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Staff & Interns

Staff

Tarek Abuata

Executive Director

Born into a Palestinian Christian family in Bethlehem, Abuata moved to Texas during the first Palestinian Intifada when he was 12. He was the executive director of Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace and of Love Thy Neighbor. Additionally, Abuata worked with Christian Peacemaker Teams, the United Palestine Appeal, and the Negotiations Support Unit of the Palestinian Authority, researching legal and policy issues. Abuata holds a J.D. from the University of Texas Law School.

Rochelle Watson

National Organizer

Watson has 15 years’ experience as a community organizer. She is a project manager for Art Forces, a mural-based social change organization based in San Francisco. Watson co-founded the Olympia Rafah Sister City Project after her friend, Rachel Corrie, was killed by the Israeli military in 2003 while protecting a Palestinian home facing demolition. In 2010 Rochelle co-founded Olympia BDS, which led to Olympia Food Co-op becoming the first U.S. grocery store to boycott Israeli goods.

Rev. Dr. Donald E. Wagner

Consultant in Theology
Eastern Mennonite University

Wagner co-founded and directed Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding and served in Presbyterian churches in New Jersey and Evanston, Ill. He has authored numerous books. He has been active in FOSNA since its inception. He has provided leadership for the Holy Land Trust, Pilgrims of Ibillin, the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation, and Youth Advocates; and works internationally to educate Christians about the problems with Christian Zionism.

Rev. Donald (Don) Wagner

Kali Rubaii

Development Coordinator and Internship Manager

Rubaii is a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at UC Santa Cruz. She lives and works in Palestine, Iraq, Jordan, and California, where she studies counterinsurgency regimes, temporality, and the ethics of death. Kali is interested in strategic thinking, intergenerational activism, and perceptions about the boundaries of nonviolence. She is a co-founder of the Islah Reparations Project, and served on the board of Rebuilding Alliance.

Leila Abdelrazaq

Communications Coordinator

Abdelrazaq is a Palestinian artist and organizer based in Chicago. She graduated from DePaul University in 2015, where she helped lead a divestment campaign with her Students for Justice in Palestine chapter, and served on the National SJP Ad-Hoc Steering Committee. She is currently involved in community organizing around Chicago, and works as a freelance illustrator. Her debut graphic novel, Baddawi, was published by Just World Books in 2015.

Sister Elaine Kelley

FOSNA Development and Administrative Coordinator

Kelley, S.F.C.C., a member of the Sisters for Christian Community, lived in the Bethlehem area for four years, working with West Bank NGOs to communicate case needs to funders in North America and Europe. She also was a development officer at Bethlehem University. She was a writer for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs and contributed to the book They Came and They Saw: Western Christian Experiences of the Holy Land

John Erickson

Senior Program Advisor

Erickson practiced poverty law with legal services, civil rights law with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and civil rights and public interest law with Erickson, Beasley and Hewitt. He holds a B.A. from Yale University, an M.A. from UC Berkeley, and a J.D. from UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall.

John Erickson

Melissa Otero

Administrative Assistant

Otero grew up in Yuma, a small Arizona town bordering Mexico and California. She graduated in 2016 with a Bachelor’s degree in social-cultural anthropology from the University of California-Santa Cruz. Her focus is on the Middle East and predominately Palestine and Israel. She has primarily researched afforestation projects in Palestine and Israel and its effect on Palestinians, including their right to return. She is also interested in both the weaponization of trees as well as how they are used as a mode of resistance.

Ashleigh Zimmerman

Data Specialist

Zimmerman formerly served as the executive director of the Muslim Community Network, fighting Islamophobia and challenging New York police’s unwarranted surveillance of Muslim communities. She also helped develop the Om Sleiman CSA, an organic farm started on land reclaimed by the village of Bil’in through years of non-violent resistance to Israeli expropriation. Zimmerman is a graduate of the School for Creative Activism, where she focused on innovative means of making for-profits more accountable and non-profits more business savvy.

Mandy Erickson

Editor

Erickson earned a bachelor’s in English and a master’s from the University of California. She has written restaurant reviews for the San Francisco Chronicle, freelanced for the National Catholic Reporter and various alumni magazines, and written a cookbook. She edits journals and newsletters for several nonprofit organizations.

Amy McLaughry

Chief Number Cruncher

With a bachelor’s from the University of Kansas and an MBA from the University of Phoenix, McLaughry started her career in banking. She now runs her own bookkeeping business, serving nonprofit organizations, helping them with their financial reporting requirements. She is also the treasurer for the Community College of Aurora Foundation.

