On August 3, the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation’s (HCEF) 5th Know Thy Heritage (KTH) program began their second week in Palestine visiting the city of Ramallah, where they had the chance to meet with several community leaders in the areas of banking, trade, and government.
The youth delegation’s day began at the Bank of Palestine’s Bethlehem office, where the delegates were welcomed by Salim Hodali, Bethlehem Branch Manager and Head of the Bank of Palestine Diaspora Unit, who recalled the history of the bank and its various projects with diaspora youth. Established in 1960, the Bank of Palestine aims to promote financial services, projects, and other financial and banking needs of different economic and social segments of Palestinian society. The bank is lead by KTH Advisory Board Member and Bank of Palestine Chairman and General Manager Mr. Hashim Shawa, who decided to return to Palestine from the diaspora to build the bank towards becoming the largest national bank in Palestine. During the visit, the delegates were able to learn more about the bank’s diaspora unit, as well as the numerous projects run by the bank in both Palestine and countries with sizable Palestinian populations. At the conclusion of the presentation, delegates were awarded shares of Bank of Palestine stock, making them official stakeholders in the Bank of Palestine.
During the Bank of Palestine visit, the delegates also received a tour of the bank’s Palestinian Modern Art exhibition by Palestinian private collector George Michel Al Ama, who shared with them the collection of dozens of pieces of Palestinian art collected from all over the world dating. The exhibition, entitled “400 Years of Palestinian Creativity,” showcases works dating as far back as the 17th century.
The delegates then set out to Ramallah, where they would meet with Dr. Hanan Ashrawi of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. In addition to serving as the sole female member of the PLO Executive Committee, Dr. Ashrawi also serves as a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, the head of the PLO Department of Culture and Information, and a member of the KTH Advisory Board. After delivering brief remarks about recent affairs in Palestine and Palestine’s future, the delegates were given the opportunity to ask Dr. Ashrawi questions about everything from the challenges of being a female leader in Palestinian society to what the diaspora can do to affect positive change in Palestinian society.
Following their meeting at the PLO, the delegates joined the senior citizens of the Birzeit Senior Citizens Center (BSCC) for a lunch of traditional Palestinian mansaf in Ramallah’s Philistia Restaurant, during which time the delegates were able to connect with Palestine’s elder generation. The BSCC was established by HCEF in 2005 to honor the elders in Birzeit by providing them with numerous resources, including healthcare, multi-generational interaction, education, and religious and cultural programs.
After lunch, the delegates attended a workshop through the KTH Future Business Leaders (FBL) program entitled, “Diaspora Investments in Palestine — Opportunities & Threats.” The workshop was presented by the Palestine Trade Center (PalTrade), which was established in 1998 as a non-profit membership-based organization with a national mandate to lead the development of exports as a driving force for sustainable economic growth. The workshop gave the delegates an overview of investment in Palestine, as well as information about how diaspora Palestinians can effect Palestine’s economy from abroad.
Before embarking on their return to Bethlehem, the delegates paid a visit to the former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat’s tomb at the muqata in Ramallah. After paying their respects to the late Palestinian leader, the delegates made their way to the newly established VisitPalestine.ps Center in Bethlehem, during which they were given the opportunity to sample traditional Palestinian dishes and support local Palestinian handicraft manufacturers through their purchases at VisitPalestine.ps’ boutique gift shop.
During the delegation’s nightly debriefing, HCEF President & CEO Sir Rateb Rabie, KCHS, remarked on the delegation’s visit to the PLO, saying, “The delegation was inspired by Dr. Hanan Ashrawi for covering the spectrum of the political situation here in Palestine, as well as the importance of women empowerment and the role the delegates should play in Palestine and the diaspora.”
To learn more about the KTH 2015 delegation’s journey throughout Palestine, follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and online at kthps.org
To see more photos for this day, please click here