LEWISTON — Kayt DeMerchant, director of marketing and hallmark programming at YWCA of Central Maine, was recently selected by the Joint Advocacy Initiative of East Jerusalem YMCA and YWCA of Palestine to participate in a solidarity witness visit in Israel and Occupied Palestine from Sept. 24 through Oct. 2. The visit will be based in Jerusalem and will include briefings, meetings and tours in areas which both organizations operate including Bethlehem, Ramallah, Jericho and Hebron.

DeMerchant will join about 15 other YWCA staffers nationwide for the journey and is the only YWCA delegate from New England. During the visit, delegates will meet with task forces from World YWCA, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition, the Temporary International Presence in the City of Hebron and the Joint Advocacy Initiative. Delegates will also visit with both Israeli settlers and Palestinian refugees during visits to the Palestinian Jalazone and Aida refugee camps and the Israeli Effrat settlement.

Arda Aghazarian, World YWCA Board Member and YWCA of Palestine member said the witness visit will be a once in a lifetime opportunity. “In our virtual world today, where wars randomly appear on our TV channels between commercial breaks and soap operas, such a witness visit puts us in closer touch with reality. In this witness visit, leaders with different life experiences and from different parts of the world will be joined together with one goal, and that is: to try to understand. It is easy to assume, to point fingers and throw accusations, but empathizing and really trying to understand what is behind the conflict could be an eye-opening experience on the personal side, and a much-needed effort on the general side,” Aghazarian said.

DeMerchant is responsible for marketing and hallmark programming at YWCA of Central Maine. The two hallmarks of YWCAs locally and nationally are eliminating racism and empowering women.

“This visit is important to me both personally and professionally,” said DeMerchant. “I’m honored to represent Maine and the YWCA to the people of Israel and Occupied Palestine. I’m proud to work for an organization that values this type of outreach work.”

DeMerchant has opted to join other delegates for an additional three-day tour which include visits to Nazareth and the Galilee, Cana, Tiberias and the Dead Sea.

All participants are asked to keep a journal and write a position paper at the conclusion of the visit. The Joint Advocacy Initiative also encourages delegates to connect with others in their communities upon return from the visit to discuss their experiences. DeMerchant plans to share photos and information about the visit with others at a presentation to be scheduled in early winter.

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