ALLMEP member, Extend, empowers alumni to be changemakers in Washington, DC
Across our membership, ALLMEP has witnessed the incredible power of alumni to make a difference in their communities. Studies have shown time and time again that participants and alumni from our members’ programs demonstrate different attitudes, perspectives, and a more positive vision for peace and justice regarding the other. That reality was on full display at J Street’s National Conference in Washington, DC back in December.
ALLMEP member, Extend, recently shared this compelling story from one of their alumni:
“My name is Ellie Klibaner-Schiff, and last year. I participated in Extend’s first Gap Year Cohort, during which I visited and learned from Palestinian families at risk of being expelled from their homes. Their stories were deeply meaningful and compelled me to action, especially after the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the IDF could conduct the largest expulsion of Palestinians from their land since 1967, in a community known as Masafer Yatta. I returned to Masafer Yatta after Extend, planting olive trees in the Mothers of Sumud garden and protesting the IDF expulsion. At the beginning of 2023, as the new, extremist Israeli government was sworn in, the army alerted the Palestinian residents of Masafer Yatta that their expulsion is imminent.
When I returned to America at the end of my gap year, I wanted to do more. In December, at the end of my first semester of college, I attended the J Street National Conference in Washington, DC, along with several friends from my Extend cohort. I felt especially appreciative at the conference for Extend’s strong alumni community. On our last evening in DC, two other Extend alumni and I attended the J Street Gala, sitting at the table of the Alliance for Middle East Peace, a network of Palestinian and Israeli peacebuilders of which Extend is a member.
When we noticed several prominent politicians at the Gala, we were eager for the opportunity to share what we saw on Extend. We decided to use the opportunity to raise awareness of the evictions and demolitions threatening over one thousand Palestinians living in Masafer Yatta. We engaged several Members of Congress in a conversation about how our experiences on Extend—meeting the Hureini family in Tuwani, seeing the human effects of the occupation before our own eyes–instilled us with the moral urgency to advocate for Palestinian human rights in general and the Masafer Yatta community in particular. It was gratifying to see Senator Mark Kelly and Representative Katie Porter especially interested in what we had to say, while other Congresspeople briefly smiled and nodded before moving away––perhaps uncomfortable to be reminded of the US government’s complacency in the face of Israeli occupation.
The meaning of this opportunity was not lost on us. While the three of us were only in our first semester in college, we each felt that our time on Extend gave us the confidence, experience, and vocabulary necessary to talk to U.S. Senators and Members of the House about Israel-Palestine, and to advocate effectively for the Masafer Yatta community. We’re so grateful to Extend for this empowering educational experience, and know that for each of us it is only the beginning of becoming advocates for a more just future in Israel-Palestine.”
Ellie’s incredible story demonstrates the importance of organizations like Extend, and the work that they are doing to empower their alumni. Long after participants leave these programs, they have an incredible potential to transform the status quo for Palestinians and Israelis alike.
As Extend’s Jerusalem-based Program Director, Isaac Johnston, remarked, “Extend’s programs bring people to Palestinian and Israeli activists doing the work to bring justice and dignity for all in Israel-Palestine, and enable our alumni to bring their stories back to the halls of power and into the change-making conversations in their communities.”
ALLMEP recently hosted a group of our member organizations to discuss the potential of this very concept. Our AlumHub program brings together representatives of NGOs to learn skills needed to get their organizations to adopt alumni programs and to forge cross-organizational partnerships to advance and enhance the sphere of alumni engagement.