Founder and Director
Mr. Nassar earned his undergraduate degree from Bethlehem University (Palestine) in Information Systems and Business Administration in 2010. He earned his Master’s Degree in Conflict Transformation from Eastern Mennonite University (Harrisonburg, VA) in 2014. As the fourth generation of the Nassar family, Mr. Nassar was deeply involved in his family’s educational farm, Tent of Nations, in Palestine, including education, communication and social media. In 2014, he founded the Nakba Museum Project, where he developed the concept, worked with artists, prepared artwork and exhibits, negotiated exhibit space, coordinated the setup of the exhibits in locations across the country, and raised funds.
Jillian Abir MacMaster (she/her), Communications and Operations Manager. Jillian is a Palestinian-American artist who brings seven years of museum and exhibition experience to MPP. She previously served as Manager of Publications and Media at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown, Maryland, as well as on various review and juror panels for the Maryland State Arts Council. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in photography from Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
Dr. Fakhira Halloun
Secretary of the Board
Dr.. Fakhira Halloun is a Palestinian citizen of Israel who recently received her Ph.D. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University. Her doctorate specialty is in Ethnic Identity, Power, and Narrative. Her Ph.D. research focuses on the collective identity of Palestinian citizens of Israel and their discourse of struggle to achieve their collective rights. Fakhira has acquired considerable professional experience in conflict transformation, and specializes in facilitating dialogue between mixed groups in conflict involved in cultural, political and social issues in a variety of settings. She served as a board member for Mossawa Center, The Advocacy Center for the Palestinian Citizens in Israel and worked for several years in the Center for the Advancement of Shared Citizenship in Israel.
From 2012-2015 Fakhira worked on the design and coordination of “Leaders for Democracy Fellowship” (LDF) – USA program sponsored by the U.S. State Department and implemented by Syracuse University (Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs). Once a year, this program brought civil and political leaders from the Middle East to the United States for three months to provide them with academic and practical experience in civic society, leadership, and conflict resolution. Fakhira holds a B.A. in social work and an M.Sc. in criminology from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Mr. Amir Mesarwi is a reformed consultant with more than a decade of non-profit finance experience, most recently as the Sr. Director of Finance at the Association of American Medical Colleges. Prior to that, he spent six years consulting across the manufacturing, non-profit and financial services sectors helping leadership solve their most pressing business challenges. He is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and holds an MBA from New York University. His passions extend to the community through his role on MIT’s Educational Council, as a mentor within his organization, coach of his daughter’s soccer team and board member of his HOA. He appreciates the arts and can often be found taking his three daughters to various museums in the Washington DC area.
Farshid Hakimyar was born and raised in Afghanistan. He lives and works in Northern Virginia, United States. He has Bachelor in political science and international relations and Master’s in Strategic Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding. He is founder and Chief Executive Officer of Snow Leopard Traders, where he invests and trades on global macro economy. He is co-founder of Farsi Institute. Mr. Hakimyar is a Board Member of Museum of the Palestinian People. Mr. Hakimyar is an independent analyst on global politics and global marco economy. He writes and frequently appears in Television Channels.
Director of Digital Experience
Steve Benzek is passionate about helping address injustice (and living just a block from the Museum), Steve was delighted to be taken up on his offer to provide an improved map of the Palestinian diaspora. He’s also happy to have created MPP’s Virtual Museum by applying map-making and software skills developed during a career of humanitarian assistance planning for the Department of Defense and in academia.
Steve is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Geospatial Information Systems teaching cartography at the University of Redlands and a retired GIS Developer and cartographer who worked the Army Geospatial Center of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Alexandria, VA. His projects included overseeing imagery collection missions in Africa, the Overseas Humanitarian Assistance Shared Information System (OHASIS) for managing and analyzing worldwide humanitarian programs.
He also holds a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Washington University in St. Louis and an MBA from Marymount University in Arlington, VA.
Ms. Rula Dughman, founder and director of Bab idDeir Art Gallery in Bethlehem, for the last four years she was responsible for organizing more than 15 exhibitions and art projects promoting Palestinian art and artists, partnering with local and regional cultural organizations. In addition to that, she worked as an Independent curator at Birzeit University Museum. Between the years 2000-2015, she had worked in many local and international organizations in many managerial and capacity development positions.