Jay Visbal

Website Coordinator
Email: jay@fosna.org

Visbal is a freelance photographer, English teacher, and recovering internet marketing guru. He has lived and worked in Palestine, Jordan, Iraqi Kurdistan, and Egypt. Visbal studies the interplay between communal scriptural interpretations, financial donations, and national policy. He is also a board member of the Islah Reparations Project.

 

Interns

Mohammed Arafat

Mohammed lives in Gaza. He has a bachelor's degree in teaching English as a foreign language from the Islamic University of Gaza. Recently, Mohammed published a book, Still Living There, which documents the last war on Gaza and its aftermath. He is now the deputy chairman of the Palestinian International Council for Youths (PICY), and he is preparing to earn a master's degree in peace and conflict studies. His main aim is to help his country and his people to have a peaceful life, just like those in other countries. 

Alexa Klein-Mayer

Alexa Klein-Mayer recently graduated from Northwestern University, where she studied religious studies and history. After joining Northwestern’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter her freshman year, she went on to serve as secretary, co-president, and education chair, and worked on the NUDivest campaign, which successfully passed a divestment resolution through student government in 2015. She is interested in the intersections between religions and social justice, deconstructing whiteness, and methods of non-violent resistance and conflict resolution.

Tammara Nassar

Nassar is a Palestinian undergraduate student at Lawrence University, majoring in history and political science. She founded the Students for Justice in Palestine chapter at her university, and is now working to launch divestment before graduation. Her academic interests include post-colonial theory in Palestine, United States foreign policy, and solidarity between the U.S. black liberation movement and the Palestinian struggle. Her chapbook, Giving Birth at Qalandia, is planned for publication in summer 2016.

Benai Pham

As a recent graduate in anthropology at UC Santa Cruz, Pham is passionate about sharing people’s stories. She is the founder and editor of House Journal, an online magazine that explores human experiences. While she currently lives in the Bay Area, she grew up in Vietnam, New Zealand, and Australia, so identity politics and nationalism are pertinent topics in her life and line of research. She is excited to join the FOSNA team as research intern and bring greater awareness to social and political issues.

Harmony Caponio

Caponio is a student at Santa Rosa Junior College majoring in sociology and religious studies. She is a ministry leader at a Pentecostal church, where she also teaches Bible studies. She is an active member of North Coast Coalition for Palestine. Her passion for activism comes from her background in foster care, being raised in a state of constant displacement, marginalization, and poverty. As a longtime advocate for marginalized youth, the focus of her education is social justice.

Katie Comfort

Comfort is a recent graduate of North Park University where she studied conflict transformation and sociology and was active in the Middle Eastern Student Association. As an intern in Bethlehem, Comfort studied the impact of international workers and volunteers on Palestinian movements. She also worked with the American Friends Service Committee on its No Way to Treat a Child campaign, is a founding member of Millennial Voices for Peace, and is a member of the Quaker Palestine Israel Network.

Amira Sakalla

Sakalla is a senior in the global leadership scholars program at the University of Tennessee, studying supply chain management. Also a pre-medical student, she aims to work in global medical and humanitarian logistics. Sakalla founded the university’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter in her freshman year, and enjoys showcasing Palestinian life, culture, and struggle through her organizing and her writing. She blogs for Huffington Post.

Osama Elmor

Elmor is a junior at the University of Georgia majoring in microbiology. As a pre-medical student, he aspires to provide medical services to Palestinians. As a Palestinian and as a member of his university’s Athens for Justice in Palestine, he aims to make Palestine solidarity work and organizing an integral part of his career. He is particularly interested in the joint struggle between oppressed peoples and its potential in resisting interconnected forms of oppression. 

Raphael Eissa

Eissa is a student at the University of Georgia, double majoring in political science and international affairs. As a Coptic Orthodox Christian, he is dedicated to religious minorities in the Middle East. He hopes to enter a career preserving human rights in the region. He is on the National Students for Justice in Palestine Steering Committee and is an executive board member of his university’s chapter. He is starting the first campus chapter of Christians United for Palestine.

Caroline Kao

Caroline Kao is a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at University of California, Santa Cruz. Her academic interests include postcolonial theory and political theory. She has written and edited for several nonprofits and media criticism organizations, including the ACLU and FAIR. Caroline has had a life-long interest in peace activism and anti-racism organizing.