About Palestine My Homeland Project
Palestine My Homeland is a project lead by VisitPalestine.ps and it aims to develop and strengthen the bond between Palestinian Diaspora and their homeland in Palestine through increased tourism, business linkages and other socio-economic development activities. The main objectives of the projects are:
- Establishment of partnerships to mobilize, engage and motivate Palestinian Diaspora to take an active role in Palestine’s economic, social and cultural revitalization and state building.
- Increase in number of Diaspora visitors to Palestine
- Increase and engage the Diaspora on multiple socio-cultural, economic and business linkages
- Create a sustainable model for developing Diaspora Tourism through strategic partnerships and alliances with specialized entities (ie Visit Palestine and selected participating tour operators)
- Targeting 4 areas: United States, Chile, United Kingdom, Germany
VisitPalestine.ps will be partnering with key tourism associations and stakeholders while implementing the project.
Below are couple of pictures showing members of Palestinian Diaspora visiting Visit Palestine Center in Bethlehem.
The Palestinian Market Development Programme (PMDP) www.pmdp.ps, is funded by UKAid and European Union (EU) and implemented in cooperation with the Ministry of National Economy (MoNE) by DAI Europe with offices both in Ramallah and Gaza.
Traveling to Palestine?
> For practical information about our destination (electricity, climate, currencies etc…) please check out the General Information section.
> Do I need a visa to travel to Israel/Palestine?
That depends on where you are from. You do not need a visa for Palestine, but as you have to travel through Israel to get to Palestine you might need a visa for Israel. EU and US citizens automatically get a 3-month visa upon arrival to Israel, but see here for more information: http://www.doyouneedvisa.com/
> Travel From Amman you can take a taxi or bus to the Allenby Border Crossing, which takes a good couple of hours to pass. From the Palestinian side – controlled by Israeli authorities – of the crossing you can take the Palestinian shuttles busses to Jericho and then collective taxi (orange van) to Bethlehem – the van will drive only when all the seats are reserved or if some passengers are willing to pay for the empty seats.
> Taxi from the Tel Aviv Airport: You can of course take a taxi from the airport directly to Bethlehem. Be aware that only Palestinian drivers will take you into Bethlehem. Agree on the price before you start driving. You can also take a taxi from Jerusalem. If you would like to arrange a private transport beforehand contact Visit Palestine Center at email@example.com for assistance.
> How do I get from Jerusalem to Bethlehem?
Read also this post to learn about various alternatives for traveling between Jerusalem and Bethlehem: http://visitpalestine.ps/get-
> What is the official language in Palestine? Do they speak English?
Many people speak English very well. In Palestine the official language is Arabic.
> Is it expensive?
You can live cheap on the world’s best hummus and falafel and at hostels and homestays and travel by local, public transportation just as you can live very expensively on expensive dinners, at the most expensive hotels and hire a private driver. In Palestine you can live on all budgets.
For more detailed itineraries visit Holy Land Incoming Tour Operators Association (HLITOA) website.
1. Biblical Places Itinerary
Places to visit: Cana, House of Mary, Magdala, Capernaum, Tabgha, St. Peter’s Church, Mt. of Beatitudes, Baptism Site, Shepherds’ Fields, the Church of Nativity, Dominius Flevit, Garden of Gethsemane, Pool of Bethesda, Last Supper Room, The Via Dolorosa, Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Resurrection.
- Kind of tour: Classical pilgrimage through the Holy Land (Israel/Palestine) combining the main pilgrimage sites and places for a faith-based audience.
- Main target group: Faith-based pilgrims of all denominations (church visits can be adjusted according to individual affiliation); parishes; religious and pious travelers without church affiliation.
- Length of tour: 7 days / 6 nights.
- Accommodation: Bethlehem, Jericho, Tiberias/Sea of Galilee, Nazareth, Bethlehem.
- Accommodation level: Church guest houses of different levels (simple/basic to high standard); hotels of all standards; possibility of hostels/dormitories or campsites available e.g. for youth groups.
- Best time of travel: Year-round; highly recommended for Christmas, Easter, Pentecost.
- Best weather: March to May, September to mid-November.
- Recommended group size: Any group size.
- Requirements: None; general physical fitness recommended especially if hiking is included.
