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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.

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.

Sister Elaine Kelley

Development Manager

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

Faryn Borella

Faryn is a Jewish educator, scholar, and ritual leader. She is earning a master's in social change at Starr King School for the Ministry at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, where she studies Jewish liberation theology and rural retreat centers for artists, activists, and spiritual leaders. She has organized for justice in Palestine with Jewish Voice for Peace and the All That's Left Anti-Occupation Collective, and has been involved with nationwide church divestment campaigns.

Stephen Welty

Stephen Welty has a master's in Middle Eastern studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His special research interests include the political agency of NGOs, counterterrorism, and international humanitarian law. He has become convinced that physical involvement in political movements must enhance the development of any academic theories about Middle Eastern politics and international relations. Determined to experience everyday life in the region, he hopes to travel to the Middle East with his power wheelchair.

Amanda Philip

Amanda Mary Philip was born in the United Arab Emirates and moved to the United States when she was 3. Her family is from India, with a lineage tied to the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church. Her identity firmly rests in Jesus Christ and is inspired by “Learn to do what is good. Seek justice. Correct the oppressor. Defend the rights of the fatherless. Plead the widow's cause." Amanda is the former operations manager of the Arab American Association of New York and is now finishing her master's in city and regional planning at Pratt Institute.