The YES Alumni Network in the West Bank held their annual reunion on Thursday, November 1 2018. Forty-three YES alumni from different cities came together for a one night camping trip near the Dead Sea, in a Bedouin area called Arab Al-Rashayde. This trip was organized with the help of the Camp for Palestine grass root movement, which aims to strengthen the connection of Palestinian youth to the land by camping and exploring the nature in Palestine.
The camping trip started with a series of activities to break the ice and build team spirit. After that, the alumni were split into groups and asked to build a tower using whatever items and material available at the camping site around them. Each group built their structure and then gave a presentation to the rest of the groups about how this structure relates to their YES experience and/or their personal lives.
Afterwards, alumni participated in a yoga session led by a professional yoga instructor. YES alumni often enjoy yoga together, but this time it was particularly exquisite - stretching and breathing outdoors, surrounded by nature, under the remarkably clear night sky full of stars. The activity helped alumni work on their balance and energize them for the rest of the activities planned by the camp organizers. After yoga, alumni enjoyed preparing and eating barbeque.
Around 10PM, the campers gathered for a night hike in the desert led by the Camp for Palestine organizers. Everyone was singing and chatting all the way. After the hike, the alumni returned to the camping site and sat around the bonfire to chat and play games, or just to watch the stars. Johnny Elias (YES 2011 - 2012, hosted by PAX in Orange MA) played the guitar around the fire for alumni.
Just before sunrise, at around 4:30AM, everyone got up and the organizers led the way to a nearby cliff overlooking the Dead Sea to enjoy the sunrise and take photos. This was a memorable day. Alumni expressed how pleased they were with the reunion event and how this unique experience helped them make new friendships.
Asil Qraini (YES 2012 - 2013, hosted by ACES in Trenton, MI) said, “It's been a while since I had the chance to meet the new alumni. This camping trip was the perfect chance as I had the chance to get to know some of them on a personal level as well as catch up with the older alumni.”
On of the newer alumnae, Tuleen Jarwan (YES 2016 -2017, hosted by FLAG in Kalamazoo, MI) reflected on this experience as well, saying, “We went happiness hunting, left roads, took trails, slept under stars and found the happiness in the campfire.”