About 40 Palestinian youth in the diaspora on Saturday have arrived in Palestine for the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation HCEF’s Know Thy Heritage (KTH) annual program, ensuring devotion and love for homeland.
The delegation has representatives from 15 countries including the US, Chile, Honduras, Salvador, Italy, Nicaragua, Columbia, Qatar, Jordan and Australia.
Travelling to Palestine through the King Hussein/Allenby bridge crossing, the delegates arrived after hours of waiting, a series of interrogations and Israeli stalling on checkpoints, and were welcomed by Palestinian crowds and officials in Bethlehem.
Hundreds were in attendance, including the Salesian scout troupe and marching band, which added a joyful note to the celebrations. The event was also made particularly special by the attendance of the orphans of the SOS Children’s Villages Palestine, who helped receive the delegates and guide them throughout the procession of the parade.
As the procession arrived to Manger Square between the Church of the Nativity and the Omar Mosque, the delegation was received by HCEF President and CEO Sir Rateb Y. Rabie, Madame Claudette Habash, HCEF Advisory Board Member Mr. Saleh Soboh, Secretary General of Bethlehem’s Fatah Office Mr. Mohamad Al Masri, HCEF Regional Director Eng. Anthony Habash, Arab Women’s Union Bethlehem Deputy Ms. Diana Elias, Director of Wiam Center Mr. Zougbi Zougbi, Bethlehem Families Representative Mr. Issa Khair, as well as other community leaders.
To his part, CEO and founder of HCEF, sir Rateb Rabie praised the youths and expressed joy to finally welcome them in Bethlehem.
“After eight hours of agony and hardship traveling from Amman to Bethlehem, this warm welcome makes me feel happy, joyful and really at home – that I’m a host, not a guest.”
Rabie assured that the program this year includes new activities and knowledge, especially projects to develop the Palestinian entrepreneurs and economic situation.
The delegation was also welcomed by Archbishop of Sebastia and HCEF Advisory Board Member Atallah Hanna and Bethlehem Mufti HG Sheikh Abdul Majid Atta. Both leaders raised the Palestinians as a model of interfaith coexistence for the world, confirming that the Palestinian people are one nation, regardless of their beliefs.
Archbishop Atallah Hanna that this project was very patriotic since it creates ties between the diaspora youths and their homeland, adding that Palestine will always embrace its offspring. Atallah added that these youths count as envoys to the world and carries of a message of resistance and commitment to one’s land.
As participants of the 2015 KTH program, these delegates will spend the next two weeks having the fruitful and challenging experience of fostering a deep relationship with their ancestral homeland. This will include taking part in the 4th Annual Diaspora Youth Conference, which will take place July 31-August 1, 2015 at the Convention Palace in Bethlehem. The conference will include workshops and lectures to introduce youth attendees to the political, social, cultural and economic situation in Palestine, as well as give Palestinian youth leaders the opportunity to exchange experiences and ideas in order to create a space for innovation and mutual cooperation aimed at serving Palestine and its people.
Know Thy Heritage, which launched its first program in the summer of 2011, is a portal through which Palestinian youth in the diaspora can return to Palestine and strengthen their knowledge of both their Palestinian identity as well as Palestine’s economic environment, political landscape, and social structures. For more information about HCEF And its programs, visit our website at HCEF.org. You can also learn more about KTH and follow this year’s delegation on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and online at kthps.org