„We have masks, we have the will, and we are not short of ideas“

The above quote is taken from a Facebook post by the network Youth United in Peace from the Former Yugoslavia. In August, in spite of the Corona pandemic, a small group of committed activists met in person to explore possibilities for activities in the second half of the year.

This year is one of the most challenging years in the history of Vacation from War. Under the conditions of the pandemic, the very activities that are at the heart of our work are difficult if not impossible to carry out: meetings of large groups, often involving long journeys for participants. Accordingly, 2020 is a turbulent year for us. While at the beginning of the year we were still hoping to be able to implement our activities – perhaps with a special hygiene concept – it became clear in spring that we would have to break new ground this year.

Our partners in the Former Yugoslavia and in Israel and Palestine made plans for alternative activities during spring , both for digital and face-to-face meetings. These plans had to be constantly adapted according to the  changing conditions, which made their implementation very difficult. After the first Corona-wave in Israel and Palestine subsided, a possible annexation of the Jordan Valley and other areas of the West Bank by the Israeli state threatened (and still threaten) the region. Many former participants took part in demonstrations against the Netanyahu government and in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protests.

Then there, the second wave of infections with renewed exit restrictions hit Israel and Palestine. Nevertheless, our partners have managed to continue their important work in new ways:  They have organized numerous online meetings.

In Israel and Palestine, participants met during the lockdown in uni-national groups digitally or in small groups in person. In August, former Palestinian participants of the Allgenders-Seminar met for a follow-up meeting in Jericho; the Israeli group met in Jerusalem and holds monthly online meetings focusing on forms and possibilities of activism and non-violent action. After a phase of online meetings, the Women*seminar team is planning a series of uni- and bi-national physical meetings for the last months of this year up until spring 2021.

Our partners in the former Yugoslavia are also struggling with the pandemic and the instrumentalization of Corona by their governments – for instance in Serbia, where President Vučić eased restrictions in order to hold elections and influence the outcome in his favour, only to reinstate the restrictions immediately afterwards.

However, also in this project region young people were able to remain active. In addition to online meetings, eleven YU-Peace activists took part in a workshop week in Srebrenica with the motto „Dealing with the Past to Rethink the Future“, organized by the Memorial Centre Srebrenica and the Post-Conflict Research Centre of Bosnia-Herzegovina on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the massacre. YU-Peace is planning a meeting for World Day of Peace at the end of September and other activities – at least locally in the respective cities; we will keep you updated about this online and in our annual report which we will publish next spring.