Citizens Diplomacy activities “Come, See, and Learn”

For the past few days, WI’AM has met with several international groups concerning the occupation of Palestine and the reconciliation work that WI’AM does. Voices of Peace, a group from Aosta, Italy, came and attended a two-day program with WI’AM, which was coordinated by the WI’AM staff. Voices of Peace is a part of International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR). Zoughbi, the founder and director of WI’AM, served as a member of the steering committee of IFOR. First, the group came to meet with Zoughbi at WI’AM where he debriefed them about the political and social situation in Palestine and also about the projects of WI’AM.

Osama, a volunteer of WI’AM, was the leader for the two-day program. Osama took the group on two tours; one was to visit the Aida Refugee Camp and the other was to the city of Hebron. The group learned about the history of the refugee issue and the current living conditions of the refugees. The group also learned about the settlement issue in the old city of Hebron and the surrounding villages. We also met with a peace group from Italy, Operation Doves. The group is helping support the Atwani village because they are being threatened with home demolition. Not only were the tours educational, but also they are also very exciting and full of fun.

WI’AM also met with two groups from the United States (US). The first group was about 20 young people from Notre Dame University in Indiana. Zoughbi, the director of WI’AM, invited about 15 Palestinian youth from the youth program in WI’AM to attend the meeting with the youth from the US. Zoughbi led a discussion and a workshop on stereotypes and reconciliation with the youth. The youth from both areas were broken up into smaller groups to discuss the issues and learn from one another about their different cultures and ways of life. At the end, all of them enjoyed barbeque and a meal hosted by the WI’AM staff.

The last group was two male teachers from Francis Parker School in Illinois. They were looking to come and learn more about the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, so they could potentially bring a group of students from their school to the area next year to learn. Zoughbi and I, Ipolani, were able to introduce them to the different services that WI’AM could provide, and we explained to them about the preparation that is necessary for international groups to learn before coming.

WI’AM has been known to host several international groups a year. They can help organize an agenda for the group for however many days they need. WI’AM can provide tours, educational discussions, and integration opportunities with the different cultures that are here in the Holy Land.