At home away from home

Amy Rodighiero22 December 2021

For Sara, Chiara, Morgane and Roberta this year will be a christmas different from the usual. The four girls who participate in the Civil Service program 2021/22 together with our Association, find themselves far from home in a moment that, traditionally, is spent together with loved ones. But in Bethlehem Christmas is at home and the great family of the city where Jesus was born, made up of the local community and the many international friends linked to it, will welcome them during the holidays. The new rules of containment of the latest variant of the coronavirus, prevent girls from returning to Italy but, certainly, their Christmas will be full of joy and affection.

Returning children with the little ones of Hogar niño Dios

It was so for Clear that, the work of drafting projects to support charitable works and reporting on the Dar Al Majus Community Home project, alternate afternoons of volunteering at the Hogar niño Dios,a structure run by the sisters of the Religious Family of the Incarnate Word that houses sick or disabled children and young people abandoned by their family.

“It was nice to prepare for Christmas together with the children of the Hogar,”Chiara tells us. On December 8, on the occasion of the feast of the Immaculate Conception, all the teachers, the staff of the structure and the volunteers gathered to help the children make the Christmas tree. The most precious decorations? The photos of the children hanging from the branches as ornaments. “They were very excited when we took them to see the lighting of the big tree in the Manger Square and at the markets to meet Santa Claus. Thanks to them, I came back a little bit of a child too!”.

Creativity and resilience at Christmas markets

From the Handicraft Fair that takes place every December in Milan to the Christmas markets in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Morgane already has a wealth of retail experience with which he has contributed in an exceptional way to the enhancement of sustainable economic development projects created by Pro Terra Sancta.

“These are not simple markets,”Morgane explains,“but opportunities to introduce the local and international community to the responsible tourism network created by Pro Terra Sancta and the products with high social value made by the beneficiaries who participate in our education and economic development projects”.

After immersing herself in the Christmas atmosphere that reigns among the banquets that sprout in the holy cities during Advent, Morgane takes stock of the experience: “I really enjoyed having the opportunity to meet so many new people, locals and expats. I saw new places that I did not know and discovered very interesting craft realities”.

Among the things that struck her the most, the large presence of artistic craft enterprises through which the Palestinian communities suppressed by the occupation continue to express their identity and culture. Creativity becomes an instrument of resistance and resilience and the value of every object created by hand with love becomes invaluable.

Family Christmas with Bet-women

And so it is also for the Bet-women, mothers of Bethlehem who, left without work due to the closures due to Covid, now support their families by creating fabric products for the home by hand. Roberta,who is in charge of helping these new entrepreneurs to implement their management and sales system, he confesses that “this period was really intense, tiring but, at the same time, beautiful and stimulating”.

For the Bet-women and Roberta, December coincided with the launch of a new line of products dedicated exclusively to Christmas. Pillows, bread baskets, grade flakes, breakfast sets were sent to Italy, from which large orders arrived, to Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Tarchiha, in the Northern Territories.

“The feedback we have received from our customers has been really positive: our products are original, different from everything around”, says Roberta. The greatest satisfaction? “Four months ago, when I arrived, Bet-women’s warehouse was full of aprons and bags. Now they are almost finished because we have sold everything!”

During the last meeting of the group, there was a convivial moment of exchange of gifts: “We still did not know if we would be able to leave or not. Instead of the usual chocolates and bottle of wine, then, they gave me a necklace and earrings, so that I could carry them in my hand luggage without problems. I was moved!” And when the girls found out that they could not leave anymore, invitations to spend Christmas with them began to flow.

Feeling at home in the Holy Land

Houses and families are the fulcrum of Sara’sactivities, which follows the renovation and modernization projects of apartments of elderly and young couples who ask for help from our Association together with Muna, the engineer of the Bethlehem office. “I have met so many wonderful families in this period”, Sara tells us, “despite the uncomfortable situation due to the work in progress, they have never failed to make me feel welcomed and to express their gratitude for us”.

In the afternoon, another large family surprises her: “I volunteer at the House for the Elderly of the Antonian Society of Bethlehem,”he explains, “and one of their guests really impressed me for the affection she has for me.” Rania,a 40-year-old suffering from mental problems, turned 13 on December 13. “When I asked her what she wanted for her birthday, she replied ‘that you can go to Italy for the holidays and come back here to us'”.

Rania’s wish did not come true, unfortunately and the guests of the hospice, who adore the girls, are a bit divided between being sad for them and happy that they remain in Bethlehem with them even at Christmas. “It does not matter if it will be a different Christmas than usual”, continues Sara, “surely, however, we will not spend it alone: we are organizing a great Italian lunch together with other volunteers of the Civil Service and local friends”.

Adverse circumstances will not prevent our girls from spending a joyful Christmas, together with the great family of the Holy Land: in Bethlehem, after all, Christmas is at home!