Let’s Lead Workshop in Sebastia

 New Capacity Building Program with Seeds for Seeds for Development and Culture‎

The first phase of the new Let’s Lead capacity building program with Seeds  for Development and Culture ended with a full-day outdoor activity in Sebastia, near Nablus. The 25 participants from all over the West Bank have worked for several months on group- and community-building, organizing and mobilization, theoretical inputs and practical trainings. At the end of the course, an Open Space will be designed by the participants.

The trip to Sebastia was the milestone, concluding the phase of group- and community-building with a workshop on identity. The participants were asked to draw a flower that introduces the aspects in their life which shape their identity. Then, the goals of the entire course were discussed in small groups. These aims were later presented through freeze theater scenes. The frozen figures desplayed what the participants wanted to achieve: leadership, cooperation and constructive feedback, to name a few.

After a lunch break by the Roman forum, which is a part of the rich archeological site of Sebastia, the participants built kites together with kids and youngsters from the village. As Sebastia has been affected by violence from the Israeli Army and nearby settlers, flying the kites was intended to show solidarity with the community and enable joyful moments for the kids.

The program continued with more sessions and workshops, focusing on themes such as feminism, democracy and voluntarism, as well as active citizenship.


Out of This Planet: Meteors, Aliens and Vegan Bacon

New cooperation with Holy Local Aliens

Building bridges across borders


I: Meteor Showers  in the Negev Desert. 

In August, we launched a new cooperation with Holy Local Aliens. They are a community of locals (and non-locals) in Israel and Palestine, meeting to explore and build bridges across borders. As mid-August happened to be the peak season of the Perseid Meteor Showers, we decided to organize a trip to a famous spot for stargazing: the Ramon Crater in the Negev Desert.

One of the participants – Marianna – described the group in the following words: “There were people from Israel and Palestine of course, as well as Argentina, Spain, France, Belgium, Germany, Canada, and probably other places that I forgot. My favorite part about these trips is the people“. The group consisted of 30 people –10 Israelis, 10 Palestinians and 10 Internationals. As the bus took off for the 3-hour drive from Jerusalem to Mitzpe Ramon, talks and discussions commenced. Ruth, co-founder of Holy Local Aliens, introduced the two-day program, while Roque, an Argentinian astronomer, offered explanations on meteors, stars and planets, and Palestinian participants proudly presented their university system to the Israelis in the group.

Our first stop was at the Black Hebrews community in Mitzpe Ramon. The community, also known as African Hebrew Israelites, came from the United States to Israel in the 1960’s, but their roots are in Liberia. The community has become mostly known for their healthy holistic lifestyle: all members are vegan, and refrain from eating meat, dairy products, and foods with chemical additives. We met Britney and Yatibia who are running a vegan restaurant in Mitzpe Ramon, where we tried delicious vegan bacon, salads and sandwiches. Yatibia elaborated on their way of life, their Jewish roots and beliefs, and their struggle for acceptance and recognition by the Israeli society and government. Most members of the Black Hebrews community are not citizens of Israel, the group was granted permanent residency status only by the end of 2003. As the warm and interesting encounter with the family came to its end, we headed off to our camp at the center of the crater.

Astronomers from Mitzpe Ramon brought telescopes to the crater, through which we could watch Mars, Venus and Saturn, and a few star constellations. While sitting or lying on the ground under the impressive Milky Way, dozens of meteors drew their tails on the dark canvas of the night sky in a spectacular show. As the joint program ended, small groups gathered to get know each other better, discussing or taking pictures beneath the stars.

