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[Tuesday, October 05, 2010]

McHenry County College history instructor Todd Culp had a front row seat to one of the most brutal conflicts of our time and brings his real-world examples to the classroom and in his recently published book, "Friends Whose Names I'll Never Know" that features stories of his travels to the Middle East since 1993.

"It has been my privilege for the last 17 years as I walked the streets of the West Bank and Gaza to witness acts of courage, selflessness, and beauty amidst the brutality that is the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict," he said.

Much of the writing on this topic, including his own in the past, has been focused on the combatants in this conflict, compared to rare accounts about the peacemakers, according to Culp.

"Very little is written about the amazing stories of those who risk and tragically sometimes lose their lives to bring peace to this land," Culp noted. "Of the books that are written, too few are written from inside the conflict. I have taken these stories and have woven them into a book that challenges our assumptions about this enigmatic conflict."

"Living with these people during the first and second Intifada, at times sharing their fear and their pain, gives me a perspective that very few people have. Mixed with the passion that comes from this insider's perspective, it has been my professional responsibility as a college professor to study this area for 17 years. This has lead to an in-depth academic understanding of this complex conflict," he said.

"The typically blood-drenched news coverage of this region often misses the remarkable acts of heroism by peace activists that occur regularly inside the conflict zones," Culp said. "This book uses eye witness accounts imbued with drama, humor and tragedy to draw the reader into each chapter."

Culp began traveling to the Middle East in 1993 during the first Palestinian uprising. While he lived in the West Bank, he was able to interview militant groups such as The Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and Hizb ut-Tahrir in an attempt to better understand the violence that swirled around him. Today, he spends time each year in the West Bank working with peace activists to stand against the regular violence of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. He leads Americans on educational tours of the conflict zones in an attempt to bring the reality of this fighting home.

Culp, who lives in Rockford with his wife, Steffanie, and their three children, has been an instructor at MCC for nine years. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from Illinois State University and his doctorate of philosophy from Northern Illinois University.

"Friends Whose Names I'll Never Know" is published by Kendall Hunt Publishing and is available at To request Todd Culp as a speaker for your organization or classroom or for more information about MCC's history department programs, contact Todd Culp at (815) 479-7724 or email him at

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