Delegates at the 3rd International Conference.
It is with heavy hearts that KTH delegates leave the country they have learned to call home and the families they were with all too briefly. But they also leave with a strong determination and commitment to Palestine. On the last night one of the delegates reflected, “The [KTH] program has allowed me to accomplish the small goals I had for myself. I learned more about my culture, I learned more about being a Palestinian. Now I am part of something bigger and inshallah we will do this.”
As a wave of these fresh emotions settle into the souls of the delegates, each delegate embraces new experiences of their own. One delegate reveals, “Palestine isn’t just a land. It’s not just politics it’s a people it’s you guys. I am leaving hopeful knowing that you guys are in the diaspora hearing all these speakers seeing how you are all so willing to jump in and fundraise. I feel really humbled by you guys.”
“We’re like one big family” – 2014 KTH Delegate.
After undergoing a once in a lifetime homecoming, delegates gain a feeling of nostalgia and warmth. The feeling that Palestine was never lost and that they have finally reclaimed what truly belongs to them. In the essence of such a sentiment one delegate expresses “I felt heartbroken to realize I am leaving this place. My heart was torn between this home and the home I’m building in the states. Right now, what means a lot to me is here, what we can build together as our new Palestine.”
Despite the fact that the KTH delegates have been raised in the diaspora, this separation from their homeland does not create an emotional disconnection. On the contrary, it ignites the desire for delegates to retrace their family’s history and witness what their families left behind. The determination to regain what was once theirs, one delegate claims “Seeing my grandfather’s house destroyed it really hurt me. I want to come back and build up Palestine because my grandfather made me Palestinian and I am Palestinian because of him.”
To the delegates being a Palestinian is infused in the heart and mind. There is no disengagement from ones original roots. Even being born many generations down the Palestinian family line does not limit the fact that one is Palestinian by blood. According to one delegate “In my case it is my first time in Palestine I am 4th generation and the first member in my family to come. I learned a lot about my heritage and roots and see a lot of realities about the political situation and experienced these things with my own eyes.”
Delegates have felt the obligation to restore the nation of Palestine, after attending a conference and hearing many Palestinian leaders. They feel the urge to make a positive impact in Palestine, and those from the diaspora are itching to make progressive changes by utilizing their resources. As one delegate states, “I believe Palestine is more than the buildings. I have learned more speaking to them than I did through the tour guides. We have to fix the inside before any changes on the outside will fit.”
The KTH program is so genuinely eye opening and inspiring, it has delegates yearning to have their future children attend it and experience the life altering effects the program poses on Palestinians in the diaspora. As one delegate puts is “this program really opened my eyes. When I go back I will tell people about this program, when I grow up I want to live here. I hope to raise my kids here so they can be even better educated about their culture than me. I want my kids to come to this program I want it to grow.”
Spreading awareness of the situation in Palestine is what all the delegates plan to do upon their return to their respective countries. After experiencing the turmoil first hand, they want to create a unified voice as Palestinians to stop the inequality that is taking place. One passionate delegate professed “When I first set foot here I didn’t know what to feel. I wondered why I wasn’t happy. I realized that yes I am happy but at the same time I am very sad. I am happy but very sad because of how the people in Palestine are under occupation and their basic human rights are being oppressed. When you go back you need to tell people the truth about what you saw. You need to make people care about the injustice. We need to remember what we saw and tell people the truth.”
Delegates were so moved by the KTH experience they paid tribute to the founder, Sir Rateb Rabie, for creating a foundation for Palestinians in the diaspora to return to their roots. As one delegate asserted “I am inspired by how one man [Sir Rabie] has done so much I want my children to go on this trip. Part of me wants to dedicate myself and my life to Palestine another part wants me to educate myself and come back. I know I want to be a part of this program forever.”
As the trip winded down to its last days, delegates felt that they were one amongst the civilians of Palestine. The warm reception that the delegates received from families, groups, and people in the community made them feel right at home. One delegate emphasizes “I wanted to tell you the story, let’s try to work to not let Palestinians feel like tourists in their own homeland.”
They are youth on fire who cannot wait to spread the word about the plight of the Palestinian people. They have formed unbreakable bonds with each other and are now part of the larger KTH alumni community. We cannot wait to see all that they will accomplish. CEO/President of HCEF Sir Rateb Rabie addressed the KTH delegation at the last reflection, “Don’t forget what you learned here. We have a lot of people willing to invest in you, they cannot help you if you just talk about change. They need to see action. We need to come together. Only then will change occur.”
This message was mirrored by Eng. Anthony Habash’s last words to the KTH delegation, “I know Palestine lives in your heart but that is not enough. We need you to be strong, continue your education, and prepare yourselves so that you are ready to enact change when the opportunity presents itself. We need to be partners in building our future.”
Already KTH delegates have organized themselves into committees to help strengthen the KTH program and many will attend HCEF’s 16th International Conference on October 17-18.
KTH delegates on their last day in Palestine.