KTH 2013 Delegation at the Conference Bethlehem, Palestine HCEF just concluded its successful 2nd International Palestinian Diaspora Youth Conference in Bethlehem, Palestine July 5-6, 2013. It achieved the goals of the program, which were to engage the 2013 delegates in the Know Thy Heritage Leadership Program in critical thinking and discussion, open communications to build a relationship between Palestinians around the globe, and strengthen the KTH delegates' knowledge of their Palestinian identity. 

"The KTH Leadership Program is essential for our youth," said HCEF President and CEO, Sir Rateb Rabie, KCHS, who warmly welcomed all of the conference participants! "This unique and national leadership program empowers Palestinian youth around the world to define their role in building the new State of Palestine. HCEF's role in providing KTH delegates with the necessary tools and knowledge to establish this connection with Palestine is paramount, as these delegates and future leaders are equipped to return to their respective countries as Ambassadors of Palestine and of Peace."  

The Welcoming Ceremony included several distinguished guest speakers including HE Bishop Dr. Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jerusalem, Iman Yahya N Hendi, President of Clergy Beyond Borders and Muslim Chaplain at Georgetown University, HE Archbishop Theodosius (Atallah) Hanna, Archbishop of Sebastia, Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and Vera Baboun, Major of Bethlehem. In addition, embassy representatives from delegates' countries in the Diaspora were present, including Australian Representative to the Palestinian Authority (PA) Tom Wilson, Canadian Representative to the PA Katherine Verrier-Fréchette, Political Chief of the US Consulate General in Jerusalem Jennifer Gavito, and Chilean Deputy Chief to the PA Gonzalo Layseca.


Bethlehem Major Vera Baboun addressed the audience, urging the Palestinians in the diaspora to enrich their connections with their homeland, and to invest in it, to build the economy. She praised the KTH Delegates, saying that at last "you have come home to your mother, Palestine."

During the presentation on Current Conditions under the Israeli Occupation, guest speaker Sheerin Al-Araj, UN Workers and activist, spoke of the natural transition towards acceptance and change in the world's perception of Palestinians, stating "The world can't deny the rights of Palestinians forever if they are to accept the mixing and cooperation of globalization. As more people travel, they become culturally sensitive and accepting of the traditions and rights of others. In today's global society acceptance is an inevitable and natural transition." This embodies the mission that is KTH, as the program brings Palestinian youth in the Diaspora back to their homeland to raise their awareness and acceptance of Palestine as a cause for peace that must be pursued.   


Sir Rateb Rabie, KCHS, President/CEO, HCEF and Hashim Shawa, Chairman and General Manager, Bank of Palestine address delegates and conference participants

Later in the day, delegates and conference participants were split into smaller groups to attend workshops. Designed to connect the Diaspora delegates with Palestinians in Palestine, the workshops were a successful vehicle for building bridges of communication.  


The 2013 KTH Delegation demonstrated their willingness and tenacity to fully immerse themselves in Palestinian affairs as taught by fellow Palestinian, learning about their heritage not only as a cultural and geographic association, but as a comprehensive identity that includes social, economic, and political issues. Delegates expressed their gratitude to the their fellow conference participants and guest speakers, as for many it was their first time learning from and interacting with Palestinians in such a dynamic and educational way. Delegate Nusayba Hammad said: "My favorite part of the conference was the wealth of different experiences and perspectives represented, as we had the opportunity to meet so many active Palestinians who have contributed so significantly to the cause for peace in Palestine. I would recommend this experience and program to anyone regardless of previous knowledge of the situation." 


The second day of the conference included presentations on The Role of Media in Truth Reporting, The Role of Art and Culture, and The Role of Religious Institutions in Peace-building. The highlight of the day was the keynote speech by HE Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, Founder and President of The Palestinian Medical Relief Society and member of the Executive Committee of the PLO. He said "The KTH program addresses one of the most crucial issues we face in Palestine today: how to get people uprooted from Palestine to come back and see what it's really like here and preferably, not just visit but come back to live here."    
On the media panel, Nour Odeh, Media Professional and Communications Consultant, discussed how delegates can be a catalyst for change, emphasizing "the importance of connecting with Palestine tangibly as well as virtually by using social media to give a voice to the voiceless and the underprivileged". Whether delegates are inside or outside Palestine does not limit their potential for action, as HCEF and the conference provides delegates with the knowledge to build coalitions and initiatives for change. As Nour Odeh said, "Palestine lives in us even if we don't live in it."

 vera baboun receiving her key

KTH delegates feel empowered by the exchanges of information and ideas, reinvigorating their drive to work towards a better Palestine when they return home, and for when they return to Palestine, their homeland. The conference ended with a ceremony during which delegates were each awarded a key of return to Palestine. Though the conference is over, the learning has just begun. HCEF looks forward to the bright paths ahead of these talented and dedicated 2013 KTH delegates! 

To learn more about HCEF and its programs, visit us at www.HCEF.org. To view KTH in action click here and watch our videos from 2011 and 2012