The night we spent on the camping mats under the stars was quite short, as we got up the next morning for a sunset hike. A short bus ride took us up to the visitor Center of Mitzpe Ramon, where we were welcomed by a few snoopy wild goats (Nubian Ibex). As we walked along the edge of the crater, the sun rose above and created beautiful silhouette pictures of the group. Walking along the cliff of the crater towards the Camel Hill on the other side of town, we did some more activities to get to know each other and learned about personal backgrounds and motivations to join the trip. As it got much too hot for any outdoor activity, we headed back to the bus and drove to one of the many unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev. As there are no roads or signs that lead to these communities, the 12-year-old son of Salman showed us the way on a quad bike. Salman hosted us in the community’s main tent and explained about their lifestyle, culture and struggles with the authorities. Even though they have been living with their flocks in the desert for generations, the government does not recognize their villages and wants them to relocate into modern towns and cities. This is the reason they lack basic infrastructure and municipal services. Salman showed us how to make Bedouin bread in the ashes of the fireplace, and the traditional coffee that is key to Bedouin lifestyle.

After we enjoyed a delicious and fresh breakfast, we split into mixed groups for a workshop on how we imagine life to be on a different planet. Some of the fictive communities decided to live in matriarchal societies, others to overcome capitalism and abolish clothing sweatshops/factories. Most had creative and smart ideas on how to deal with the Covid19 crisis, and everyone imagined their planet to be a more equal, fair and just place than it is in our contemporary realities.

II: Sunset Hike around Nabi Musa

The second cooperation with Holy Local Aliens led another group of 30 people – from Palestine, Israel and allover – to Nabi Musa. This site, in the West Bank near Jericho, is believed to be the tomb of Musa (Moses). After visiting the part that was mainly built between 1470 and 1480, Ibrahim from the village of Khan Al Ahmar took the group on a hike in the desert. On the way, we stopped for a Bedouin dinner and enjoyed the view of the sun setting down over the desert.

Part of the program was a Qui-Gong practice, lead by Muad. One participant, Dori Bisk, reflected on the experience in a poem:

We stand in a circle



The tips of our hands

Like the peaks
Of the mountains
Reaching for the
Pink purple skies
Of a setting sun
Led us through the desert
reminded us to breathe
In groups of fours
And fives
We find
We have more
In common
Than we realize
We all like cats
We all speak English
We all love green
We all love the desert
We all love travelling
We’re all from Jerusalem
We’re all not from here
We laugh
We smile
We share food
strums the oud
Others happily join in
We sit around a burning fire
Under a star-sparkling blanket
Of darkness
Not us
or them
or You
But one
And the same


(written by Dori Bisk)


click on of the images below to open the gallery:




Come Together, Right Now, Over a Livestream

The Power of Music During a Pandemic:

UNESCO International Jazz Day 2020 in Palestine

Established by the General Conference of UNESCO in 2011, the annual International Jazz Day which takes place every April 30th brings together countries and communities worldwide to celebrate jazz, and highlights music’s important role in encouraging dialogue, combating discrimination and promoting human dignity.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s 9th International Jazz Day celebrations transitioned to a virtual format worldwide.

The Willy Brandt Center in Jerusalem, in partnership with the UNESCO National Office for Palestine in Ramallah, participated once again in the 2020 edition, thereby contributing to this global initiative through music events promoting Palestinian musicians as well as international artists who have participated in former editions of the International Jazz Day in Bethlehem, Gaza, Jericho, Jerusalem and Ramallah.

The event started with an online jazz workshop organized by the Herbie Hancock Institute in Washington. The session took place in Arabic, featuring Tarek Yamani, a New York based, Lebanese-American award-winning composer and a jazz pianist.

We were proud to present online music video premieres of the Palestinian SOL Band, Swiss-Finnish singer Heidi Caviezel, Mohammad Qutati from Ramallah and Lukas Schiemer from Austria, all of whom composed, performed and recorded special contributions for this occasion.

The highlight of the Palestinian Jazz Day celebration was a concert that was streamed live from Gaza through different streaming platforms. The musicians Mohammad Zohod, Mohammad Albalawi, Hossam Hassona and Lyad Abu Laila, all members of the popular Typo band from Gaza, mat at a studio to play for a large online audience. Their performance was followed by a musical performance by Mohammad Shoman, a member of the Gaza based SOL Band, who performed with his sister, singer Ghada Shoman.

