Jerusalem24 – In occupied East Jerusalem, the term networking – a favorite with millennials and hustlers – takes on a whole different meaning.
A grassroots organization as its name implies, Grassroots Al-Quds was established in 2011, capitalizing on their belief in the Holy City’s current and historical importance, and out of the need for a platform linking different Palestinian communities in Jerusalem, in order to overcome the fragmentation of Palestinian society engineered by Israeli authorities and to make long-term plans and strategies for the city as a whole.
In additional to building these networks, Grassroots Al-Quds fosters and spreads knowledge in order to support community mobilization.
“We believe this knowledge can be an important tool of confrontation and resistance,” executive manager of Grassroots Al-Quds, Yazan Risheq, tells Jerusalem24. “We research Jerusalem history and current reality, and monitor the way Israeli colonial projects are changing the city.”
Grassroots Al-Quds has a three-pronged approach to their mission: research, local mobilization, and global mobilization.
“Our research department tried to build a comprehensive research methodology for the city,” Risheq explains.
In addition to the many resources Grassroots Al-Quds builds on, such as field visits and interviews, the organization also hosts their own Palestinian literature review.
“The Palestinian literature is very rich with information,” Risheq asserts – a richness that is found not only in the written literature but also oral history: “It is very important,” Risheq says, “because oral history allows people whose voices may not be heard to share their experience.”
“[Our] second field is local mobilization where we work on two levels: the neighborhood itself, and the city level.” Grassroots Al-Quds offers support to local organizations so they can develop their own work.
Risheq draws on his experience as a born-and-bred Jerusalemite in dealing with the challenges that inevitably cross his and other organizations’ path: “I’m from Jerusalem, and I know the reality of the city and what other organizations are going through.”
And just as important in Grassroots Al-Quds’ mission are efforts for global mobilization, “which is telling the story of Jerusalem from our Palestinian perspective.”
Grassroots Al-Quds organizes physical tours of the city, covering different Israeli policies in occupied East Jerusalem, including verification of legal status, land confiscations, home demolitions, the hijacking of the Palestinian economy, and yet still, the intentional underdevelopment.
“The tours take the audience in and out of the Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem and show them how the policies are affecting our community, and what it means to be a Palestinian living in the city.”
And for the many Palestinians who can’t enter Jerusalem due to Israeli policies of occupation (as well as anyone around the world), Grassroots Al-Quds offers virtual tours and Wujood – The Grassroots Guide to Jerusalem (now in book form, soon to be launched as an app).
In addition to developing the Wujood Arabic version and Wujood application, Grassroots Al-Quds is currently coordinating a community-led tourism project – and Risheq has high hopes for the future.
“We’re working with existing or developing initiatives to launch a joint campaign to promote tourism in Palestinian villages and neighborhoods – that [should] not only be supported, but [are] also not to be missed on a visit to Jerusalem, for their beautiful nature and rich history.”
Listen to the full interview on Vibes.