2. Follow the Lord on Ancient Paths Itinerary
A spiritual, faith-based, and Jesus-centered pilgrimage following ancient paths based on the life of the Lord as commemorated in the Gospels.
- Kind of tour: Bible-based pilgrimage combining meaningful places along the life of Jesus with time for meditation, contemplation, scripture study and worship.
- Main target group: Spiritual pilgrims, religious and pious travelers seeking to “travel with the bible in their hands” and to (re-)discover the Christian message anew in its original landscape.
- Length of tour: 10 days / 9 nights.
- Accommodation: Nazareth, Jericho, Jerusalem; optional: Tiberias/Sea of Galilee, Bethlehem.
- Accommodation level: Church guest houses of different levels (simple/basic to high standard); hotels of all standards; possibility of hostels/dormitories or campsites available e.g. for youth groups.
- Best time of travel: Year-round; recommended especially for Christian holiday seasons (Christmas, Easter, Pentecost).
- Best weather: March to May, September to mid-November.
- Recommended group size: Tour is recommended for any group size.
- Requirements: None; general physical fitness recommended especially if hiking is included.
3. Islamic Heritage Pilgrimage Tour
Tracing Muslim Faith between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.
Islamic Sites in this itinerary: Qasr Hisham, Maqam An-Nabi Moussa, Haram Ash-Sharif, Al-Aqsa Mosque, Mosque of Qubbet al-Sakhra, Tomb of Rabiya Al-Adawiyya, Memorial of Mujir-e-Din Al-Hanbaly, Maqam An-Nabi Samuel, Mosque of An-Nabi Yunus bin Mata, Haram Al-Ibrahimi (Al-Khalil), Al-Jazzar Mosque, Maqam An-Nabi Jonah, Maqam Sheikh Ali As-Sayyid.
- Kind of tour: A tour dedicated to Muslim faith and Islamic heritage in the Holy Land combining well-known pilgrimage sites with lesser known shrines and monuments, and multiple tailoring options.
- Main target group: Muslim pilgrims looking for an extension to their Hajj to Mecca or to the maqamat in Jordan; travelers interested in the Islamic heritage of the Holy Land.
- Length of tour: 8 days / 7 nights.
- Accommodation: Jerusalem, Jericho, Nazareth.
- Accommodation level: Hotels of all categories.
- Best time of travel: Year-round.
- Best weather: Spring and autumn.
- Recommended group size: This tour is suitable for any group size.
- Requirements: None.
4. Holy Mountains in the Holy Land
The biblical story of salvation is as much a story of faith as it is the story of holy mountains. On this tour, you will sojourn the Holy Land from summit to summit, recalling their stories and traditions.
- Kind of tour: A 2-week trail along the mountains of the Holy Land for pilgrims with a love for hiking and nature.
- Main target group: Pilgrims and religiously interested travelers with a love for hiking and nature.
- Length of tour: 13 days / 12 nights.
- Accommodation: Amman, Petra, Aqaba, Har Karkom Campsite, Jericho, Nazareth, Stela Maris Monastery, Jerusalem or Bethlehem.
- Accommodation level: Overnight stays in hotels of preferred standard or church guest houses; Har Karkom Campsite.
- Best time of travel: Spring, late summer and autumn
- Best weather: Mid-March to early May, September to October.
- Recommended group size: Tour is recommended especially for smaller groups but can be arranged for any group size.
- Requirements: General physical fitness, particularly if the tour is done in summer.
5. The Masar Ibrahim al-Khalil
The Masar Ibrahim Al-Khalil (Abraham Path) is a long-distance hiking trail that runs through the West Bank from the Mediterranean olive groves of the highlands of the north to the silence of the deserts in the south; from the area west of Jenin to the area south of the Sanctuary of Abraham (known in Arabic as Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi) in the city of Hebron.
- Kind of tour: Hiking.
- Main target group: Any traveler with a passion for nature, hiking, and an intimate way of traveling and getting into contact with locals.
- Length of tour: One-day hikes to about 3 weeks (full 330km).
- Accommodation level: Simple accommodation along the Masar including family homestays and guesthouses; hotel accommodation can be arranged.
- Best time of travel: March to May and September to Mid-November.
