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Elizabeth Kassis

It was 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 27, 2020, in Chile. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, with its restrictions, lockdowns, and depressing news, families of Palestinian descent sat eagerly in front of their televisions, ready for the launch of a long-awaited weekly program: ”Palestinian Land”.

With Elizabeth Kassis as their humble yet passionate host, they traveled virtually to the land of their ancestors, walking the streets, visiting holy places, and meeting friendly, hospitable people. They delighted their virtual palate with Palestinian gastronomy, got to know artisans, and saw both ancestral and very modern industries – a kaleidoscope of images that is part of their genetic culture. The project, designed to promote tourism in Palestine, was carried out in cooperation with the municipality of Bethlehem.

To Elizabeth, Palestine is much more than a television show; it is the land of her ancestors – her land. And this was not her first project in her land.

The following year, Elizabeth traveled to Palestine to introduce the concept of hippotherapy, a powerful healing method with horses, so that in the not too distant future, she could work with the Palestinian and Chilean governments to implement the first hippotherapy center in Palestine. What helped explain this project was the Chilean film “Artax, A New Beginning” which was screened at the Palestinian Film Festival, and for which Elizabeth was executive producer. It tells the story of a resilient woman, her son with Asperger’s syndrome, and her healing relationship with horses.

But her time in Palestine was far from over. In 2019, after having bought part of their ancestors’ house on Star Street in Bethlehem in 2016, her family bought the second part of the family house and, with Elizabeth leading the project, decided to transform it into a small, high-end guesthouse, to be opened soon. Renowned Palestinian chef Fadi Kattan, who understands and shares the vision of his friend Elly – as Elizabeth is known to her friends – will be contributing to this project.

Furthermore, Elizabeth founded the band Diaspora Trio with Victor Mahana. The group rescues and remasters the old songs that arrived in Chile with the first Palestinian immigrants, at the beginning of the twentieth century. Having collected them in several albums, they performed them in three concerts in Palestine, together with the talented musicians of the Edward Said Conservatory, and subsequently in more than a dozen informal concerts in streets, schools, and refugee camps, thus “returning” this music to Palestine.

In Chile, Elizabeth hosts television programs about horses, the countryside, and Chilean traditions – another of her passions. She runs her family horse farm where she breeds Chilean, Arabian, and Friesian horses, and was the first female director of the Association of Chilean Horse Breeders. She is on the boards of directors of her family’s companies as well as of the Arabic School of Santiago. She gives motivational speeches to various institutions in Chile and is also an artist, focusing on ceramics.

However, her main – and most favorite – activity is being the mother of her ten-year-old twins, Octavio and Augusto; wife of Juan Ignacio Izurieta; and stepmother of Josefina, Agustín, and Victoria, who, even though are not Palestinians by blood, they still feel a strong connection to that magical land.

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