Dear Siraj Team,
We are enjoying to stay in a family while learning spoken Arabic at Bethlehem University. For us the stay in a family increases our possibility to learn Arabic, and also to better understand how an ordinary life can be here.
The day to day conversations and interactions with family members challenges us to speak the language.
The outstanding service with meals served at breakfast and dinner gives us more time to study which is well-needed.
Jonas and Karin Bodin
Under this title IMBACH-REISEN in Lucerne, a pioneer of hiking holidays and tours, presented a new destination to their customers.
A friendly Palestinian guide took us to villages and refugee camps,at some distance Jewish settlements. Again and again we got in touch with the Bible and the Holy Land : Abraham and Jacob, miracles by Jesus, the woman at Jacobs well.
Describing the beauty of the Palestinian landscape and its fascinating diversity, the privileged witness of timeless scenes, the shepherds driving their herds across thousand-year-old landscapes of cliffs, the Bedouins in their traditional daily life, would all be incomplete and inequitable toward those women and men met along the trail and who bring to this journey all its powerful humanity.
Abraham’s Path is as well, a rich encounter with each person involved in the project, the local guide who bridges the voyageur to his family, and the communities the voyageur will meet on the way.
The Abraham Trail in Palestine took our group of 8 through barren landscapes in Awarta, lush olive orchards between Awarta and Duma, scrubby desert-like terrain and fertile farms planted with a variety of fruits and vegetables in the terracing of the Aqraba hillsides. In Taybeh, we had a private tour of the only microbrewery in the Middle East! And we will never forget Nablus with its traditional soap factory and the delicious “kanafa”. But the best part was the people we met, conversed, laughed with and learned from.
A new place to walk, in the olive groves and wadis of Palestine. It was too late for wild flowers, but we caught the end of the olive harvest. It is a small and encircled place, with a wall and the Jordan river as its effective boundaries. But the people we met were kind and generous, both the guides who led us and the people in whose homes we stayed.
The Siraj Center helped organize a memorable tour of the Holy Land for seven Canadian citizens of varied backgrounds trying to make sense of their government’s policies toward Palestine/Israel. While we did expect to visit unique historical sights we were definitely not interested in a package from a glossy travel brochure. We hoped, rather, to see and experience the reality of the issues and hear informed points of view from all sides. Our hectic two week schedule certainly met and exceeded our most optimistic expectations.
Departing Jericho we had our final walk which was perhaps the most stunning of them all. We walked through an area so barren that it felt we really had been transported back to Biblical times. The only life we saw was a baby owl sleeping quietly in a crack in the rocks.
We completed our four-hour hike with an astonishing view across a canyon to the Mar Saba Monastery which is built into the rock and is simply one of the most impressive sights we have seen to date. Upon arriving in Jerusalem we headed straight to the Mount of Olives and took in the impressive view of East Jerusalem, with the Dome of the Rock taking centre stage.
When you travel to this sensitive part of the world, the first thing you feel is some sort of unease as you go through the passport control at the airport in Tel Aviv, in Israel. It might be the consequence of all we read about it in our western papers and of all the news we get from this part of the world, usually worrying and somehow obscure, but the reality that awaits you just a few kilometers away, once you leave the airport and start your journey traveling to Nablus, in the West Bank, is much more exciting, positive and enjoyable than what you expect.
I did a four day walk on the Abraham Path this April, starting in Nablus and ending in Taybeh with a side trip to Bethlehem at the end.
I absolutely would recommend it.
A PALESTINIAN CHRISTIAN CALL TO END THE OCCUPATION
A group of Palestinian Christians representing a variety of churches and church-related organizations have issued an animated and prayerful call for an end to occupation of Palestine by Israel.
The call, issued at a 11 December meeting in Bethlehem, comes at a time when many Palestinians believe they have reached a dead end. It raises questions to the international community, political leaders in the region, and the churches worldwide about their contribution to the Palestinian people's pursuit of freedom. Even in the midst of "our catastrophe" the call is described as a word of faith, hope and love.
June 26th 2007
As you may or may not have heard I am in the most dangerous part of the world. I am a stranger in a strange land, sending out and SOS! to major Tom. We are is plunged into intrastate strife and hellfire, aliens, awaiting the apocalypse, shivering in the dark jungles of Guatamala with Mel Gibson and the whole damn crew of Tribulacion 99.
But no, actually I am deeply in love with the social work of painting and eating arabic food, as well as colloqual arabic classes here. The years I took Arabic at Princeton don't help me much on the streets of Palestine b/c that was standard/formal arabic. My teacher here is a fanatic from al-Quds (Jerusalem) and he's good at getting us to jive with the locals and their lingo.
I am at the halfway point in the one month programme and in a good position to reflect on the plethora of experiences here in the Bethlehem area. The overnight flight and subsequent four-hour wait in Israeli immigration at Tel Aviv airport now seems a distant memory, but an amusing one. Departure on Sunday and arrival on Monday merged into one and devoid of sleep Hisham made the bleary eyed 3-part journey to Bethlehem after reaching landside at 8am. First we got a taxi to Jerusalem along with a mix of Americans and, surprisingly, two guys from Northern Ireland. We took a short trip round to Damascus Gate where we tried to arrange travel to Bethlehem. Unable to call our taxi driver we fell back on Hisham’s father in England who somehow managed to have success despite calling from England. We made it, and just in time for our first Arabic lesson at Bethlehem University – any thoughts of bed were delayed by another two hours.