- Best weather: March to April, October.
- Recommended group size: Individuals, families and groups (recommended up to 25).
- Requirements: Physical fitness, hiking experience recommended.
- Website: www.masaribrahim.ps.
If you come to Palestine during summer, it might seem like it’s too hot to do anything. But there is so much to do and learn, you won’t be sorry you spent your vacation in Palestine. You’ll hike the desert guided by moonlight, learn Arabic, and eat amazing food.
- Hang out with family
Even if it was your grandparents or great grandparents who emigrated from Palestine, it is likely there are still family members in Palestine who can’t wait to feed you piles of stuffed vegetables all day every day. Connecting with family who have lived through it all in Palestine is likely to teach you more about what life in Palestine is like than reading ten books.
- Explore Palestine’s cities
So many beautiful cities and towns to explore in Palestine. Stroll through Jerusalem’s Old City with its hidden alleys and neighbourhoods, and marvel at the Dome of the Rock. Or go to lesser known Nablus, with its exquisite covered souk, delicious knafeh and ancient olive oil soap factories. And don’t forget about Jericho, the oldest continually inhabited city in the world. It boasts important archaeological finds, including Natufian structures dating back to earlier than 9000 BC. You can also take a bike ride through the city, especially in the early evening when it’s not as hot. The Dead Sea is right next to Jericho so a float and mud bath are good ways to spend your day in Jericho too!
- Cook up a storm
Do you still remember your grandmothers excellent stuffed zucchinis and softer than soft humus? You might want to learn how to cook some of that mouth-watering food yourself. Cooking classes are on the rise in Palestine, so learning to make sweet semolina cake or maqloubeh is in your reach. In Bethlehem, you can join one of the Noor Women’s Empowerment Group’s cooking classes which are held in and organized by women from Aida camp. In Nablus, Bait Al Karama offers one, two, or four day cooking courses with a focus on traditional and Nabulsi dishes. With cooking sessions, guided visits to the souk, food shops and factories, this is a great option for true foodies.
- Take a hike
If you’ve been eating all that delicious food, going on a hike might seem like a good idea. Even though hiking season is usually during winter and spring as the sun can be too hot for hiking during summer, there are still some great options for hiking lovers. Why not join a Desert Full Moon Walk, a unique opportunity to walk in the Jerusalem desert guided by the light of the full moon. Sleep overnight in a Bedouin tent and wake before the crack of dawn for a unique hike through rough desert terrain. You’ll arrive at a lookout spot and watch a glorious sunrise with the Dead Sea in the foreground.
- Learn Arabic
How is your Arabic? Maybe you speak Palestinian dialect but have never learned Modern Standard Arabic? Or maybe you haven’t had the chance to learn to speak Palestinian dialect. During the summer there are plenty of opportunities for high quality language courses at Palestinian universities like AlQuds, Birzeit or Bethlehem University.
- Join a university programme
In addition to taking a language course, there are several opportunities to join summer programmes organized by Palestinian schools and universities. Birzeit University offers the PAS programme which is specifically for young Palestinians from the diaspora, but it also has a more general international summer programme. For diaspora teenagers, the Ramallah Friends School organizes a yearly Summer in Palestine Camp.
- Volunteer your time and talents
If you’re in Palestine for a longer period of time, you’ll have plenty of options to volunteer your talents. A good place to start is to ask family members if they know of any good organizations in their area, but google will also give plenty of options. It usually is best to contact an organization that seems interesting directly, most organizations have plenty of experience hosting volunteers and will be able to help you arrange your stay. If you like a more tailored program you can contact organizations that will organize your volunteer place, a place to live, and help you learn about the political situation. In Bethlehem, Volunteer Palestine or Palestine Summer Encounter will do the organizing for you.
- Go camping
Camping vacations are not very common in Palestine but that doesn’t mean nobody does it. Many Palestinian children join the scouts, especially in Ramallah, Bethlehem and Jerusalem. They spend time outdoors, camping in olive groves under the stars. You can do so too, as a few campsites have been established across Palestine. Between Bethlehem and Jerusalem the beautiful Maghrour valley, full of olive and fruit groves, hosts Hosh Jasmin: a beautiful farm-to-table restaurant and campsite with an amazing view of the olive tree dotted hills. You can also sleep in a Bedouin encampment in the Jerusalem wilderness, right outside of Bethlehem. Called Tal al-Qamar, or Hill of the Moon, it’s the perfect place to camp, barbeque and watch an incredible sunrise in the desert.