In his opening address, Typo band’s lead singer Mohammad Zohod stated that this year, due to the COVID-19 crisis, “our band will play for the first time a concert online instead of facing audiences, but we are sure that you will all enjoy the music and the songs.” The high number of enthusiastic comments during and after the live-concert reflected the great interest and wide participation of the audience. The streaming was followed and shared online by several institutions and individual music fans of the local and international community, and attracted about 1500 viewers from around the world.

We would like to thank the Herbie Hancock Institute for their continuous support and inspiration, and express our profound gratitude to all artists participating in this year’s online events. We are already looking forward to the moment when we will again be able to celebrate the International Jazz Day in Palestine together with our dear audience and with many artists from near and far.

Until then, let us keep on making music and remember the words of Herbie Hancock, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Intercultural Dialogue and Co-Chair of the International Jazz Day, who said, “Now more than ever before, let’s band together and spread the ethics of Jazz Day’s global movement around the planet and use this as a golden opportunity for humankind to reconnect, especially in the midst of all this isolation and uncertainty.”




Spooky Stories and Secret Tales of Jerusalem

Join us for a scary good time!
12-13. September, 2020


Interested in some spooky stories and secret tales of Jerusalem? We are looking forward to welcome you at our freshly renovated center and to kick off the new season with these thrilling outdoor events:

Cakes, Clowns & Ghost Stories for Kids
Saturday, September 12th at 4pm

The Ibtisamet Maqdisi Band will put on a show with lots of fun and spectacular surprises for our small guests.

Popcorn, Drinks & Open Air Cinema with Live Music
Saturday, September 12th  & Sunday, September 13th at 7.30pm

We’ll open the evening with a collection of the most captivating mysteries of Jerusalem’s spooky sites.
After that take a deep breath, relax and enjoy the highlight of the evening, the screening of the black-and-white movie “Phantom of the Opera” from 1925 with live music accompaniment by Maria Neishtadt.

Free admission.

Due to the Covid-19 precautions we will only be able to offer a strictly limited number of places. Therefore please register by sending an email to event@willybrandtcenter.org.

The WBC Team Bakes Delicious Ramadan Cookies

As we returned to the office after weeks of lockdown and home-office, it was time for a joint team activity. Ma’amoul is a typical cookie known in the entire Middle East, especially during Ramadan. Our Palestinian colleagues introduced us to the tradition and the recipe, and showed the team how to mix the semolina with oil and spices. The entire center was filled with the smells of the spices and rose water. After kneading the dough, we rolled hundreds of balls of date paste as a filling for the Ma’amoul, and created a small hole at the center of each cookie. Then it was time for the traditional shaping. and we used special grippers to give each cookie an individual and beautiful shape. Baking them in the oven merely intensified the good smell that permeated the center, and most of us simply could not wait to try these cookies; those of us who have been fasting needed to wait till sunset to give them a try. Finally, we distributed the cookies and shared them with friends and partners.

Background Talks on Annexation

Since the new government’s agreement on the option to annex parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territories as part of their coalition treaty, the issue has been dominating the political discourse in Palestine and in Israel. As vague and as open as the plans and announcements are so far, the impact on the Palestinian population as well as on our partner organizations is expected to be intense. In order to analyze and discuss potential impacts on our partners and our work, forumZFD Israel & Palestine organized together with the Willy Brandt Center Jerusalem two background talks with experts from Israel and Palestine, for staff and partners.

Ofer Zalzberg, a political analyst at the International Crisis Group, focused on the concerns of the Israeli security establishment. According to many security experts, the annexation is an ideological step rather than one based on national interests or security. Xavier Abu Eid from the Negotiations Affairs Department of the PLO, and Naseef Muallem, Policy Advisor at the Palestinian Centre for Peace and Democracy, focused in the second session on the Palestinian perspective. After discussing the roles and options faced by international actors and organizations, they concluded that annexation would be the end of a negotiated two state solution.

