On September 9th, Know Thy Heritage (KTH) hosted a Celebration Banquet to celebrate the launching of the KTH Leadership Initiative. This event was co-sponsored by the Palestinian Cultural Organization (PCO) at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC).

Rateb Rabie, President and CEO of KTH noted this during his message to the audience: “It was moving to see the reaction of the Palestinian community of Charlotte to the KTH Leadership Initiative as KTH celebrates its 10th anniversary. Over the past nine years, the KTH Leadership Program has grown into a global movement. It has succeeded in connecting Palestinian youth in the diaspora to their shared homeland and to each other, building a network of advocates who work collaboratively for the unification of Palestinians everywhere.” He added, “In spite of the many challenges we face as Palestinians, both at home and abroad, KTH continues to produce bold Ambassadors of Peace who take the program to new heights each year.”

In addition, Mr. Rabie introduced Mr. Talal Borno as the newest member to the KTH Board of Directors. Mr. Borno was born and raised in Gaza and has maintained deep ties to the Palestine cause throughout his career. He currently serves as the president of the Palestinian American Community Center (PACC) and is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Arab American Council of the Carolinas in North Carolina where he resides. Mr. Borno helped plan this successful fundraiser and dinner where over 100 people attended and he discussed the importance of leadership for both youth and elders. 

Attendees also got a chance to hear from KTH alumni and their parents as they shared moving reflections about their experiences in Palestine. 

Eman El-Taher (KTH alumni 2016 ) stated, “My journey through Palestine with KTH helped me really open my eyes, and it helped me understand what Palestine was, is, and can be. It also helped me connect to who we are as people and who we can strive to be. This journey allowed me to fully embrace the idea that we are stronger as one.” Her testimony can be viewed here: Eman El-Taher’s Testimony.

The mother of two alumni, Ghada Jadallah, also shared an incredibly heartfelt testimony about the impact KTH made on her son Sam Journey (KTH alumni 2011) and her daughter Eliana Journey (KTH alumni 2019). 

“I never thought I would see my kids grow that much and fall in love with this beautiful country [as much as they did] and I think every Palestinian, young and old, should do this trip,” explained Mrs. Jadallah. “When you go by yourself [to Palestine], you don’t see half of the stuff that you would while on this trip. Although I’ve lived in the Middle East, I’ve never experienced all of these things my kids are telling me about.” She also expressed how grateful she is to KTH and wishes everyone understood how valuable this trip is. “Every Palestinian should send their children.” Her Video testimony can be viewed here: Ghada Jadallah’s Testimony.

Another KTH alumni from 2013, Linda Khalil, delivered her testimony saying, “This journey changed my life and made me even more proud of being Palestinian,” and she went on to introduce the 2019 KTH promo video which gives viewers a glimpse into the KTH journey.

A special thanks to Abeer Hamdan, who led the special presentation of the fundraising segment of the program, where the Palestinian American community reacted with generosity to her appeal. Mr. Rabie presented the key of Palestine to those who were very generous. You can donate online using the link here: online donations.

Of course, the event couldn’t be completed without incredible performances, Arabic music and delicious Palestinian food from Al Basha restaurant. We were honored to have performances by singers Yassin Chickha alongside his band and special guest Wisam Roustom to celebrate this exciting initiative.

KTH further extends its thankfulness to Malek Oudeh & Nour Khalaf for being wonderful emcee’s (master of ceremonies) and to committee members: Zaina AlKahlout Eman Abdel Aziz, Ahmad Al-Khatib and  Reem Rabie Rakes among many others such as Farah Borno,who is accepted to be a delegate for 2020 Journey and encouraged many others to join.

The Know Thy Heritage program has over 300 alumni from 20 different countries across five continents. Applications are currently open for the 2020 delegation: application link. Journey dates are from July 9-July 23, 2020.