attaché of the German Embassy in Tel Aviv, the international department of the Histadrut, the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation, the Macro Institute, and Standing Together. After visiting the Negev, Masada and Ein Gedi, we spent a night in Nablus, meeting with political activists and the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU). In Ramallah, we met with the Independence Youth Union (IYU, partner in the educational cooperation), and discussed their educational work and challenges for the Palestinian youth. In Jerusalem, the delegation’s visit to the old city and Yad Vashem was followed by a reflection workshop with our team. On the last day, the delegation met with Women of the Wall and Combatants for Peace at the Willy Brandt Center, and learned about our work.

WBC Work & Study Delegation: Learning and Supporting our Partners – August 24-31, 2019

For the first time, the WBC offered a work & study delegation to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Nablus. In this 8-day program, from August 24th to the 31st, 14 participants from all over Germany had the chance to learn about the WBC, our partners and the political situation, and to support our partners. On the first day in Jerusalem, the delegation participated in a tour at the Abu Tor neighborhood, led by the Good Neighbors initiative, which was followed by a meeting with the Israeli representatives of the political team. At the evening event, the participants discussed with our partners the campaigns and topics of the upcoming elections.

The instructional aspect of the delegation in Jerusalem included a tour in the old city of Jerusalem and a visit to Yad VaShem and Mt. Herzl, as well as meetings with city council member Laura Warton, our partners from the students union at Hebrew University, and two election campaign events.

In Tel Aviv, we met with both heads of Young Labour and Young Meretz, who presented the campaigns of Avodah-Gesher and the Democratic Union. The last days were spent in Nablus, where we visited the old city, the An-Najah National University, and the community of the Samaritans. We also met with the deputy Governor on Nablus, the feminist organization Iradah and our partners from Seeds.

The delegation’s work-task took place on the roof of our partner organization Seeds, which we cleaned from rubbish and prepared for planting greens and flowers. As a follow-up on the summer camp, the delegation created with our partners a green roof that is now used as a space for meetings, discussions and leisure. Before leaving to the airport, we also visited the village of Sebastiya, where we held a workshop on Social Justice with Palestinian partners.

WBC Summer Camp: Discussing Key Challenges in a Trilateral Camp – August 11-18, 2019

Over 45 activists from all of our political partner organizations met in Berlin and Brandenburg for this year’s summer camp, from the 11th to the 18th of August.

On the first day in Berlin, we met at the Willy-Brandt-Haus for a welcome and an introduction to the joint week. The foundations for the program where laid in a safe-space workshop and team building activities, in order to create an atmosphere of trust. A specific highlight for the participants was their meeting and discussing with Delara Burkhardt, a newly elected member of the European Parliament. She also joined the group to a city tour in Kreuzberg, which focused on the history of the separation of Berlin, the fall of the wall and the district’s current diverse population.

On the next day, the group took off to the campsite in Brandenburg. After lunch, the participants got to know each other better in a narrative workshop during which each participant introduced their family’s history. This was an important step for mutual understanding and a building of trust. In the evening, the organizations presented themselves to the participants, in order to learn more about each other’s history, work and values.

During the following two days, the participants worked in three different mixed groups on the topics of workers’ rights, gender equality and climate change, led by an educational team composed of representatives from all the participating organizations. The participants identified common challenges and interests, enabling them to also discuss and find joint answers to these challenges. In the field of climate change especially, it was obvious that pollution and effects of climate change do not stop at political boarders nor separation barriers; therefore, cooperation across borders is the only way to find sustainable and effective solutions. The trustful and cooperative atmosphere also enabled the Israeli and Palestinian participants to share their experiences regarding the ongoing conflict and occupation. After challenging and emotional discussions and sharing of feelings, they all agreed that it’s time to end this political situation and to overcome the suffering of the two societies, and especially that of the young generations.

Back in Berlin, the participants brainstormed and discussed follow-up activities in order to stay in touch with each other and keep on working – together and separately – on the topics of the summer camp. A long list of ideas was presented in an event at Luise and Karl Kautsky Haus. Some of them, like a green rooftop, have already been implemented (see Work & Study Delegation), while others will take place next year.

The second WBC summer camp was also very successful in that it showed the importance and potential of trilateral cross-border activities, which lead to very specific outcomes and especially to trustful interpersonal relationships.

New Project Coordinator for “Politics without Borders”

Welcome Tobias!

