Qalqilya & Gainesville

Since 1997

In 1997, representatives of the Israeli city of Kfar Saba and the Palestinian city of Qalqilya traveled together to Gainesville, Florida, to seek the assistance of the University of Florida in building a water treatment plant. That event set in motion the establishment of the first trilateral sister city relationship with an American, Israeli and Palestinian city. Gainesville, Kfar Saba, and Qalqilya partnered in a new paradigm for creating collaborative relationships at the municipal level. While city leaders from Kfar Saba and Qalqilya did not believe they could establish a bilateral relationship between their cities, they eagerly endorsed Gainesville Mayor Bruce Delaney’s proposal to form a trilateral relationship, with Gainesville serving as a bridge between Palestinian and Israeli communities. Elected leaders in all three cities provided the legitimacy and credibility for residents to comfortably take on the role of citizen diplomats, leading to the development of trusting relationships that have endured and continued to strengthen, despite political and physical barriers.

Exchanges & Delegations

To create broad-based partnerships among institutions, businesses and citizens of Gainesville, Kfar Saba, and Qalqilya, sharing in the areas of education, culture, local government, business, and sports with exchanges such as:

  • Working cooperatively on mutual interests, solving municipal problems and sharing resources, ideas, and expertise in such areas as zoological science, summer camps, use of green space, resource management and conflict resolution
  • Visiting private homes, sharing meals, stories, and histories together
  • Communicating via phone, mail, e-mail, and fax.
  • Exchanging students, athletes, actors, artists and summer campers
  • Organizing live and video conferences, seminars, and workshops for sharing different perspectives on common topics of interest
  • Providing services to individuals with specific needs which can be better met in one of the other cities
  • Setting up internships and apprenticeships in specialized areas such as beekeeping, theatre, medical specialties, culinary arts, business, and journalism.


Art projects

Art exchanges, online and physical…

Cultural exchanges

Language partners, etc…


Water treatment, Waste treatment, roads, innovation hub…


“Communicating with the deaf students…was as easy as smiling and giving them a hug. Sometimes we would use the translators to ask each other questions but usually we got along really well using body motions.”

Oak Hall student and homestay hostess Antonia Neel

“We’re co-funding projects and building trust to weaken extremists on both sides and widen relations among the communities”

Former Mayor of Qalqilya Marouf Zahran

“What I love about this virtual exchange program is watching the light bulbs go off in my students’ heads as they interact with their counterparts abroad,” said Michelle. “They are starting to build an intrinsic sense for Palestinian Sign Language, and their increasing motivation to learn more about Deaf culture and their peers in the Palestinian Territories is really impactful to me as their facilitator.”

Santa Fe College Professor Michelle Freas

Current Projects

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