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Siraj Center has been doing more than a little of its own travels.
In early January, we took part in the Vakantiebeurs Utrecht Tourism and Leisure Fair in Utrecht, Netherlands, and then a few days later it was on to the Germany for another experiential travel show.
In mid-February, it was the Prague Travel Fair, followed by the world’s largest travel and tourism exhibition in the mid-March, the annual ITB show in Berlin, Germany. In late April, our exhibition team split into two groups to attend the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai as well as a meeting with tour operators in Hong Kong.
We’re hoping to be back to all of these fair shows in the coming year; but we’ll also be attending the World Travel Market in London, set this year for November 5th-7th. Visit us at our booth if you are there!
Providing tour participants an opportunity to invest in the Palestinian economy through purchasing fair trade products is a top priority for the ethical tourism & travel sector, and Siraj has done its part in the promotion of fair trade products through its tours. This May, the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO)
organized its first Fair Trade delegation to visit centers of fair trade, and taking the opportunity to visit some of the many fair trade organizations in Palestine that are producing handicrafts and produce items such as olive wood, embroidery and looming, glass and ceramic, non-perishable foods, olive oil and soap, and much more.
On May 9th, the WFTO delegation celebrated Fair Trade Day in Bethlehem with many of its local WFTO members as well as the Institute for Community Partnership of Bethlehem University. Siraj Director Michel Awad was pleased to give some opening remarks to the delegation and attendees, and to encourage the growth of Palestinian fair trade development in partnership with the Palestinian tourism sector.
Siraj Center is pleased to support the WFTO 10 Principles of Fair Trade in its programs:
In early May 2018, Siraj was pleased to host a familiarization tour for AdventureNEXT, a leader in the adventure travel and tourism sector. AdventureNEXT specializes in developing up and coming destinations, and with Palestine being noted as the fastest emerging tourist destination in 2017, Adventure Next is doing its part to help develop our market. Siraj worked with the AdventureNEXT team to provide a compact four-day familiarization tour of Palestine; showing some of the best and most unique components of our experiential tours. We are looking forward to our friends with AdventureNEXT returning back to Palestine and providing a whole new network of tourists with an opportunity to truly experience Palestine as few are able to!
In the month of April 2018, Siraj hosted the Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) Cycling Tour. MAP is a London-based charity and awareness-raising organization that works all across the Holy Land, Lebanon and elsewhere, working to alleviate some of the worse medical difficulties within Palestinian communities. Nearly 30 MAP staff members, volunteers and supporters came for a fundraising cycling tour of Palestine, traveling from Jenin to Jerusalem, as well as Bethlehem and Hebron. Besides being a worthy endeavor, the program offered its participants a chance to better acquaint themselves with the West Bank and Jerusalem in a way that would not be possible through a tour bus.
On a post on their Facebook page, MAP had this to say about their experience: “Congratulations to all and a huge THANK YOU to everyone who took part in the ride and to those who have supported them along the way. The money raised comes at a critical time and will help MAP continue our work for the health and dignity of those Palestinians living under occupation and as refugees.”
Siraj was honored to have organized the charity cycle, and encourages our UK friends to keep supporting the good work of MAP.
“Welcome! Our Home is Your Home!”
Em Shadi (“Mother of Shadi” in Arabic) is always eager to greet her guests to her home in Duma, a tranquil agricultural village in southeastern Nablus district. Em Shadi is a passionate believer in volunteer work. In the past she served as a director for a Women’s Association in Duma, and has also served on the Duma village council for six years. A wife and a proud mother of six children, she strives for women empowerment in all that she does.
Veteran program leader Paul Parker returns with an Abraham’s Children program
In 2005 I took a summer Arabic language course from Birzeit University with dozens of other internationals during which Michel Awad and George S. Rishmawi arranged several weekend explorations of Palestinian culture and traditions. I was immediately impressed with their professionalism and internationalism while remaining deeply rooted in the Palestinian reality. The Siraj Center is Palestine. As a university professor who has now led ten public, non-profit tours to introduce North Americans to Palestine, I highly recommend the Siraj Center to university students for summer courses, to families for alternative vacations, to Muslim and Christian pilgrims, and to those who are looking for an adventure. Biking, hiking, dancing, learning Arabic, guided tours, home-stays, religious pilgrimages, and fact-finding delegations—the Siraj Center provides safe, expert and ethical tourist arrangements.
- Paul Parker
Long-time Siraj tour leader Rev. Jerry Wright reflects on his most recent program with us.