She earned her Master degree in communication from Sterling University, Scotland. Between 2016-2019 she attended many art courses at Sotheby’s and the School of Art Institute – Chicago.
Mohammed El-Khatib is a web developer with the Smithonian’s National Zoo and brings over ten years of experience building websites and applications for a number of high profile clients in the DC metro area. A Palestinian refugee from Lebanon, Mohammed moved to the US from Beirut in 1999 before becoming a US citizen in 2004. As the museum’s volunteer coordinator, Mohammed is passionate about advancing the Museum’s role as a community platform and participation hub.
Mohammed holds an MA in Communication, Culture, and Technology from Georgetown University and a BA in Public Policy from the University of Massachusetts in Boston.
Christopher S. Clarke, Ph.D.
Consulting Historian and Adviser
Mr. Christopher Clarke, Ph.D., is recently retired from a thirty-five-year career in the museum field. For the final 20 years of this career, he worked as a freelance consultant to museums across the Northeastern US; he also spent the 2013-14 academic year at Syracuse University, teaching full-time as a Visiting Professor of Practice in the Museum Studies graduate program. Since 2010, Christopher has served as the consulting administrative director of a philanthropic initiative that supports community-scale water and environment projects in the West Bank via local and regional NGOs.
Ms. Zeina Azzam is a Palestinian American writer, poet, editor, and activist. She volunteers for organizations that promote Palestinian human rights and the civil rights of vulnerable communities in Alexandria, Virginia, where she lives. Zeina currently works as Publications Editor for the D.C. think tank, Arab Center Washington. Previously she was Senior Program Manager for Arabic language and culture at Qatar Foundation International and Director of Educational Outreach at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, Georgetown University. Her poems have been published in literary journals and online magazines such as Mizna, Sukoon Magazine, Hearwood Literary Journal, and Split This Rock as well as five edited volumes including Making Mirrors: Writing/Righting by and for Refugees (2018) and Gaza Unsilenced (2015). She has also collaborated with visual artists in art-poetry exhibitions. Zeina holds an M.A. in Arabic literature from Georgetown University, an M.A. in sociology from George Mason University, and a B.A. in psychology from Vassar College.
Dr. Julia Ganson is currently a senior program officer for the whistleblower protection agency Government Accountability Project (GAP), focusing on international, education, and major donor programs. In 2017-18 she was awarded a Fulbright Scholars Award for Teaching and Research in the Muwatin Institute for Democracy & Human Rights at Birzeit University in Ramallah. She managed international training and fellowship programs for the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) in the Executive Education Office of Syracuse University from 2008 until 2016. The programs included the Leaders for Democracy (LDF) and the Civic Education & Leadership Fellows (CELF) programs. LDF and CELF hosted democratic reformers and academics from 15 MENA countries, including Palestine, for three months of seminars at the Maxwell School and then for professional affiliations in Washington, D.C. Both programs were funded through the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) of the U.S. Department of State. During the LDF program, she traveled extensively in the Middle East & North Africa and partnered with Lebanese universities for related programs. She has held faculty positions in departments of sociology at several U.S. liberal arts colleges and worked in the field of educational evaluation as a Review Officer for the New Zealand National Government as well as in program evaluation for NGOs in the U.S. She has a Ph.D. in sociology from Columbia University.
Grant Writer and Adviser
Mrs. Roberta Schwartz, Founder of The Persuasive Pen, is a professional grant writer and editor with considerable experience in the arts, social services and healthcare. Since 1995, she has provided grant-writing services, project oversight and implementation, and advocacy for nonprofit organizations. She has also served as Assistant Director of Foundation Relations for the University of Rochester Medical Center and as an Institutional Grants Manager at the Strong Museum. Roberta holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Art History from Vassar College and a Master’s of Philosophy in Art History (American Art and Architecture) from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Roberta was a visitor to one of MPP’s traveling exhibits years ago and, as an American Jew, was greatly moved to discover Palestinian stories for the first time. This compelled her to join our team and contribute her to work towards bringing authentic Palestinian stories for the world to hear.
