Advocating for Middle East Peace on Capitol Hill

Advocating for Middle East Peace on Capitol Hill

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Andrea Barron
May 06, 2013

Lorena Bezerra is a Brazilian immigrant from Florida International University who once taught piano and owned her small business. She never thought she would become an expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars (TWC), but that is exactly what happened.


Lorena was one of 44 students who joined the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Project in spring 2013. The students who took part in the project visited 30 congressional offices to advocate for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace, security and dignity.


As with all TWC-guided Civic Engagement Advocacy Projects, this one partnered with staff from respected advocacy groups who prepared students for their meetings and provided them with talking points. Students were briefed by Americans for Peace Now, the voice of the Israeli peace movement in the United States, and the American Task Force on Palestine, an independent Palestinian-American organization based in Washington.


Students went through a rigorous preparation process that was both fun and educational. They attended six evening meetings and wrote background papers and follow-up reports after their congressional visits. They also watched Promises, an award winning documentary about Israeli and Palestinian children, heard from Israeli and Palestinian TWC alumni, and enjoyed lots of delicious Middle Eastern food!


Students visited Capitol Hill in delegations headed by constituents such as Lorena. “I learned so much about history, politics and religion from the meetings we attended,” she said. “And because of this project, I have decided to pursue a career in advocacy or government relations.”


“The Israeli-Palestinian Peace Project educated me about a conflict half-way around the world and made it very personal,” explained Joseph Bacchi, Advocacy, Service and Arts intern and student from State University of New York at New Paltz. “It also taught me about representative democracy and my responsibilities as a citizen. I got the chance to be an advocate, which I didn’t have the chance to do through my internship.”


Whitney Flatt, International Affairs intern and student from Middle Tennessee State University, led a delegation with two students from South Korea and Mexico. “Hearing them describe how fun this process was and how different it is from their own system inspired me to become even more engaged with my national and local politicians,” she said. “Not everyone has this kind of access to their political leaders. Now I intend to use every opportunity to reach out to U.S. political leaders.”


[View photos of the event on our Flickr channel]


Photo: Students in Israeli-Palestinian Peace project with Israeli, Palestinian and American flags.

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