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Boys Troop from the Jerusalem New City YMCA, 1938

A group of Christian Arab YMCA boys posing in front of the YMCA in the New City wearing keffiyehs and ikals, August 19, 1938


Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division [LC-DIG-matpc-04070]

A group of boys from the YMCA pose for the cameras. The significance of the YMCA to the boys and the role it played in the community at that time is suggested by the following excerpt from Born in Jerusalem, Born Palestinian (Olive Branch Press, 2012), by Jacob J. Nammar: “The YMCA, now known as the Jerusalem International YMCA, was built in 1933 west of the Old City and is still considered one of the most beautiful YMCAs in the world. Its magnificent tower, named the Jesus Tower, stands across from the fabulous King David Hotel and is an architectural masterpiece . . . .

“The Y was built as a monument to ecumenism. Its architectural decor, which embodies symbols of the three monotheistic religions, was designed as an attempt to create better understanding, harmony, and tolerance among all of Palestine's inhabitants. The Y was a multireligious center that included Christian, Muslim, and Jewish members, and that prided itself in working on interracial, interfaith, and peaceseeking activities, without distinction of creed, with all peoples. In 1947, and during the war in 1948, the Y housed the International Red Cross for refugee aid and became the center and headquarters of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine under the first UN mediator, Count Bernadotte. 

“After Zeev [the Y’s physical education director] rescued me [from drowning in a pond], I joined the Y, whose red triangle symbol stands for the human being as a whole through the unity of body, mind, and spirit. At the beginning, I saw the Y as a means to escape from my daily hardship . . . In a real sense the Y became my home. I spent more hours there than at any other place, and it became the center of my life.” (pp. 92–94)