Visiting Palestine by yourself or with other adults might seem a lot less daunting than taking your children along. However, it’s a lot less difficult and there’s a lot more to do than you might think. If you are coming to visit family, there are definitely fun things to do for your children. Here’s a list of some activities your children will love.
There’s little more exciting for children than realizing they can float on water. Although it might seem like a magic trick to them, it’s the high salt content of the Dead Sea that facilitates the floating. Be sure to instruct them not to rub their eyes when they’re in the water: the salt will definitely hurt! After the Dead Sea, you can tour around Jericho, which has some amazing sites which your history-minded kids will love. Hisham’s Palace is a large archaeological site of an Ummayyad palace, ruined by an earthquake in the 8th century. Don’t forget to walk around Tel as-Sultan, the archaeological site of ancient Jericho dating back to 9500 BCE. Next to Tel as-Sultan you can take the cable car up to the Mountain of Temptation. Be sure to go in the morning, when you can visit the monastery. After visiting the monastery you can have fresh juice with a view over Jericho and the Dead Sea before taking the cable car back.
Whether you’re staying in Ramallah or just visiting for a day, Ramallah has plenty to offer. Mashjar Juthour is an eco-park and arboretum on a hillside close to Ramallah. Join the Family Fridays, where parents can engage with their children in learning about nature and participate in fun activities like making musical instruments from upcycled materials. Another great spot for families in Ramallah is the Snowbar, an outdoor restaurant and swimming pool with lush vegetation and abundant flowering plants. Do have their pizza from the wood oven after an afternoon of sun and swimming. If your kids enjoy the occasional museum visit, the Palestinian Museum comes highly recommended. For older children who love to read, the Mahmoud Darwish museum will teach them more about the poet’s life and art.
If you pick a quiet day, exploring Jerusalem’s old city can be a fascinating activity for the whole family. Climb up to the roof of the Austrian hospice on the Via Dolorosa to take in the view of the old city and have a quiet drink in the courtyard garden after. Children will be in awe of the Dome of the Rock and its brilliant mosaics, so be sure to take them there. The Holy Sepulchre is a fascinating experience as well, but with children its best to visit when it’s not very busy as the masses of pilgrims can be overwhelming. A ramparts walk is a peaceful way to see a lot of the Old City without being in the hustle and bustle of it all.
Bethlehem is Jerusalem’s quieter and smaller cousin. It has a lively souk, the impressive Church of the Nativity, and a wealth of nice cafes and restaurants where you can take a break and relax. A visit to the Bethlehem museum will teach the whole family about life in Bethlehem, both today and in the past. The lovely artsy museum café serves delicious food and is a nice place to wind down. After seeing Bethlehem, head to the Maghrour valley, located just outside neighbouring town Beit Jala. You can either relax at Hosh Jasmin, a farm-to-table restaurant and local hangout spot with amazing views, or go deeper into the valley and have a traditional spread of salads and barbequed meats at Al Makhrour restaurant’s terrace with views of the surrounding hills. If more relaxation is called for, the Jacir Palace Hotel’s outdoor swimming pool is a lovely way to spend a hot summer day.
Are your children even more curious about Palestine now that they’ve visited? Or would you like to prepare them before you go? Here are some books that will help.
P is for Palestine by Golbarg Bashi An alphabet book that teaches children about a whole range of Palestinian topics, from food, to language, to religious feasts. Find it here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/507224397/third-edition-of-p-is-for-palestine-will
Sitti and the Cats by Sally Bahous Allen A sweet book recounting a beautiful Palestinian folktale about friendship, family and Palestinian village life. Find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Sitti-Cats-Sally-Bahous-Allen/dp/157098171X
Sitti’s Secrets by Naomi Shihab Nye About a girl whose grandmother lives on the other side of the earth, in a Palestinian village. She spends the summer with her, making up their own language to be able to communicate together. Find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Sittis-Secrets-Aladdin-Picture-Books/dp/0689817061/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8
A Little Piece of Ground by Elizabeth Laird This young adult novel explores the human cost of the occupation of Palestinian lands through the eyes of a young boy. A good pick for older children who want to learn more about the political realities in Palestine. Find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Little-Piece-Ground-Elizabeth-Laird/dp/1931859388
Masjar Juthour’s nature games Masjar Juthour, the eco-park close to Ramallah developed two beautiful children’s games themed around Palestine’s flora and fauna. A memory matching game and a guessing game, they’re sure to be a hit! Find them here: https://handmadepalestine.com/collections/educational-gifts (Please note that even though the guessing game is marked as sold out, it is still available in Ramallah from Masjar Juthour.)
