The village of Al Walaja does not appear on the itineraries of tourist groups or pilgrims who visit the Holy Land. But for those who do make the effort to visit the village, they will be struck by the beauty of the landscape, the warmth of the welcome and the visible, devastating impact of the occupation.
This has been a challenging year for many of us. We are living continuous moments of not knowing, stress, confusion, shock, and fear. The beauty in humanity is that we are also seeing something else; a rise in a new understanding of what it means to be human, to connect, to respect, to honor.
We started our Home Rebuilding program in 2011 in response to one of the cruelest injustices of the occupation of Palestine, the demolition of homes. Since then we have worked on five rebuilding projects alongside Holy Land Trust, local communities, skilled local tradesmen, and most importantly, the families whose homes were demolished.
If you are missing the sights and sounds of the West Bank, if you have visited Bethlehem but only for a fleeting visit to the Church of the Nativity or if you would love to see the welcoming faces of Said and Elias from Holy Land Trust, you must watch their latest virtual tour.
The name ‘Holy Land’ means different things to different people. I knew very little about the many competing narratives around this place until my time with Holy Land Trust. What started out as a crazy idea after I stumbled upon the Summer Encounter program online, it gradually turned into one that I toyed with frequently in my mind.
Seven years ago as a 22-year-old living in my tiny American bubble, I heard about a trip going to the Holy land. Intrigued about the pilgrimage of where Jesus walked, I went to that meeting and heard stories of amazing adventures from the Middle East.
Last night over dinner I asked my son’s new girlfriend what was her favourite food? Falafel she replied. I blurted out my first thought. Brilliant, you can come to Palestine with us. The look on her face conveyed a hundred emotions. Fear, caution, intrigue, surprise, and some interest.
Last October, the Revd Canon Martin Stephenson visited Palestine as part of a pilgrimage organized by Holy Land Trust. In this blog he reflects on his introduction to the ethos and vision of the organization, recalling the group’s time spent with Sami Awad, founder of Holy Land Trust.
Our first virtual tour focusses on Star Street, the ancient roadway along which Mary and Joseph are thought to have walked as they journeyed to Bethlehem looking for somewhere to stay, somewhere for the baby Jesus to be born in warmth and safety.