News

Greetings! We are writing to you from Bethlehem in the Occupied West Bank where we successfully arrived this afternoon. Our journey began together Saturday morning at Lancaster Theological Seminary. We first travelled to Newark International Airport, for our ten hour direct flight to Tel Aviv, with close to a four-hour delay we ended up in the plane for almost 12 hours. Needless to say when we arrived in Tel Aviv we were more than ready to leave the plane and walk. After a successful custom entry process we met our Guide and proceeded to Bethlehem to the Holy Family Hotel.  Once we settled into our rooms it was a temptation to lay down and rest after almost 30 hrs travel time, but the group managed to keep the scheduled meeting for a late lunch and a short orientation. We then got on the stop for our first visit to the Wi’am Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center (Wi’am means Agape in Arabic).

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Our trip in Palestine was as always very appreciated by the entire group.

The program allowed us to experience a deep understanding of the environment of the country, and gave us the opportunity for a real full immersion in the local lifestyle.

 The whole group especially appreciated staying with local families.   The night at Bedouin camp and the opportunity to meet locals on the way and at various local culture centers, such as Arab women unions, the boy scout group  in the refugee camp of Fara'h, the Mosaic Center in Jericho, etc.  We also enjoyed the local traditional Palestinian food.

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Dar Ramot family in Neve Neeman

“We got to hear the prospective of the conflict from an Israeli family with a son in the army. We learned about why they felt safer with the wall being built and their perspective on whether peace can be achieved.”

 “The narrow and labyrinth like streets in the Old City had merchants along the sides selling candy, fresh fruit, clothes, and jewelry. We were led by our tour guide to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and to the Wailing Wall (the Western Wall).”

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The Christoph Jungen Swiss Group arrived on Sunday, March 30th, and had their first tour and meeting in Neve Shalom.  The following morning, the Group were driven along the Mediterranean coast between Tel Aviv and Haifa, where they had the opportunity to visit the ancient port city Caesarea Maritima, which was built by Herod the Great, and today is a national park.  In the afternoon, the Group had the chance to visit the lookout at Muhraka, which is located on the southern end of the Mount Carmel range.  The views of the Mediterranean Sea captivated the visitors.  Overnight was in Nazareth. 

 The morning of April 1st, there was a short visit to the Nazareth Church.  Following, the participants visited Sephoria’s archeological site, located in the central Galilee, 6 kilometers north-northwest of Nazareth.  The site holds a rich and diverse historical and architectural legacy that includes Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Jewish and Islamic influences. It is believed to be the birthplace of Mary, the mother of Jesus.  For dinner and overnight, the participants stayed at the Mt. of Beatitudes, where it is said that Jesus gave his important Sermon on the mountain.  

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Visiting the Holy Land: 16th to 23rd March 2014

By:  Helena Paula Niemonen

INTERNATIONAL SECRETARY
DIOCESE OF STRÄNGNÄS

Sunday 16th March

We, 34 persons from Strängnäs, Sweden, arrived at Tel Aviv Airport, and transferred to Nazareth, St Margaret’s House.  The hotel rooms were ready for us and a very good dinner was served in the evening.

Monday 17th March

We met our guide, Hani al Hayek, in the morning and visited the Church of Annunciation. After that we drove to the Mount of Beautitudes where we celebrated mass up on the hill. We had a very good moment there, hearing people from all corners of the world celebrating their masses in different places close to us.

 

We took the bus down to Tabgah, and to the restaurant. There were busloads of people but the restaurant was amazing in its effectiveness on serving the meals in no time at all! Having visited Caphernaum we headed towards Jericho and our hotel. 

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This is my third time organizing a spring break trip for my Harvard classmates with the Siraj Center for Holy Land Studies, and I could not ask for a better partner to help share the Palestinian experience with my fellow students.  I have taken over 200 Harvard graduate students to Palestine, and without the Siraj Center’s dedicated work, the three trips would not have been a success.  Every year we have visited both the West Bank and Historic 1948 Palestine, going to cities and villages such as Al Khalil (Hebron), Bethlehem, Ramallah, Nabi Saleh, Al Walaja, Nablus, Nazareth, Haifa, Yaffa, and the Naqab Desert; we have even conducted a Skype call with activists and students in the Gaza Strip.

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On Saturday December 28,our trip began in Tel Aviv as we exited the plane. The bus was waiting for us and then we headed towards the St. Vincent Guest House in Bethlehem. We were able to begin the next morning with Mass in Arabic at the Church of St. Catherine. The singing of the people and architecture of the church was beautiful. After Mass, we traveled to the excavation site at  Herodium.  We were able to see the tunnels, the cisterns, and the private burial ground of Herod. In addition, we saw Solomon’s Pools. After lunch at the Christmas Tree Restaurant, we drove to Shepherd’s Field. Walking through the park, we came to the small chapel with a cave showing the nativity scene.

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