The International Palestinian Youth League (IPYL) is an independent non-governmental organisation based in Hebron. The IPYL was founded in May 1997 by a group of young Palestinians with the vision of empowering youth in order to confront the various economic, social and political challenges facing Palestine in the context of the on-going Israeli occupation of the West Bank.
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Hebron is the largest city in the West Bank, home to over 280 000 Palestinians. It is one of the oldest cities in the world, having been continuously inhabited for over 4000 years. Hebron contains the Ibrahimi mosque complex, alternatively known as the Cave of the Patriarchs, a site that contains the tombs of Abraham and his descendants. Therefore the city is of great religious significance to both Jews and Muslims.
Hebron has suffered uniquely under the Israeli occupation, because it is the only city to contain Israeli settlements within its limits. Over 800 Jewish settlers currently inhabit the city. The settlers are protected by a heavy military presence: there are on average four Israeli soldiers for every one settler.
In 1994 the city was divided into two zones: H1, under the control of the Palestinian Authority, and H2, which comprises roughly 20% of the city, and which is controlled by Israel. Palestinian residents of H2 face daily harassment from Israeli settlers, who vandalise their property. Many of the shops in the Old City have fallen out of business, thanks to the multitude of restrictions imposed by the military authorities.
Unemployment is rife. In 2013 Hebron governate, which includes the area surrounding the city and with a population of over 800 000, recorded the highest rates of unemployment in the West Bank. This was according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, which put the total unemployment figure within the governate at 25.3%. Those worst affected are the young. Hebron University produces thousands of graduates each year with internationally respected degrees in subjects such as engineering and computer science, but few of these can find jobs.
For twenty years IPYL has sought to provide hope to the inhabitants of the city, through education projects that harness the potential of Palestinian youth. The organisation has implemented several hundred other projects in a range of fields. Highlights have included the Schools Across Borders Program. Since the inception of this program in 2001, IPYL has established relationships with schools in Belfast, Dublin and Exeter. IPYL has sent young Palestinians to visit schools in each of these locations, and has hosted foreign students at Palestinian schools in return.
The organisation has also run 75 work camps based in Palestine. These have based groups of local and international volunteers in historic locations within the West Bank for periods usually of two weeks. The work completed during these camps has great symbolic significance for local Palestinians, for whom it has served as an expression of solidarity. Volunteers from all over the world have gained an appreciation of Palestine’s culture and history, as well as an understanding of the challenges brought about by the occupation. The work camps are running again in 2017.
IPYL pursues the following objectives:
- To improve international understanding among young people
- To encourage active community involvement
- To promote an end to discrimination
- To increase youth participation in public life
- To network young people from around the world
- To provide hope for a generation that holds the future of Palestine
In its twenty year history IPYL has developed alliances with many other organisations from around the world. Current linkages exist with the Youth Development Department in Palestine and Baladna in Israel. IPYL has also collaborated with international peace and youth networks, including Youth Action for Peace, Coordinating Committee for International Voluntary Service, Mediterranean Youth Forum, Alliance, Intercultural Cultural Youth Exchange, Service Civil International and INFOYOUTH, MAN, Anna Lihnd Foundation, Islamic Conference Youth Forum, Mouvement pour une Alternative Non-violente.