I Feel You! One group surrounded by the idyllic river landscape of the Havel in the cozy Gollwitz Castle in Brandenburg, the other in 40C heat in the “Incense and Spice Route Inn” in the Moshav Tzofar in the Israeli desert. Our locations could hardly be more different!
We didn't know each other when we first met online on a Friday afternoon. Beforehand, we had exchanged some selfies and introductory texts on our cell phones in the "I Feel You!" Telegram group – but who are the people behind all these faces?
Young people from Germany - Carla, Lena, Lara, Luise, Chana, Lola, Naomi, Josi and Lilly - meet young people from Israel in this project - Ido, Omri, Maya, May, Daniela, Yuli, Sivan, Yoav, Eden, Ofer, Dana, David, Lion and others.
We called the project "I Feel You!" because we wanted to not only understand, but really experience what life is like in a completely different country with a whole different culture. How does it feel to be a young person in Germany or Israel? What do we have in common? What can we possibly learn from each other?
It quickly became clear that we had a lot to talk about! The best way to do this was in breakout sessions on Zoom, where we had the chance to talk in small groups - about German-Israeli history, the Middle East conflict, the military service that all Israeli men and women do for 2-3 years, about Shabbat, culture and music, and so much more. We also got to speak about how the Covid-19 pandemic changed the lives of young people in both countries.
We are not in the same place - and yet connected: Ido grabs his laptop and leads us through the camp in the desert - we see sand dunes, camels, goats, and meet an Arab employee of the camp on the screen, who cordially invites us to Israel. Everyone is amazed by the landscape - it looks so different! To the Israeli group, our tour through the German palace garden with its large, old trees and the village church probably seemed at least as exotic to them.
Also in our next online meetings we get to share some more impressions from Germany and Israel with each other via Telegram. We get to see photos and short video clips that allow us to dive into the surroundings and lives of the young people: Once it's a typical German dinner, once a walk along the East Side Gallery and to the Jewish Museum in Berlin, once a visit to the city parks and waterfalls in Ramat Gan, and at other times we get to see the gardens of the scout farm in Ramat Yochanan.
With the support of Berlin-based photographer and filmmaker Shai Levy, the participants also shoot short videos about their everyday lives, which are then cut, edited and set to music. The special thing about it: the clips of the German participants are interpreted and edited by their Israeli partners, and vice versa. The results are short home-madevideos that individually describe the life of the other person from the partner country.
"I Feel You!". That’s the spirit. The videos are supposed to make us empathize with the lives of others.
The main goal of our project was to foster German-Israeli friendships and find out how young people shape their lives in different countries. Through a focus on „emotions“ as cultural constructs that are heavily influenced by the political and social structures that surround us, we also hope to better understand German-Israeli history, play our part in bearing historical responsibility, and –most importantly – jointly shape a solidary and peaceful future.
The project was funded by the EVZ Foundation and was developed in cooperation with the BDKJ (Association of German Catholic Youth Berlin). In 2021/2022, the project was meant to be funded by ConAct; a project presentation took place during the German-Israeli Exchange Conference 2021 in Berlin „Setting the Sails – German-Israeli Youth Exchange returning to Real-Life-Encounters“.