Since mid-July, Tobias Pietsch is the new Coordinator of the “Politics without Borders” project in the WBC. Tobias has been committed to the work of the WBC for over 10 years. His involvement began in 2008 as a volunteer at the WBC, and since then he has engaged with this project, as well as with the region in general. He has been a member of the board of the WBC Support Association in Germany for many years, and supported the volunteers in Jerusalem. Throughout his work as a tour guide at Alsharq, he has become acquainted with almost every corner of Israel and Palestine. Tobi has gotten to know not only the places, but also the people that make these countries so special. We are more than happy to have Tobi as our project coordinator at the WBC, and expect with confidence the challenges that we will face together.


Herzlich Willkommen Tobias!

Seit Mitte Juli ist Tobias der neue Koordinator des Projekts „Entscheider*innen der Zukunft“ im WBC. Tobias ist bereits seit über 10 Jahren in die Arbeit rund um das WBC involviert. Sein Weg begann 2008 als Zivildienstleistender im WBC und seitdem hat ihn das Projekt, aber auch die Region allgemein nicht mehr losgelassen. Er war danach viele Jahre Mitglied im Fördervereinsvorstand des WBZ e.V. und betreute seinerseits die Zivildienstleistenden, später dann FSJler*innen. Durch seine Arbeit als Reiseleiter bei alsharq kennt er inzwischen wohl fast jede Ecke in Israel und Palästina. Er kennt aber vor allem nicht nur die Orte, sondern allen voran die Menschen, die diese Länder so besonders machen. Wir können uns mehr als glücklich schätzen, Tobias nun als Projektkoordinator im WBC zu haben und blicken mit Zuversicht auf die kommenden Herausforderungen, die wir gemeinsam angehen wollen.

Farewell of Judith


Thank you for everything, Judith!

Judith Höffkes, project coordinator since 2016, has left the WBC after three eventful years. Judith has navigated the “Politics without Borders” project through exciting and challenging times. She has always been devoted to introducing young people with the WBC, and to explain the various narratives that parallel each other and allow for a mutual understanding. Judith has always been our anchor, and has left an important mark on the WBC. We would like to thank her for everything!



Danke für Alles, Judith!

Judith Höffkes, Projektkoordinatorin seit 2016, hat nach drei ereignisreichen Jahren das WBC verlassen. Judith hat das Projekt „Entscheider*innen der Zukunft“ sicher durch aufregende Zeiten geführt. Sie hat sich immer die Zeit genommen junge Menschen an das WBC heranzuführen und die unterschiedlichen Narrative die dort aufeinander prallen verständlich zu erklären. Judith war unser Fels in der Brandung, sie hat das WBC geprägt und wir möchten uns bei ihr für alles bedanken!


Ver.di Delegation visits the WBC

On July 17th we hosted a delegation of 11 members of Ver.di, the German United Services Trade Union. The delegation members were introduced to the Willy Brandt Center’s work and activities, and were then invited to a Q&A session on Palestinian and Israeli politics, economy and society.

The visiting participants were particularly interested by the overview on the various political parties, elections and economic situation in Palestine, as well as the education system and vocal trainings for young adults. Discussing the roles and challenges of trade unions in both countries, the conversation also touched on divides and ongoing debates in Israeli society. Finally, there was an analysis of the Israeli elections in April, with the intention of providing an outlook on the upcoming elections in September.

Report: New chairman and new alliances in Israeli Labor and Meretz party

Following the poor results in April’s parliament elections, both Israeli Labor and Meretz Party voted for new chairmen to lead the parties. Amir Peretz received 47% of the votes and will lead the party for the second time. Peretz lead the party from 2005 to 2007 and served as Minister of Defense, deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Environmental Protection. Stav Shaffir and Itzik Shmuli, who joined the Labor after the social protests in 2011, received 27% and 26% respectively.

Just before the Labor party, Meretz party committee has elected Horowitz, with 81% of the committee members participating in the vote. Horowitz is an Israeli journalist, a Haaretz columnist, and a politician who has served as a two-term Knesset member for Meretz in the past. Horowitz succeeds Tamar Zandberg and is supported by Ilan Gilon.

Peretz and Horowitz held talks on the question of joining their lists to run together for the upcoming elections in September. They debated joint challenges and how to fight for social justice, peace and equality, finally deciding to run separately. Peretz is running the Labor Party together with Orly Levi-Abekasis’ Gesher party. Meretz joined Ehud Barak’s Democratic Union, including Stav Shaffir, who has switched camps. Latest polls indicate Labor-Gesher could win 5 seats, the Democratic Union is expected to win 7 seats, while Likud and Blue and White both could win 30 seats in the Knesset.