Rotary charters Palestinian club
RI President John Kenny (left) presents a charter certificate to Nader Dajani, president of the Rotary Club of Ramallah, Palestine, at a charter celebration on 30 May. Photo courtesy of the Rotary Club of Ramallah
More than 150 Rotarians and guests, including RI President John Kenny and RI Director Phil Silvers, gathered on 30 May to celebrate the charter of the Rotary Club of Ramallah, the first club in Palestine in three decades.
The new club, admitted by the RI Board on 18 May, adds another location to the Rotary map, which covers more than 200 countries and geographical areas. The club is in District 2450, which includes parts of the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe.
The last Ramallah club was officially terminated in 1980.
"The chartering of a new Rotary club is always an occasion for celebration," Kenny said in Ramallah. “It means that one more community in our world will benefit from Rotary service."
Over the next two days, Kenny and Silvers also attended events in honor of the newly chartered Rotary clubs of Gedera Habiluim, Israel, and Amman Ammon, Jordan.
Club's path to charter
Among the guests at the three celebrations were Ted Beckett and Jeffrey Behr, members of the Rotary Club of Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA, which cosponsored the Ramallah club's charter with the Rotary Club of Amman-Petra, Jordan.
Beckett, chair of the Center for Environmental Diplomacy, asked his district about extending Rotary into Ramallah after attending a club meeting in Jordan in January 2009.
By February, Behr, the center’s chief executive officer, had begun recruiting a group of Rotarians to facilitate the formation of the new club. Hashem Shawwa, of the Amman-Petra club, helped by leading multiple clinics on Rotary for potential members.
Silvers became involved in the charter effort after the Colorado Springs club asked for his assistance. He spent five days in Ramallah last November to conduct training sessions with potential club members. He also met with the Rotary Club of Jerusalem and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
"The Ramallah club members have a good understanding of what the responsibilities are of Rotarians and their clubs," says Silvers. "They have a vision of the positive impact Rotary can have on the community of Ramallah."
Silvers also credits Uri Zeiger, governor of District 2490, and Jerusalem club president Mark Zober with helping to establish the new club.
The admission of the Ramallah club follows earlier attempts by Jordanian Rotarians, District 2490, and the Rotary Club of Nazareth, Israel, to have a Palestinian club chartered.
Beginning of Service Above Self
The 34 new members of the Ramallah club held their first official meeting on 25 May and have already initiated projects, including a winter clothing bank. Members are also working with District 2450 to develop community parks, including several for children.
"Our theme is ‘The Future of Palestine Is in the Hands of Its Children,'" says Ramallah club president Nader Dajani, whose uncle was president of the Jerusalem club in 1944-45.
The Center for Environmental Diplomacy will help the club identify community needs, Behr says.
"I am optimistic about and look forward to our Israeli clubs partnering with the Ramallah club and other clubs throughout the Middle East on Rotary Foundation Matching Grants, Friendship Exchanges, and other collaborative efforts," Zober says.
The Ramallah club will sponsor additional Palestinian clubs in the coming year, says Dajani.