Encounters at Eye Level (Interview with Tobias Pietsch)

The German Magazine BERLINER STIMME interviewed our Project Manager Tobias Pietsch on how Israelis and Palestinians work together during the time of the Corona crisis. The German article deals with digital meetings, volunteers supporting people in need, and the principals of cooperation:

New Online Events: Zoom on Jerusalem

Covid-19 made us rethink the way we organize events and get creative. To fill the gap created by the suspension of events in Jerusalem and to connect with our supporters abroad, we established a new format: Zoom on Jerusalem. The interactive online event is aimed at shedding light on the various projects of the Willy Brandt Center, the daily life in Jerusalem and the political situation in Israel and Palestine.

On the first event, on April 26th, Project Manager Petra Klose presented the Art Hug Project and premiered the 18th hug by Dornbirn-based musician Lukas Schiemer. Petra also elaborated on the challenges for artists and culture in these times of pandemic, and Project Manager Tobias Pietsch shared his insights on life during lockdown in Jerusalem, illustrating these effects with pictures from the empty Old City of Jerusalem. In addition, the event offered a political examination and analysis of the formation of a new government.

The second Zoom event, on May 10th, focused on the effects of corona on the economy, unions and youth organizations. Project Manager Wiebke Warkentin elaborated on the ways in which her partner organizations in the educational project spent May 1st this year, and how the pandemic is affecting the work of the youth organizations. Members of the Political Team joined the Zoom to share their take on the economic situation in Israel and Palestine, and discuss the work of the unions, which has become even more important during this crisis. Tobias Pietsch explained the composition of the new government and its coalition treaty, including the controversial announcement of the annexation of parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Wiebke and Tobias also showed photos of the various protests opposing the new government and its policies regarding the crisis, economic issues, labor rights, domestic violence and the planned annexation. The second Zoom on Jerusalem ended with a live view over the Old City of Jerusalem, while listening to the Ramadan Cannon, fired to mark the end of the fasting, followed by dozens of Muezzins.

As both sessions were very successful, enabling vital discussions in Q&A Sessions and an exchange between Jerusalem and our supporters abroad, we will continue this format soon.

Sign in to our newsletter and become a member of the support association to receive invitations and updates.

Global Team on Trauma Sensitivity within forumZFD

The Willy Brandt Center in Jerusalem works with forumZFD on various aspects of conflict transformation, including trauma sensitivity. At the end of 2019, a Global Team within forumZFD was established, together with social psychologist Wiebke Warkentin, to better understand the role of collective trauma in our field of work.

Through monthly calls, the Global Team exchanged knowledge and experience with other forumZFD colleagues worldwide. This format of exchange aims to explore how psychological wounds in violent conflicts are passed down from generation to generation, and the effects of this trauma – both on a community and its individuals.

Furthermore, assuming that sensitivity towards individual and collective trauma is inevitable when working in conflict settings, we believe that it is crucial to make trauma sensitivity a cross-cutting issue within forumZFD and to train their staff accordingly. Therefore, the Global Team has developed a recommendation catalogue for trauma sensitivity in the Civil Peace Service (CPS), and is now conceptualizing tools and trainings intended to assist us in addressing collective trauma in our work. There will be a joint publication at the end of the year on how an organization can take its first steps to become trauma sensitive.

WBC -Annual Report 2019

Our Annual Report 2019 is here. We review the projects of the past year and look ahead – despite the uncertainty of these days. Even before the Corona crisis, we decided from now on for ecological reasons to publish our Annual Report electronically.There will still be print versions in a smaller edition, available on demand or when we are able to meet again at public events at our information desks.

We would like to thank all of you who have taken part in our activities.
We are especially thankful for your project funding and donations, and your ongoing cooperation as members of our support association “Förderverein Willy Brandt Zentrum e.V”.

WBC-Annual Report 2019 (read as pdf)