The Aida Camp Alphabet by Lajee Center A book for children wanting to learn more about what life is like for children growing up in one of Palestine’s refugee camps. Find it here: https://www.middleeastbooks.com/collections/books/products/the-aida-camp-alphabet
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Volunteer at Palestine my Homeland
Volunteer in Palestine!
Internship Opportunity at the Visit Palestine Center, Bethlehem Palestine
Volunteer at the Palestine My Homeland Project in Bethlehem at Visit Palestine Center (VisitPalestine.ps). Be a part of a team that is passionate about promoting Palestine among the Palestinian Diaspora. Spend up to three months in Palestine, travel the country, have a chance to meet your extended family and share your experience with others!
Click here for the Application Form.
- Person of a Palestinian descent from Germany, United Kingdom, United States or South America
- Fluent in English (written and spoken)
- Experience in social media marketing and networking
- Undergraduate student or having a Bachelors degree
- Able to describe her/his experience (written form, photography, video)
- Social and curious person eager to learn
- Able to travel and spend 10-12 weeks in Palestine
- Experience with various social media channels
- Having a personal blog / vlog
- Active with an organization/s related to Palestine in their home country
- Promotion of Palestine as a destination among Palestinian Diaspora, e.g. activate and maintain social media channels targeting Diaspora audiences in the respective markets.
- Documenting her/his time in Palestine as a sharable content (stories, videos, photos)
- Identifying key players and partners from their country
- Provide translation support to Diaspora Unit and liaise with Diaspora Organizations establishing links and cooperation to support the Palestine My Homeland Project.
- Accommodation in an apartment or at a host family in Bethlehem
- Stipend for meals and transportation
- Work Location will be at the Visit Palestine Center in Bethlehem
- Travel expenses related to the project tasks
We Don’t Guarantee:
- Travel Expenses to Palestine and Back to the country of origin
- Travel Insurance
About Palestine’s Diaspora
1) Diaspora, refugees, expats?
Over half of the almost 12 million Palestinians worldwide live outside the Palestinian Territories and Israel. Defining ‘diaspora’ is complicated, as not every Palestinian living in the diaspora is in exile, and not every person in exile is also a refugee. Another issue is who should be designated a refugee and how many of them there actually are. Added to this is the fact that not every refugee is part of the diaspora: according to the United Nations, two out of five Palestinian refugees actually live within the Palestinian Territories. Here, we take the approach that the Palestinian diaspora constitutes all Palestinians living outside of historical Palestine.
2) The first registered Palestinian immigrant to Latin America
Major Palestinian emigration abroad started during the late 19th century. Of course, people travelled abroad before that time. In 1796, the registers of the Latin Parish’ priest’s office in Bethlehem recorded the first death among Palestinian emigrants to Latin America. His name was Andrea Francis Hanna Dawid from the Tarajmah Quarter in Bethlehem.
3) Rising emigration from the Ottoman Empire
Between 1880 and 1920 a large immigration wave took place worldwide, mostly from South and Central Europe and from the Ottoman Empire to the Americas. In the United States, their number was estimated at 25 million: Italians, Greeks, Slavs, Jews, Ottomans and others. The number of Ottoman immigrants (Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Jordan) to the United States was estimated to be 250,000. The number of Ottoman immigrants to Latin America between 1869 and 1914 was estimated to be 1,200,000 persons. This included 33,000 people from geographical Syria, which Palestine was historically part of.
