2018 provided dynamic opportunities for Rotarian Action Group For Peace to share Rotary’s vision of peace. In January, RAGFP Executive Director Reem Ghunaim conducted a whirlwind “peace tour” in her home country of Palestine. RAGFP’s mission of supporting Rotarian peacebuilders was both accepted and appreciated in a part of the world that is “hungry for peace.” Her travels allowed her to build peace bridges between Rotary and influential Palestinians that included business and legislative leaders, educators and students, human rights advocates, and even a Pop Star.

Rotarians in Ramallah

Rotarians in Palestine are visibly active in their communities. Reem met with Rotary peacebuilders who are making a difference by undertaking infrastructure projects and serving public needs that might otherwise be neglected in the region.

Reem pictured with Rotarians Marwan Totah and Bishara Jubran. They serve fellow Palestinians in humanitarian peace action.

In Ramallah, Rotarians are working to rehabilitate the water infrastructure in 50 public schools within the West Bank. This allows schoolchildren to enjoy a clean, healthy environment for learning. These Rotarians focus on peace by supporting Palestinian children and helping them develop, grow and learn in the midst of a conflict zone. (It’s no wonder that the very first Rotary International Presidential Peacebuilding Conference in 2018 spotlights Environmental Sustainability and Peace.) Access to clean water is a basic human need, especially for kids in schools surrounded by many other distractions.

As a Rotary Peace Fellow from Tulkarem, she is living proof that Rotary International and Rotarian Action Group For Peace supports their efforts to make a difference in Palestine by engaging in peace projects that promote the public good for all.

Educators for Peace

Palestine is home of some of the greatest minds in the world. An-Najah National University in Nablus, West Bank, is training the next generation who will solve many of the world’s big problems for years to come.

In Nablus, Reem met with Dr. Joni Aasi, Dean of the School of Law and Media, and UNESCO Chair on Human Rights, Democracy and Peace at An-Najan National University. Dr. Aasi is currently involved in two important peace initiatives focused on human rights and environmental sustainability for people across the Middle-East.

The Istanbul Protocol calls for fair treatment of detainees. His peace concepts encourage Palestinian officials to “effectively investigate and document torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment as stipulated in the Istanbul Protocol.” Dr. Aasi works to enlighten his own Palestinian authorities, and teach Palestinian Law students, to abide by strict international standards of human rights.

As an environmental advocate, he heads a UNESCO project designed to create environmental sustainability education in 10 secondary and primary schools in Nablus, and throughout Palestine. These programs will raise awareness about environmental sustainability issues in schools and affect the future of countless lives.

Class Time

An-Najan National University also allowed Reem “guest lecture” time to present Rotary’s role in peacebuilding to their students.

“The students were amazing and smart. I noticed they were exhausted of politics,” she says. “Their eyes lit up when I shared my own story about my Rotary Peace Fellowship and described what it taught me about peace through development. Developing individuals and human minds is the key to peace. They loved learning about Rotary as a global force for peace.”

Reem also shared information from the Global Peace Index and described to students how an affiliate publication of RAGFP, the Peace Science Digest, synthesizes peace and conflict resolution research and make it easily available to peace practitioners.

Business Leaders

Business in Palestine is an outlet for peacebuilding. Industry fuels jobs and economies, creating opportunities for economic development and peace. Coca-Cola is a socially responsible corporate citizen of Palestine. The company is involved in many local projects that improve lives, including opening libraries in hospitals throughout the Palestinian Territories.

Reem shared Rotary’s peace vision not only with large corporate executives, but also with thriving Palestinian businesses such as Paltel Communications founded in Palestine in 1994. The company employs around 2,000 people and remains a cutting-edge technology leader in the Middle-East.

Women of Peace Action

It is noted in history that women are the glue that hold entire societies, together. What “peace tour” through Palestine would be complete without consulting and sharing Rotary’s peace vision with leading gender equality experts in the Middle-East?

Reem with Dr. Sana Sorgholi, current Chair of TAM, and Suheir Farraj, Executive Director of TAM.

Reem met with leaders of Women Media and Development/Tam, an organization of human rights supporters who focus on helping women have a voice and platform to “speak” through media. Palestine is a land of multicultural peoples and religions. Sorting through the noise of gender equality can become confusing for many women. Simply “speaking up,” presents challenges and requires education to do so, for women around the world.

Women Media and Development/TAM offers practical guidance and education for women to make their practical and peaceful voices heard. The organization gives women tools to navigate and integrate themselves into their communities, positively, through various forms of communication. They help women directly affected by conflict and provide them tools to integrate into productive society and find a path to success.

As a native Palestinian and Rotary Peace Fellow, who now leads a global Rotarian peacebuilding Action Group, Reem offers a shining example of how Rotary International’s global focus on peace engages and empowers women of all religions, socioeconomic backgrounds, colors or creeds, to become advocates for peace action in every corner of the globe.

Special Highlights

“Children are my heart. They are the future of peace” says Reem. “Perhaps my favorite visit was at the Cultural Center for Child Development in my hometown of Tulkarem”.

Reem’s narrative, from a bright young face in Tulkarem, Palestine (like the children in her “selfie” photo) to Executive Director of Rotarian Action Group For Peace based in Portland, Oregon, USA, allows little girls and children across the occupied Palestinian Territories to dream big, and imagine peace. Rotary International is one of the largest philanthropic organizations in the world and provides opportunities for growth, human development, and peace, for all children around the world.

Thumbs up for Peace!

Reem was pleased to meet Dr. Siham Thabet, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, and share how Rotary’s positive peace vision can promote peace in the Middle-East.

Rotarian peacebuilders apply the 4-way test to guide all peacebuilding efforts. Rotary’s 4-way test is simple: Is it the Truth? Is it Fair? Will it bring Goodwill and Better Friendships? Is it Beneficial to all concerned? Certainly, these principles of peacebuilding can apply to a region of unyielding conflict.

Mohammad Assaf is a refugee from Gaza who won the Arab Idol title and became one of the biggest pop stars in the Middle-East. His success is chronicled in the New York Times and in major publications worldwide. Reem was delighted to meet with him and share how his story inspired her to pursue her dreams, wherever they took her around the world.

“Mohammad demonstrates how tender voices can be louder than all noises of war,” she says. “He is one of the biggest Arab Idols ever found in the Middle-East, yet, the Palestinian refugee camp where he grew up is always in his heart. He is a down-to-earth advocate for peace.”

Influential Artists such as Mohammad Assaf, are essential to peacebuilding. Reem shared Rotary’s vision for peace and the mission of RAGFP with Assaf during her visit to Palestine.

RAGFP’s “peace tour” of Palestine offered an amazing chance to promote Rotary and peace in a region of the world where peace is most needed, on all sides of the conflict. This experience affirms the ability Rotarians have to wage peace in their communities worldwide.