Muscatine's Sister City trip to Ramallah on hold

The trip would have started the latest program between the Sister Cities

MUSCATINE, Iowa - In a Muscatine park a small sign points in the direction of Ramallah -- a Sister City more than 6,000 miles away in the Palestinian Territory. 

John Dabeet was going to make that trip next week. 

"Now with the political situation obviously ... the American Consulate in Jerusalem asked us not to. They sent us an email basically telling us not to," Dabeet said. 

He's made trips on behalf of Muscatine before, but his time Dabeet was planning on starting the latest project between the two Sister Cities. 

It's an education program that would train teachers in the West Bank for special education classes -- something Dabeet says is currently lacking in their schools. 

It would also connect a middle school class of Muscatine students with a class of Palestinian students. 

"Just imagine a student in Ramallah, a student in Muscatine, that might not have the opportunity to travel outside the country," Dabeet said. "Those people will have the opportunity to communicate with someone in a different country." 

Dabeet said efforts like this are what makes Sister Cities so important. 

"It's programs like that that lead to people-to-people understanding and more citizen diplomacy," he said.

The project is designed to last a year and a half and is being funded by a $45,000 federal grant. Dabeet said he hopes it lasts longer. 

Even though part of the program is delayed, Dabeet said Ramallah is just the kind of place U.S. cities should be partnering with. 

"The understanding becomes much better between the two sides and the projects that we work on would be more needed ... there than any other place."

The student side of the program is still on schedule. Dabeet said the Muscatine class will begin connecting with students in Ramallah in January. 

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