4) Escaping World War I
Emigration from Palestine escalated during the late 19th century and early 20th century as a result of the increasing instability in the Ottoman Empire. Economic repression and administrative corruption caused many young people to find a better life elsewhere. Many young men emigrated during the late 19th and early 20th as a way to escape conscription and armed conflict, including the First World War.
5) The first Arabs in Brazil came from Bethlehem
The Zakhariya brothers from the Tarajmeh Quarter in Bethlehem were the first Arabs to arrive in Brazil, in 1874. They sold mother of pearl items such as rosaries, crosses and icons in the main jewellers’ street in Rio de Janeiro.
6) Palestinians impress at US exhibitions
International exhibitions in the United States attracted many Palestinian merchants who often ended up settling in the country. They came carrying mother of pearl, olive wood, and Nabi Moses stones to exhibitions in 1876, 1893 and 1904 which took place in Philadelphia, Chicago and St Louis respectively. Some merchants returned back to Bethlehem however, like the Dabdoub brothers who received a medal during the Chicago Exhibition.
7) Successful returnees
Although many emigrants settled down in their new countries for good, some came back. ‘Abdul Majid Shuman travelled to the United States in 1911 to study and returned to lay the foundation of the Arab Bank, after his father had started the first branch in 1930.
8) A Kiss in the Desert
Two other returnees, Badr and Ibrahim Lama, never made it back to Palestine for good after coming back from Chile in 1927, where they had become skilled photographers and cinematographers. With plans to establish a cinema company in Palestine, they made a stop in Alexandria, Egypt on their return. While there, they decided to establish the Condor Cinema Film Company in Alexandria. A year later, their film ‘A Kiss in the Desert’ comes out, the first silent Arabic film in the history of Egyptian cinema. Lama Studios eventually grew into one of Egypt’s major cinema companies in the thirties and forties.
Thousands of people left Palestine in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in hope for a better future. Many undertook long journeys to the continent of promise: the Americas. Many Palestinians started their journeys in the ports of Haifa and Jaffa, others travelled via Lebanese ports. For Latin America, the most popular port of arrival was Santos in Brazil, although some continued south to the last stop on the continent: Buenos Aires. Many Palestinians decided to go even further: Chile. The crossing was challenging, a four day journey on mules through the cold Andean mountain range. Only in 1912 did the Chilean Trans-Andean train ease the journey. There are records of general ‘Turks’ taking this route, which likely included many Palestinians. Between 1905 and 1914 records show that 56% of immigrants were Palestinians. By 1941, there was an Arab community of 2,994 families, approximately 15,000 people, of whom 85% were immigrants and 15% the first children born on Chilean soil. Half of them were reported to be of Palestinian origin. Today, there are almost 500,000 Palestinian-Chileans.
Among the Palestinian immigrants, 35.7% came from Beit Jala and 34.6% from Bethlehem. The remainder came from Beit Sahour and Beit Safafa, both close to Bethlehem. Today, the largest Palestinian Christian community in the world is in Chile. The descendants of the first immigrants are estimated at about between 150,000 and 200,000 people. Although Palestinians in Chile are very much integrated, younger generations do conserve or seek to rediscover their roots. Since the early years of Palestinian immigration, several organizations were established to keep the Palestinian culture and community alive. The Club Palestino, founded in 1947, is one of the most prestigious social clubs in Santiago and offers swimming, tennis, and dining facilities to its members. and the Club Deportivo Palestino is a professional football club based in Santiago and founded in 1920. The club plays in Chile’s first division and was the first soccer team in the world to bear the name and colours of the Palestinian flag. Some Chilean-Palestinian footballers like Roberto Bishara and Alexis Norambuena have also played for the Palestinian national football team. The Bank of Palestine exclusively sponsored the Club Deportivo Palestino in 2010 and 2013 and the bank has recently established a representative office in Santiago. It is the first Arab bank with a branch in Latin America.
Other Latin American countries also boast a large Palestinian community. About 250,000 people of Palestinian descent live in Honduras and, like Chile, most of them are from the Bethlehem area and are part of the Christian community. Former Honduran president Carlos Roberto Flores Facusse is of Palestinian descent. He was President of Honduras from 1998 until 2002. In Brazil, there are mostly first and second generations, in contrast to Chile and Honduras where Palestinians are more likely to be third and fourth generation immigrants. The Palestinian-Brazilians are mostly from the region of Ramallah and arrived in the 1950s or after the Six-Day War in 1967. They number around 60,000 which is a small number compared to the ten million Brazilians of Lebanese and Syrian descent.
