This past July, Siraj was pleased to host an educational program entitled Abraham's Children: Searching for Justice in Israel & Palestine.
This intensive 14 day tour was led by Ann Fortin and Paul Parker, and focused on exploring many of the most important socio-political questions of the region through meetings, discussions and site visits.
Some of the organizations that "Abraham's Children" met with included the Educational Bookshop, Rabbis for Human Rights, Zokrot, Sabeel, WIAM, Tent of Nations, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the Edward Said Conservatory, and many more. And as with all of our programs, the participants were able to encounter everyday people and gain an on-the-ground perspective from the local "children of Abraham."
We love all of our programs, but it's a special labor of love for Siraj staff to help Palestinians living or born abroad reconnect with their homeland through a heritage tour.
This July, Siraj worked with two Palestinian families from the United States to make use of a family trip to their hometown of Ramallah to visit such places as the historic Palestinian cities of Akko, Haifa and Nazareth as well as many of the key religious, cultural and historical sites of Jerusalem and the West Bank.
We hope the tour sparked a desire of the participants to return as often as possible and to encourage other Palestinians in "Amreeka" to take their own "Cousins Tour" with us.
Once again, Siraj was able to work with Cambridge University for another in-depth journey for its students through Palestine.
Their 8-day program brought them across the region, meeting with a range of local Palestinian civil society leaders in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and historic pre-1948 Palestinian communities in Israel.
Some of the highlights included meetings with diplomat and negotiator Dr. Sa'eb Erekat and Hanan Ashrawi, visits to the Old City of Jerusalem and the Samaritan community of Nablus, and even organizing Skype calls with Palestinian youth in Gaza. In the words of the program leader:
"The Cambridge University Palestine Trek facilitated by the Siraj Center brought 22 students on an unforgettable trip--getting to meet with and learn from everyone from local artists to politicians, journalists, top businessmen, and of course, talented young Dabkeh dancers! The group was so glad Siraj could take care of so many details for the trip they designed and only dreamed of!"
Have you thought of joining one of our Bike Palestine programs, but just have never found the right time to do so? Now is the time!
Our friend George Snow, filmmaker, teacher and enthusiast of all things Palestine and cycling, is returning once again to Palestine for an 8 Day, 7 Night cycling excursion through Palestine.
The program will begin in Jenin and end in Jerusalem, passing through the heart of the West Bank from big cities such as Nablus, Jericho and Bethlehem to small villages as Aqraba, Duma, Taybeh and more.
Along the way there's plenty of picturesque views, places of cultural and historical interest, and opportunities to experience the local cuisine, culture and hospitality.
Siraj Center is looking for international volunteers to come and work with the Siraj team, starting in late September and lasting through the early winter.
Volunteers will work with our staff and local partners to help with administrative, media and development projects both at the Siraj office with opportunities to explore Palestine through site visits and occasional program accompaniment.
Volunteers must have proficiency in English, a basic ability to assist with English-language social media, content and report writing, and marketing, and a willingness to learn new skills.
We are able to offer letters of recommendation and notices of completion of a certain number of hours for those seeking a formalized work-study program or internship.
Volunteers must make a commitment to a set number of hours with Siraj, a willingness to abide by local laws and cultural norms, and be motivated to both work individually and also as a team player, and above all, possess a positive attitude!
For more information on volunteering, please contact name at email.
Until the olives are ready to be harvested....Siraj wishes you a pleasant (and temperate) end to the summer.
Siraj Center is pleased to announce that the Bike Bethlehem Tour is now available.
This program was launched in response to an expressed interest in more alternative tours in the Bethlehem area, We have added an inventory of battery-operated bicycles with all the necessary safety equipment, and have laid out an exciting new route for discovering the Bethlehem area as few international travelers have. Battery-powered bicycles have been an increasingly popular means of transportation for Palestinians as well as foreigners in the Bethlehem area.
Our program participants will enjoy the unique opportunity to discover all the sites and locations that our beloved Bethlehem has to offer. this program can be a stand-alone day tour, or can be incorporated into a larger Siraj Center Tour. For more information on booking a Bike Bethlehem Tour and the tour itinerary, visit www.bike-bethlehem.com
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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)
Siraj center in a cooperation with Holy Land Handicraft Cooperative Society (HLHCS) 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.