News

Once again, the Siraj Center helped organize a memorable tour of Occupied Palestine and Israel territories for eight Canadian citizens of different backgrounds. The group had the opportunity to visit unique historical sights. They came with expectations to see and experience the reality of the Palestine/Israel issues and hear informed points of view from all sides. The packed two week schedule certainly met and exceeded their most optimistic expectations.

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It was a very interesting trip, and I got a better insight into the way people have to live in Palestine.  We arrived in Bethlehem at 5am, but as I could not sleep, I went walking in the town on Saturday morning.  I was very taken with the liveliness of the streets, and the friendliness of the people in a part of the world I had never visited before.  We had a tour of Bethlehem and its surroundings with Dr. Qumsiyeh.  We saw settlements, demolished buildings, walls of course and Israeli checkpoints.  The size of some of the walls came as a shock.  I  am interested in the environment and I found  Dr. Qumsiyeh's  work in this regard interesting. 

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June 11th - Our first morning in Tel Aviv, we headed to the neighborhood of Shapira, which has long been a poor and ethnically diverse area of the city.  With a local resident of Shapira we walked around the streets, met people from the Mizrahi Jewish and African migrant communities.  We met a group of young Israeli students and recent graduates, who told us about their backgrounds and about the question of military service in Israel.   Some of them refused to serve and were even jailed.

 The next day, we were guided by Jaffa historian and community leader Sami Abu Shahadeh.   We explored the story of a Palestinian city that was transformed by the birth of Israel.  In Jaffa’s old town we met Arab residents who can still remember the events of the mid-20th century.

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The participants of the Abraham Children’s Tour listened to and interacted with many diverse people within the Holy Land.  They heard their stories, experienced local traditions, traveled to unique sites and gained an in-depth understanding of the realities that the people in this disputed land live on.

 Below are testimonies of two of the group’s participants.

 “This has been the most eye-opening experiences of my life. For my entire life, I have lived in America protected from what threatens other nations, but also isolated and ignorant of other people. I am so grateful for this tour. At my age, it is about time to have a life changing experience.” She is 68 years old!

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Jerusalem

The Old City’s Spice Market.  The colors.  The scents.  The textures.   The infinite possibilities of how to use these spices in cooking.

 Lunch:  Makloubeh is a Palestinian upside-down rice and eggplant casserole, hence the name which is literally translated as "upside-down". It is sometimes made with fried cauliflower instead of eggplant, and usually includes meat.

  In the evening, we participated in preparing dinner:   “Malfouf” which has a dual meaning of “cabbage” as well as “rolled.”  The dish involves rolling cabbage leaves with a stuffing of ground meat, rice, 7 spices.  Next step is stacking them in a cooking pot in layers, and then simmering them on low heat in a sauce made with lemon juice, fried minced garlic, water and salt.

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The whole experience was very thought provoking and we learned a lot from it.

Our guide was excellent and i hope our relationship with him was just as enjoyable for him.

We can never hope to fully understand the position of everyday life for Palestinians but we certainly saw something of it, particularly with the way in which we, and everyone else, was treated by the Israeli authorities when the Pope was in town!

Being under curfew was certainly a new experience for us!

 The Greek hostel was fine although we did enjoy our visits out in the evening to sample the local restaurants.

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As the fragile 12-hour ceasefire between Hamas and Israel has come into effect earlier this morning, approximately 1100 people have been brutally killed by the Israeli attacks onto the civilian population in Gaza.  The horrendous images on TV and social networks show the graphic mutilation of innocent children’s bodies and devastation to people’s lives and homes.

In the strongest possible language, we condemn the attacks and bloodshed on innocent Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.  We send our condolences to Gaza.  Every family has been affected either by either injuries or death of family members, or destruction to homes and property.  No one has been untouched.

We believe that only justice leads to peace.  We call on Israel to comply with international law by ending its occupation of Gaza and the West Bank  - including Jerusalem. Until this is achieved, we kindly ask you to comply with the Palestinian civil society call to action including via boycotts, divestment, and sanctions.  See: bdsmovement.net

 

 

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