Even though most of the Palestinians in Latin America are third or fourth generation immigrants, there still are strong ties between the communities ‘back home’ in Palestine and those in Latin America. Many families in Bethlehem and Beit Jala have family members in Chile or other countries and keep these family ties strong. In 2010 Beit Jala named one of its central squares ‘Chile Square’ and with the support of the Chilean government an engraved stone was erected which reads “The Republic of Chile, to her sons of Palestinian origin, on the occasion of the commemoration of the second centenary of our national independence. Palestine, September 2010.”
Because there are so many Palestinians abroad, it is no surprise that some of them have made quite the name for themselves. Here’s a list of Palestinians in diaspora you should know!
- Gigi & Bella Hadid
With a Palestinian father and a Dutch mother, these two supermodels grew up hearing about Palestine. Their dad, Mohammad Hadid is a real estate developer and was born in Nazareth. On Instagram, he has shared many a story about his family’s history in Palestine, including the fact that his great-great-grandfather was the sheikh of the Galilee. Gigi Hadid has been vocal about her Palestinian roots as well, announcing on Instagram – “…check out the last name. Hadid. Half Palestinian & proud of it.” Her sister Bella recently posted a picture of herself at a rally in support of Palestine in London.
- Shadia Mansour
This woman rocks her thob. Literally. She is a British-Palestinian hip hop artists and usually performs dressed in the traditional Palestinian thob. Called the first lady of Arab hip hop by the BBC, Mansour was born in London to Christian Palestinian parents who are originally from Haifa and Nazareth. She spent her summers visiting relatives in those towns. She describes having been influenced by famous performers like Fairouz, Um Khulthum and Mohammed Wahab.
Watch a short interview with Shadia here. Hyperlink to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuj8lrE-9Qs
- Mai Masri
Mai is a Palestinian-American filmmaker who was born in Amman but grew up in Beirut, where she still lives. Her films focus on Palestine and the Middle East and have won many awards. Her most recent film 3000 nights tells the true story of a Palestinian woman incarcerated in an Israeli prison. The film was part of the official selection for the Toronto Film Festival. In the magazine This Week in Palestine, Mai has said she hopes her films “can play a powerful role in preserving and developing Palestinian identity and in nurturing the personal and collective dream of a real Palestine”.
- Joudie Kalla
Joudie is a Palestinian-British restaurateur based in London who recently wrote the cook book Palestine on a Plate. She describes the book as having been years in the making, through “sitting with her mother, aunties and grandmothers listening to their conversations and being included in their daily cooking adventures”. Her parents’ families fled Lod and Safed in 1948 and from them, Kalla absorbed the memories she is now trying to preserve. She was born in Qatar and grew up in London.
- Dean Obeidallah
Dean is an American comedian of Palestinian and Italian descent. He hosts The Dean Obeidallah Show, which is the only daily national radio show hosted by a Muslim American. He also contributes regularly to CNN and has published in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Newsweek. His father was born in Battir, an idyllic rural village between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. He emigrated to the United States in 1957 and married Dean’s Sicilian woman a few years later. Dean is the co-founder of the annual New York Arab-American Comedy Festival, together with Maysoon Zayid.
Watch Dean’s TedX Talk about fighting Islamophobia with comedy here. Hyperlink to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LtHn6lMcQqo
- Maysoon Zayid
That brings us to the brilliant Maysoon Zayid, also a comedian and co-founder of the New York Arab American Comedy Festival. Maysoon held a TED Talk at TED Women in 2013, which has been watched more than 14 million times online. Maysoon jokes about her family, global culture, and her life with cerebral palsy. Rolling Stone said: “Listening to the Palestinian-American combating stereotypes of Islam and Arabs with humor, touching on American political affairs, verbally frying male-dominated Hollywood, or addressing the question of Palestine and Israel, it’s hard to get a handle on her, and some come away asking, “What’s the deal with this Maysoon Zayid?””
