Vowing to return to explore and visit Palestine, the delegation of Palestinian diaspora youth leaders concluded their visit to Jordan, Palestine and Israel. For two weeks, July 6 through July 21, 2012, these youth embarked upon the journey of a lifetime as they were immersed in their heritage, strengthening their knowledge of their Palestinian identity, culture, history and traditions – as well as their understanding of Palestinian economic environment, political landscape, social structures and conditions. This is the mission of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation's (HCEF) KTH program!
"The most important goal achieved by KTH is that of connecting Diaspora Youth with their roots in Palestine!" said Sir Rateb Rabie, KCHS. "Furthermore, he continued, "these youth leaders are the heart and future of Palestine. It is imperative that we pass on the complete legacy and heritage of our people and teach them the importance of working towards peace."
The delegation, consisting of 41 young men and women from the United States of America, Canada, Australia, France and Britain were greeted by Civic representatives and other officials during the Welcoming Ceremony in Bethlehem.
Friday and Saturday, July 13-14, the 2012 KTH delegates participated in the First Palestinian Diaspora Youth Conference, organized by HCEF under the auspices of HE Dr. Salam Fayyad, Prime Minister, and held at the Convention Palace in Bethlehem!
Distinguished conference speakers expounded on the major role of the Youth Leaders in Diaspora, and the importance of the youth remaining connected and in communication with others in diaspora and Palestine.
HE Prime Minister Dr. Salam Fayyad praised HCEF for creating and developing the KTH program and for organizing this conference, which also drew the participation of more than 250 youth from all part of Palestine. "It is critical for us to link Palestinian youth at home and abroad! This builds cooperation, strengthens relations and projects that bring together people of Palestine in the Diaspora and the people of Palestine at home to build their state in spite of the reality of the occupation," stated HE Dr. Fayyad, as he encouraged HCEF to host this Palestinian Diaspora Youth Conference on an annual basis.
Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative, President of The Palestinian Relief Society, and Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council shared his wisdom and expertise on the subject of Nonviolence: Strategy of Liberation and Peace. Dr. Barghouti confirmed his view on the new stage of struggle, pointing out the means by which to work together to resist the occupation and strengthen state building. He exhorted the youth from diaspora to be part of this process, stressing the critical role these youth can take in their own countries as they are Ambassadors of Peace and of Palestine.
Featured Speaker Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, Executive Committee Member of the Palestine Liberation Organization talked about the importance of the return of the children of Palestine in the Diaspora to their origins and roots. "Palestine will remain open to diaspora youth to return whenever they want," she declared.
HE Bishop William Shomali, Auxiliary Bishop, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and Bishop Atallah Hanna, Bishop of Sebastia and Representative of the Orthodox Church discussed the Role of Religious Institutions in Peace-Building. Worshipping God, respecting life and the dignity of all human beings, regardless of religion, nationality and gender is the essence of religion. They exhorted religious institutions and the youth delegates to put these values into practice as they relate to one another.
Dr. Jad Isaac, General Director, applied Research Institute of Jerusalem (ARIJ) discussed the Palestinian Geopolitical Status under the Israeli Occupation and highlighted the geopolitical realities under occupation that define the Palestinian youth from diaspora, and the variables imposed by the occupation.
Dr. Samir Hazboun Chairman, Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Bethlehem in his presentation on the Impact of Civil Society on the National Economy shared his knowledge about the role of institutions of civil work and economic construction and how institutions and organizations can contribute to nation-building and social well-being and the importance of youth in perpetuating this structure.
Mr. Sami Khoury, General Manager of ABC, HE Amal Jado, Assistant to the Ambassador of the European Affairs; and HE Ambassador Dr. Mohammed Trchahni, Assistant Minister for Refugees, Sir Rateb Rabie, KCHS, President/CEO, HCEF, Mr. Anthony Habash, Regional Director, HCEF, Mr. Bader Zamerh, Executive Director, Sharek Youth Forum, Mr. Amber Verona and Mrs. Rasha Osman.
Camp Aida Youth Center welcomed the delegates with a celebration event held at the Wall of Separation. Camp Aida symbolizes refugee camps and Palestinians in diaspora throughout the world. Last year's 2011 delegation – the first KTH Youth Delegation – set a stellar example as they established a partnership with the Aida Youth Center. This year the 2011 KTH Delegation sent a gift of complete athletic uniforms to members of the Aida Youth Center football, and members of the 2012 KTH delegation made the presentation! The 2012 KTH delegates have also partnered with Camp Aida and together, all KTH delegates and Camp Aida youth, are discussing innovative ideas and progressive plans for continuing to build and develop relations and opportunities.
The delegation ended their journey with visits to various cities on the coast, including Jaffa, Haifa, Aka, and Nazareth. They met a number of officials and representatives of various institutions inside the occupied Palestinian. Other important meetings included a visit to the Jathor Camp and meeting with Dr. As'ad Abdul Rahman, Chief Executive, Palestine International as well as various other meetings with officials and representatives of institutions there.
The closing Ceremony in Nazareth was heartwarming as it included the Dabke, a traditional Palestinian wedding dance. Many of the diaspora youth expressed their appreciation and thanks to the HCEF and the KTH program which gave them the opportunity to meet other youth in diaspora, visit Palestine and learn first-hand the reality, the suffering in and the beauty of Palestine in all aspects of its traditions, heritage and culture. There is no experience quite like it!
Hadeel Abu Nadi, a refugee girl from Laad wo lives in the United States said, "I am so pleased with this visit! It allowed me the opportunity to learn about many aspects of Palestinian life, whether they relate to life under occupation and the resulting or those which concerned the definition of successes for joint cooperation and building. As well I have had the chance to meet my family and people of my country!"
"Know Thy Heritage" is one of the most important national Palestinian projects of the century!" said Secretary of State, Riyad al-Maliki. HCEF President/CEO, Sir Rabie expressed his deep appreciation to all of the institutions who helped to make KTH a complete success! He especially thanked some of the KTH Advisory Board & Partners Mr. Hashim Shawa, Board Chairman and General Manager, Bank of Palestine, Mr. Samer Khoury, Chief Executive Officer, Consolidated Contractors Company and the many other organizations who cooperated, participated, supported and helped to make the 2012 KTH program an overwhelming success.
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Applications for the KTH 2013 are already being accepted! Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to request an application. To learn more about KTH program or to make an online contribution to KTH visit us at www.hcef.org.