Peter Nasir, CEO of the East Jerusalem YMCA, visited World YMCA headquarters in Geneva on 9 January 2023. As he and World YMCA Secretary General Carlos Sanvee stood beside the portrait of YMCA founder George Williams, he reflected on his own YMCA heritage: his grandfather was one of five people who established the East Jerusalem YMCA in a refugee camp in Jericho in 1948. His father went on to run the EJ YMCA, and he himself now runs it, having been born on the third floor of the building in 1980.
He spoke passionately about the work of his exceptionally devoted colleagues in trying to bring hope to the young Palestinian people of East Jerusalem, ‘a people of endless smiles, despite the generational trauma of their suffering’, he says. The EJ YMCA was founded to support education and health programmes, and still runs them. ‘We fully embrace YMCA Vision 2030 and are active in Community Wellbeing (I think we have much to teach the world about mental health…), Meaningful Work and a Just World. And in our quest for a just and Sustainable Planet, we have planted over 90,000 trees in the last two years. We put special focus on empowering women, and work alongside YWCA.’ He spoke too of good relations with the Jerusalem International YMCA, based in West Jerusalem.
Peter never ceases to believe that there can be peace between Palestinians and Israelis if both sides can see each other as equal human beings with rights and with dignity. ‘And if Christians, Jews and Muslims can live peaceably within both the Israeli and the Palestinian communities, then Israel and Palestine must show that they can live peaceably too.’ Carlos Sanvee repeated the shared YMCA vision of building a ‘just, sustainable, equitable and inclusive world … in Israel, in Palestine, everywhere’.