Braunschweig and Jerusalem Are Connected: Youth Exchange Continues Virtually

Screenshot: Municipality of Braunschweig

The German-Israeli youth exchange, initially scheduled for October 2023 between the Municipalities of Jerusalem and Braunschweig, successfully wrapped up its activities through a digital meeting.

After the initial exchange in July 2023 in Braunschweig, the German delegation prepared themselves to meet their Israeli friends in October. All preparations were made, but the terror attacks from October 7 destroyed the participants’ dreams to finally get to know the Israeli culture they talked so much about in summer. After a couple of meetings where the German group learned everything about the current war and its history, the Municipalities of Jerusalem and Braunschweig, longstanding partners for nearly four decades, facilitated a virtual meeting to conclude the youth exchange digitally. The meeting served as a platform for German and Israeli students to share experiences and reflections amidst challenging times. The youth exchange, which typically fosters cultural understanding and friendship through in-person interactions, faced unprecedented challenges. Despite the infeasibility in Israel, the organizers were determined to stay closely connected and keep their work and the exchange going strong.

Participants of the digital meeting assembled to recall about their shared experiences during the 2023 youth exchange held in July in Braunschweig. Despite physical separation, the virtual setting facilitated heartfelt discussions and genuine connections among the students, underscoring the enduring bonds forged through the exchange program.

Julie Grimmeisen, representing the General Consulate of Israel in Munich, delivered an emotional speech addressing the rising tide of antisemitism in Germany and across Europe, as well as the increase of pro-Palestine demonstrations. Her words underscored the importance of German-Israeli connectivity especially in the field of non-formal learning, emphasizing the need for dialog and understanding.

Afterwards the students had deep discussions about the social and political situations in their own countries and how they are personally affected by the war. The Israeli students produced videos of their everyday life and addressed those to their host partners giving them a glimpse of Israel but also presenting how life has changed. In addition, they talked about their thoughts about pro-Palestine demonstrations, the German-Israeli relations and rising antisemitism in Germany. “The German state supports us and we feel that, but the German society does not”, an Israeli participant stated, referring to the pro-Palestine demonstrations in Germany that are very present in Israeli media. The German students on the other hand talked about the little influence the pro-Palestine demonstrations have on them but also stated how Hamas propaganda in social media affects what people talk about and how they feel and felt when seeing the pictures from the terror attack and from the war in Gaza. Aside that they of course don’t feel that affected anymore by the war.
The very emotional but open talk helped both sides to understand the situation in each other’s countries despite the information they get from social media and the daily news.

Regardless of the tough times, the students hope to organize a bilateral vacation on their own and both Jerusalem and Braunschweig work closely together and hope to be able to organize another youth exchange in 2025. The strong connection of the partners and participants shows how important friendship, understanding, and sticking together are. Let's keep building these connections, learning from the strength and determination of young people who bring optimism and unity.