Exchange DetailBACK TO MAP
In November, ACYPL sent a delegation of seven leaders from across the United States on an exchange to Egypt, the Palestinian Territories, and Israel. The delegates represented an array of professions from locally elected and state appointed officials to government relations experts. Over twelve days this diverse group comprised of three Republicans and four Democrats immersed themselves in the diversity of this fascinating region. In Egypt as well as the Palestinian Territories, the in-country program partner was the US Embassy Cairo and US Consulate General, Jerusalem, respectively. In Israel our longtime partner, the Israel Youth Exchange Authority, planned the program. This exchange marks the first time which ACYPL has sent a delegation to Egypt since 2012, reinvigorating a relationship which has existed since 1977.
The visit to Egypt allowed the delegates to examine the country from the perspective of their youth. The delegation met with nine younger members of Parliament who pointed out that 60 percent of the population is under 45 years old, which in turn means issues such as youth unemployment, education reform, and environmental sustainability are urgent matters. The delegation also had the opportunity to dine with ACYPL Egyptian Alumni and meet students from both Cairo American College and American University Cairo. Other highlights included meeting the Honorable Francis Ricciardone Jr, former United States Ambassador to Egypt and the current president of American University Cairo, and the Assistant Foreign Minister for the Americas, Ambassador Reda Zaki. Ambassador Zaki explained the United States’ influence in the region, as well as national security issues in Egypt that are intensified by climate change.
The delegation’s time in the Palestinian Territories shifted to a cultural focus to help understand the status of the region. In visits with Mr. Khaled Khatib, the Director of the Palestinian Heritage and Folklore Center, as well as the study tour of East Jerusalem with Ir Amim, the delegation formed an understanding of how heritage affects the policies and beliefs on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. The delegation also met with Mr. Raed Saadeh, Co-Founder and board member of the Palestinian Art Court and Chairperson of the Sunbula Organization for fair trade and handcraft development, to discuss East Jerusalem art tourism and local economic development. They also made connections with young Palestinian Entrepreneurial women through their meeting with the Jerusalem Entrepreneurs Society and Technology (JEST). JEST works to promote East Jerusalem business development through providing coaching, mentors, networking opportunities, as well as work spaces for new businesses.
In Israel, the delegation got a glimpse into how Israel relates to the world. The first visits were to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the US Embassy in Tel Aviv. The delegation discussed immigration issues at the meeting with Mr. Shlomi Waroner, an ACYPL Alumnus and the CEO of the Netanya Foundation, an organization that manages immigration and integration projects for people from every walk of life. On the last day, the delegation had a private tour of the Knesset, and met with a multi-party group of its members. This meeting was appropriate for the last business meeting of the trip, as this diverse delegation had the opportunity to trade perspectives with the Knesset members revolving around domestic political divisions and how to better serve the people they represent. Amid a busy schedule the delegation also relaxed on visits to the Dead Sea and Masada, bonding and forming friendships which they hope will last.
“Impacted for the better” is how one delegate described her experience. Travelling to Egypt, the Palestinian Territories, and Israel immediately after the US election, in which two delegates had won re-election, provided the opportunity to reflect on their positions not only as young American leaders, but as global citizens.