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Santa Rosa activist wins 'Peacemaker Award'

  • Therese Mughannam-Walrath was awarded a Peace and Justice center award for activism on behalf of a homeland for Palestinians.

CORRECTION: January 10, 2011

This article incorrectly said the Palestine-Israel issue will be discussed Sunday at a general meeting of the Sonoma County Peace and Justice Center. The session at the center is sponsored by the North Coast Coalition for Palestine Support.


It took some time for Therese Mughannam-Walrath to discover what she is, fundamentally, and longer for her to declare it.

The co-owner of a print shop between Santa Rosa and Sebastopol, naturalized American, lifelong Catholic, wife and mother of two sons in their mid-20s learned as a child not to go around broadcasting that she is Palestinian.

She was born in 1947, a crucial year, to a family that had lived for centuries in the Christian city of Ramallah, just nine miles from Jerusalem. Mughannam-Walrath has no childhood memories of Ramallah because later in '47 the United Nations voted to partition Palestine to allow the creation of the nation of Israel.

The vote triggered bloodshed and violent disruption that persuaded her parents and hundreds of thousands of other Palestinians to flee. Mughannam-Walrath said it's clear to her that as her parents left their ancestral homeland in 1948, they expected to return once conditions calmed.

"That's a presumption for every single Palestinian," said the passionate, gracious woman of 63. For 10 years her family lived in Jordan, where she came to perceive glances and tones of voice that conveyed that she and her people were not welcome there.

"Nobody likes refugees," she said.

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