For many years now, my wife and I have engaged Siraj Center as our tour hosts in Palestine and Israel. In addition to the other services/experiences they provide (hiking, biking, educational opportunities and more), Siraj staff are experts in arranging for alternative tours/responsible travel to the Holy Land. We just returned from another pilgrimage, having led a group of eighteen persons.
May 2017 - An international group of eight hikers completed a walk along part of Abraham’s Path in Palestine. They began their journey in Nablus, exploring the old city before staying overnight with local families in the village of Awarta.
In late April, the British "Wild Frontiers" group cooperated with Siraj for walking tour that visited Nablus, Awarta, Duma, Taybeh, Jericho and Mar Saba, and ended in Jerusalem.
This spring, Siraj Center was delighted to host eleven delightful voyagers from France, starting on 21st of April in Bethlehem district with a hiking day in Battir, a tour at the Old City of Bethlehem and a visit to Nativity Church.
Beautiful landscape, culture, meeting locals and visiting ancient historical sites of Palestine were just a few of the highlights of this spring's Southern Trail Masar Ibrahim Al-Khalil experience. Starting from Solomon’s Pool in Artas, built by King Herod and once used to collect spring and rain water from the surrounding valleys to provide water for Jerusalem, the program participants learned much about village life and culture in Palestine.
This early April, Siraj Center Hosted a successful bike tour of nearly two dozen cyclists from the Britain and America.
Starting their Jenin to Jerusalem cycling tour on April 5th, they cycled from Jenin towards Sabestia, a small Palestinian town set in a fertile valley where figs, olives, grapes and the other fruits and vegetables grow in abundance. Local tradition holds that it was in Sebastiya that John the Baptist was beheaded, and an abundance of archaeological ruins from different eras can be found. The group then cycled towards the village of Zababdeh, enjoying the relaxed countryside atmosphere of this town situated in the fertile farmland plain of the northern West Bank, then cycled on to Nablus, where they had a tour of the Old City before turning in for the evening.
In late March, the Siraj Center hosted an 18 dedicated hikers from United Kingdom who selected our "Hike Palestine" Program for their Siraj experience, and walked from Nablus to Jerusalem. Beginning with a tour in the old city of Nablus, they visited Jacob's Well and Balata refugee camp, where they met with and learned from local Palestinians. Visits to the Palestinian villages of Awarta, Duma and al- Auja included staying with local families sharing their food and experiencing their daily life.
Westtown School, a Quaker Middle School from Pennsylvania, came to the Holy Land this March to build personal and institutional relationships between Westtown and the Ramallah Friends School, as well as to learn about the political and religious history of the area and its importance to Christians, Jews and Muslims
Over 100 students from across the various schools at Harvard applied to go on this trip to see Palestine over Spring Break in March, which was described by some of its participants as “life-changing” and "the most intense learning experience" they had while students at this prestigious university. For most American and international students, this was a unique chance to see Palestine from a different perspective, and come face to face with both the reality of the occupation and Palestinian struggles, but also with the beauty of Palestine, and the resilience and hospitality of the its people.
During the first half of 2016, the Siraj Center in cooperation with the Masar Ibrahim al Khalil enabled 245 people to walk through rural Palestine, exploring its natural beauty, history, culture, cuisine and being welcomed by authentic Palestinian hospitality along the way.
The one-day and two-day weekly walks began in February until end of June 2016. The walkers had the choice of hiking different segments of the Masar Ibrahim in Palestine. The Jerusalem Wilderness and the Reshayda Desert were among the first walks of the season. Another segment included Nebi Musa to Mar Saba, where walkers had the chance to visit ancient religious sites. In the northern section, walkers discovered rural Palestine from Awarta, Duma, Aqraba, Nablus and Jenin.
The age categories of the masar walkers ranged from 18 to 74 years old. In addition to the local Palestinian walkers, there were international hikers who came from different countries such as China, Georgia, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Jordan, Norway, Sweden, Spain, Australia, the United States, Canada, the U.K. , France, etc.
22nd – 25th May 2016
The twelve member delegation from Canada’s Wilfrid Laurier University traveled for the first time to Palestine for a diverse educational experience. Students and staff were able to visit major cities, as well as rural villages in the West Bank, being welcomed by people from each local community, learning about the day-to-day lives and challenges faced.
9th - April 2016
Twenty-one British cyclists took part in Bike Palestine where they cycled approximately 200 km across the West Bank, starting from the northern city of Jenin cycling southwards through the ancient city of Sebastia, the old city of Nablus before reaching Taybeh. It wasn’t only hard cycling through dramatic landscapes, but also relaxing moments enjoying the easy rides in Bethlehem and Jericho, and even the unique experience of floating on the Dead Sea – the lowest point on Earth.