Grassroots Jerusalem (GJ) is an organisation located in Sheikh Jarrah that is leading the movement for experiential tourism in the Jerusalem district. The organisation has spent the last years building partnerships with over 70 community-based organisations from 38 Palestinian communities in Jerusalem. These partnerships ensure that GJ is grounded in and guided by the community's voice, making it an ideal and unique source of information about Jerusalem.
GJ defines itself as “a platform for Palestinian community based leadership and advocacy, work[ing] to amplify a grassroots network that will represent community voices that disobey, oppose and resist the occupation.” Their mission is more than just words; GJ is astonishingly well connected, which means they can refer you to resources, people, and organisations that deal with all aspects of life in Jerusalem that interests you. Always active with current events, a short stop by their centre or a glance at their Facebook page can provide you with up-to-date information about what’s happening on the ground in Jerusalem.
A small organisation with a large impact, GJ has many projects that directly contribute to communities in Jerusalem. AlMarsa (The Harbour), their centre in Sheikh Jarrah, is a community centre and workspace for Palestinians to organise, meet, and freely discuss daily challenges and realities. It also hosts a Legal Clinic for residents of Jerusalem to obtain legal assistance, information about their rights, and participate in human rights workshops. AlMarsa is located at 23 Ismail Hijazi St.* in ASheikh Jarrah (Ismail Hijazi St. has been misleadingly renamed Shimon Hatsadik St. by the occupation authorities).
Aside from the information, friendly conversation, and coffee at AlMarsa, Grassroots Jerusalem offers many opportunities for visitors to connect with and explore the people and stories that compose the real Jerusalem. Visitors can purchase Wujood-The Grassroots Guide to Jerusalem, GJ’s political tourist guide to AlQuds (Jerusalem), which will equip them to ethically and independently explore the city. Visitors to AlMarsa can also purchase the “Real Map of Jerusalem”, an interactive map created in a participatory process with Jerusalemite communities over the last three years, which gives visitors access to parts of the city that would otherwise be unknown.
GJ also provides opportunities to voyage off the beaten tourist track with its political tours of Jerusalem, an experiential introduction to the reality of life as a Palestinian in AlQuds. These tours are unique as it draws on GJ’s extensive community connections to explore not only the devastating effects of occupation, but the inspiring examples of community-led resistance. The Grassroots Jerusalem political tours are designed to introduce visitors to the current realities of Palestinian communities in occupied Jerusalem. It aims to explain the political and cultural reality of the city, explaining how Israeli policies have and continue to suffocate the Palestinian capital and largest metropolitan area. The tours begin with a 45-minute historical briefing to explain the context of Jerusalem. A tour of the city by bus takes place afterwards, and includes 5 stops inside and outside Palestinian communities in Jerusalem, covering issues of legal status, economy, education, health, home demolitions and settlements.
All in all, Grassroots Jerusalem is a must-visit organisation for those interested in alternative tourism and developing a critical awareness of the real story of AlQuds.