Former Artist in Residence
Mr. Ahmed Hmeedat is a self-taught artist who experiments with a variety of media, including watercolors, acrylic, oil, ink, and charcoal. Hmeedat’s art expresses the plight of the refugees and reminds people that the Nakba is an ongoing reality for Palestinians. Ahmed currently lives and works in Bethlehem, Palestine under occupation and restricted movement. He has created murals in the refugee camps in Bethlehem commemorating Palestinian leaders and activists who were killed by Israeli soldiers. These murals give comfort to victimized families, providing inspiration long after the death of the figures they memorialize. His life in refugee camps for two decades has shaped his worldview and had fed the two dominating disciplines of his life, Art, and Law. He received an LL.M. (a Master Degree in American Legal System) from Syracuse University College of Law and a Bachelor Degree in Law and Liberal Arts From Al-Quds/Bard College in Jerusalem, Palestine. He was our first artist in residence at the Museum of Palestinian People in Washington D.C from June 2018-January 2019, creating key pieces for our inaugural exhibit, Re-Imagining the Future. He attended art courses at The Art League School in Alexandria, Virginia. Additionally, he received art course certificates from the Museum Of Modern Art in New York City, and The Staedel Museum in Frankfurt, Germany.
Artist in Resident
Wafa Ghnaim is an American-born Palestinian businesswoman, writer, and artist. She founded Tatreez & Tea in 2015, to preserve Palestinian tatreez embroidery and storytelling traditions in the diaspora. Her self-published book, titled “Tatreez & Tea: Embroidery and Storytelling in the Palestinian Diaspora” (2018), documents the traditional patterns passed to her by her mother, award-winning Palestinian embroidery artist Feryal Abbasi-Ghnaim. Tatreez & Tea has since become a social media sensation and global initiative offering online and live classes around the world in service of promoting the practice of Palestinian embroidery by anyone, anywhere, anytime. In 2018, Wafa was awarded the prestigious New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Traditional Arts — a once in a lifetime award for her work in preserving and teaching Palestinian embroidery around the globe. From teaching at universities around the world, to becoming the first-ever Palestinian embroidery instructor at the Smithsonian Museum — Wafa Ghnaim has led a tatreez revolution; a global collective of embroiderers, allies, designers and artists who are committed to preserving tatreez in the Palestinian diaspora. Tatreez & Tea now offers all classes and lectures 100% online. Wafa is an artist in residence at the Museum for Palestinian People, an instructor at Smithsonian Museum, a researcher at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, working on her second book, and was just featured in Vogue for her work on Palestinian embroidery. Wafa currently resides in Washington, DC.
Ruba Marshood is a Palestinian-American community leader with over 15 years of international development and non-profit experience. She has worked with global and local agencies, ranging from the United Nations to small organizations in different parts of the world, cultivating community collaboration and advancing social justice and equity. Currently, as Director of Partnerships and Community Engagement with the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia, Ruba fosters strategic relationships with other nonprofit, civic, government and corporate entities. She has served on various committees focused on the needs of the underserved in the region, including her appointment to the Alexandria City Public School 2025 Strategic Planning Committee, Alexandria City’s COVID-19 Community Response Advisory Committee, and the Fairfax County Community Partnership Strategy Team, of which she is a co-lead. She is Vice President of the Board of Trustees of the non-profit Montessori School of Northern Virginia and an alumna of the Princeton AlumniCorps’ Emerging Leaders program. She was recently named a Northern Virginia 2021 “40 Under 40 Winner” by Leadership Center for Excellence and Leadership Fairfax. Ruba received her BSc from University of Maryland and her MA from Duke University. A published photographer, lover of dance and food, Ruba’s greatest joy is hearing her children laugh and watching them proudly embrace their Palestinian heritage.
Mr. Nizar Farsakh is a trainer focusing on leadership, advocacy and negotiations. He worked for two years at the Project On Middle East Democracy in DC building the advocacy capacity of Arab CSOs and before that he was the General Director of the PLO Delegation in Washington DC for two years. Between 2003-2008 he was advising senior Palestinian leaders including the President, the Prime Minister and various ministries. Nizar holds a Masters in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School and a Masters in International Boundary Studies from King’s College London. He is currently involved in several non-violence initiatives in Palestine/Israel and the US.