Know Thy Heritage is a leadership program developed to preserve Palestinian heritage by connecting youth in the Palestinian Diaspora with their roots in Palestine to become ambassadors of peace. The delegation, visiting Palestine June 28-July 10, 2013, consists of 40 young men and women of Palestinian descent, ages 18-30, from four continents and seven countries: The United States, Canada, Australia, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Jordan. HCEF is delighted at the overwhelming success of KTH as the national leadership program expanded its outreach to recruit delegates from countries which were not represented in the two previous delegations. The result is an exemplary group of outstanding youth, both men and women, students and professionals, from all walks of life, but all sharing in common their passion for their Palestinian heritage and culture, possessing a diverse array of talents to make a real difference in the future of Palestine.
Like so many of their countrymen, the youth entered Palestine on June 28 via the King Hussein/Allenby bridge crossing, where, despite their western passports and upbringing, they were subjected to a grueling 7 hour wait, and sometimes humiliating background interrogations. The experience was a taste of the daily lives of Palestinians who are routinely subjected to this prejudicial treatment when trying to visit their own homes, families and land.
The Delegates were escorted through the streets of the old city by the scout band, and each walked hand-in-hand with a young scout, accompanied by Palestinians of all ages, not just from Bethlehem, but from Hebron, Birzeit, Ramallah, and many other parts of Palestine. From near and far they came to welcome their youth home with open arms. Completing their procession in Manger Square, before the Church of the Nativity, the Delegation was formally welcomed by dignitaries including HE Mrs. Vera Baboun, Mayor of Bethlehem, HE Mr. Nael Salman, Mayor of Beit Jala, Sir Rateb Rabie, HCEF President/CEO and Eng. Anthony Habash, HCEF Regional Director, Mr. Salim Hodali, Manager of Bank of Palestine, Bethlehem Branch, Eng. George Bassous, CCC Representative in Bethlehem & General Manager of Convention Palace, Representative of Bethlehem Community Council, Ms. Vivia Ghoubar, Representative of Bethlehem 2000 Foundation – Chile, and many others.
The reception felt more like a reunion than a first meeting. In the words of Mrs. Vera Baboun "In the deep, the collective identity of your consciousness is Palestinian. The diaspora, the conflict which we live took us apart, but let us try to come together. No nation can be built without its citizens. That is why I thank you, Sir Rateb and Anthony, and all of HCEF for the work you do to bring us together."
As part of their many events and activities, the delegation will participate in the 2nd International Palestinian Diaspora Youth Conference at Ad-Dar Cultural & Conference Center, in Bethlehem, on Friday and Saturday, July 5-6, 2013. Representatives of national and international institutions will attend to hold workshops and presentations about the social and political realities of Palestine. KTH has established a Coordination Committee in Palestine, consisting of volunteers representing many different Palestinian localities. The KTH coordinator in Hebron, Mrs. Lina Hamouri, says that the goal of the conference is to provide delegates with a deeper knowledge and understanding of what they will be experiencing during their visit to Palestinian cities, villages, and camps. She says the conference will also create a relationship between delegates and Palestinian institutions and social development initiatives. Mr. Amjad Hayek, KTH coordinator in Bethlehem, says that Palestinian youth are very excited for the delegation's arrival and are eager to share Palestinian life with them.