Friday, August 12, 2011

Omaha Student, Mother, Returns from Interfaith Delegation to Israel and Palestine Palestinian and Israeli youth share perspectives on the Arab Spring and prospects for a peaceful future



Katie Huerter in Nablus, Palestine 
Official Press Release 
For Immediate Release
August 10, 2011

Washington, DC — Kathleen Huerter, a student of Non-Profit Administration and Philosophy at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, who has just returned from a unique delegation to Israel and Palestine.  Ms. Huerter, along with twenty-three other participants from the United States, landed in Tel Aviv on July 18 for the two-week journey through the conflict zone.

Participants on the delegation explored issues relevant to young people in Palestine/Israel, including efforts to educate and empower future generations working toward a just resolution to the conflict.  Two thirds of the Palestinian population and one third of the Israeli population are under the age of 25.  More than just numbers, youth in Israel/Palestine play important roles in community development, lead nonviolent struggles for justice, and work together across national lines towards reconciliation.  They are also among the conflict’s most tragic victims. 

The delegates met with approximately 30 Israeli and Palestinian groups representing a wide swath of both societies in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.  A special focus was on the work of nonviolent activists and other peace-builders working to create a better future for Israelis and Palestinians.
“It does not take an expert to realize what is happening here,” explains Kathleen Huerter.  “You do not need to be here for weeks or months to grasp the severity of the situation.  You only need to listen to those who have been robbed of their humanity and see the walls that separate a farmer from his land, children from their schools, neighbors from neighbors… and Arabs from Jews.   One cannot witness this reality on the ground and not feel a profound, unfathomable sense of anguish.  The crimes being committed here are not crimes against enemies, they are crimes against humanity.”
Kathleen Huerter is a student of Non-Profit Administration and Philosophy, with an emphasis in conflict resolution, at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.  Ms. Huerter is also a mother of a four year-old son.   She is a graduate of Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart and attended St. Albert’s grade school in Council Bluffs, Iowa.  Ms. Huerter is a volunteer with Project Interfaith in Omaha, and actively supports local arts, culture enrichment programs, and human rights campaigns.  “Advocating for human rights, equality, and peace is not a simply a hobby of mine,” explains Ms. Huerter.  “It is my passion in life

The delegation arrived as the Arab Spring gave way to the summer heat, and tensions in the region have continued to rise accordingly.  Delegates touched down only days after Israeli lawmakers passed a highly contentious new law criminalizing individuals who call for boycott, divestment, or sanctions against Israel.  The bill has been condemned by Israeli and Palestinian civil society groups and free speech advocates in the US and the Middle East.1

Participants spoke with Palestinians and Israelis about these developments and learned from peace activists, civil society leaders, human rights workers, and others in Palestinian and Israeli areas.

Co-sponsored by Interfaith Peace-Builders (IFPB) and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), this delegation was the 38th such experience organized by IFPB since 2001, successfully educating approximately 600 North American citizens about the Middle East and deepening their understanding of its conflicts through eye-witness experiences.


Kathleen Huerter looks forward to discussing her trip directly.  She can be reached at 402-312-1188 or khuerter@unomaha.edu.


CONTACT:
Jacob Pace
415-240-4607

Kathleen Huerter
402-312-1188

PHOTOS AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST
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Interfaith Peace-Builders believes in the power of eye-witness experience and transformation.  Given the opportunity to speak directly with Israelis and Palestinians, delegates return to North America better informed, more energized, and with a deeper understanding of the possibilities for true justice in the Middle East.  Begun as a program of the Fellowship of Reconciliation in 2000, Interfaith Peace-Builders mission is to empower citizens to educate their local communities and advocate for better US foreign policy when they return to the US. Learn more at: www.interfaithpeacebuilders.org.

The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace and humanitarian service. Its work is based on the belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice. To learn more about the AFSC’s work on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, please see: www.afsc.org/israel-palestine/.


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