Watch Maysoon’s Ted Talk here: https://www.ted.com/talks/maysoon_zayid_i_got_99_problems_palsy_is_just_one
- Rashid Khalidi
Rashid Khalidi is a Palestinian American historian of the Middle East, the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columia University, and the director of the Middle East institute of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs. He is also the editor of the scholarly journal Journal of Palestine Studies. Khalidi’s father Ismail was born in Jerusalem.
Palestinians in the diaspora often make their way back, if they can. Sometimes for good, other times for regular visits. Many of them use that opportunity to invest their time and talents in Palestine, through business ventures or social projects. Here’s a list of seven amazing Palestinians from the diaspora, who help to build Palestine. Get inspired.
- Susan Abulhawa
Susan Abulhawa is a Palestinian-American bestselling writer and human rights activist. Among other works, he wrote the bestselling novels Mornings in Jenin and The Blue Between Sky and Water, both multigenerational family accounts of life in Palestine after 1948. In 2001, she founded Playgrounds for Palestine, a non-governmental organization which builds playgrounds for Palestinian children in various parts of Palestine and refugee camps. They have now established 39 playgrounds, including two in Lebanon and one in Syria.
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- Maysoon Zayid
Maysoon Zayid was also on our list of famous people in the diaspora (provide hyperlink). We feature her again here because she’s not only a brilliant comedian, she also invests a lot of her time in making things better for Palestinian children. She spends three months a year in Palestine, running an arts program for disabled and orphaned children in refugee camps called Maysoon’s Kids. She uses art to helps children deal with trauma and bridge the gap between disabled and non-disabled children. Maysoon told the Guardian in 2009 that she wants to work with children and teenagers to help them take their saddest story and turn it into something bearable, funny even. She said: “Having lived in Palestinian society, I know they tell jokes about the most horrifying things. I find the ability to do that really amazing. […] That’s what stand-up is. It humanises you.”
- Emily and Annemarie Jacir
Artists and sisters Emily and Annemarie Jacir were born in Palestine but grew up in Saudia Arabia and Italy. Emily won the Golden Lion for artists under 40 at the Venice Biennale in 2007 and the Guggenheim Museum’s Hugo Boss Prize in 2008. Her work often focuses on the Middle East. Annemarie is a filmmaker and poet. She is cofounder and chief curator of the ground breaking Palestinian cinema project, dedicated to the promotion of Palestinian cinema. Located only steps away from the wall dividing Bethlehem from Jerusalem, the sisters are transforming their 19th century family home into an independent exhibition space and community art centre. The house was built by their great great grandfather in 1890, then mukthar of Bethlehem. Emily and Annemarie are working with the architectural preservation group RIWAQ, which is restoring the home into a publicly accessible exhibition space.
- Sam Bahour
Sam Bahour was born in the United States to a Palestinian father and Lebanese mother. He is a business development consultant and entrepreneur and decided to move to Palestine with his family after the Oslo Accords. From Ramallah, he has helped establish the Palestine Telecommunications Co. and the PLAZA Shopping Centre. He recently completed a full term as a Board of Trustees member and treasurer at Birzeit University and he is currently the chairman of Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy. Bahour is co-editor of HOMELAND: Oral History of Palestine and Palestinians and writes frequently on Palestinian affairs in local and international press.
- Suzanne Al Houby
Suzanne is a mountain climber, entrepreneur, and humanitarian activist. In 2011, she became the first Arab woman to climb the summit of Mount Everest. She is the founder of Rahhalah Explorers, and adventure travel company. In 2014, she led two Palestinian youth from Gaza and the West Bank, both amputees with prosthetic lugs, up to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. They did so together with the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) to raise funds for and awareness about the treatment of children injured in conflict areas.
- Peter Abualzolof
Peter was born in Beit Sahour, close to Bethlehem, but moved with his parents to the United States at the age of 8. He returned to Palestine on a vacation few years ago, and realized starting a company there could be a way to help. Now Abuzolof runs a successful business called Mashvisor, which connects people interested in investing to real estate to investment opportunities. In an interview with Forbes in 2016 Abuzolof noted that it has been much cheaper to start a company in Ramallah; his overhead would be about $100,000 in the US while it’s less than 20% in Palestine. “It’s as much a strategic decision as solidarity” he said.