Bethlehem: A Co-kitchen to start over together

Giacomo Pizzi31 March 2020

The Association Pro Terra Santa wins a project for Christian minorities in Bethlehem.

Pro Terra Santa Association together with VIS and John Paul II Foundation wins a call for proposals from the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation. A project aimed at Christian minorities to start again from tourism, culture and gastronomy when the nightmare of the Coronavirus is over.

Pro Terra Sancta Association will be a partner in a project in consortium with two other Italian organizations just approved by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation. Together with Volontariato Internazionale per lo Sviluppo (VIS), the project leader, and the John Paul II Foundation, it has presented a project proposal entitled “Socio-economic integration of Christian minorities in the Holy Land through the protection of the local artistic, gastronomic and environmental heritage”. The call for proposals issued by the Italian Cooperation, to which the three organizations responded, aims to support Christian minorities in the Holy Land.


According to demographic data collected in 2017 the number of Christian Arabs in the West Bank, belonging to the different denominations, reached approximately 2.5% of the population (about 59,000), less than 1% in the Gaza Strip, 1300 out of 2 million inhabitants. The trend is still decreasing, it is believed that in 2020 Christians will represent only 1.6% of the total population. Numbers, percentages, but above all people. Families and families who have left their land over the years in search of better living conditions. The announcement and the project are aimed specifically at this segment of the population to try to put a brake on the diaspora of Christian families and to encourage their stay in the Holy Land. In fact, this minority community has always been an integral part of Palestinian society and has represented an element of balance and mediation, taking on a message of peace in an extremely tried and fragile context.


The project, which will last one year, will see the three different organizations collaborate with local lay and religious partners. These three of the most active Christian institutions in the Holy Land (Franciscans, Salesians and Lasallians) have always been close to the Christian community in the Palestinian Territories. The three organizations synergistically involved in the project have decided to focus on three important elements for the economic and cultural development of a country: art, gastronomic traditions and environment.

Each of the three NGOs will act on a specific aspect, but with the common aim of creating professional training and new integrated and sustainable social businesses. The VIS will deal with training on management and sustainable management of social works – with Bethlehem University managed by the Lasallians – and with the recovery of green spaces for community integration at the Cremisan park managed by the Salesians. The GPII foundation will manage training and employment in the arts and crafts sector, together with the Piccirillo Handicraft Center, in collaboration with the Franciscans. Finally, the Pro Terra Santa Association, again in collaboration with the Franciscans, will promote restaurant business and hospitality activities run by Christian women in vulnerable situations.

Six Christian women from the Bethlehem area will be chosen to participate in the Co-kitchen project of the Pro Terra Sancta Association. This involves the creation of a space equipped for a community kitchen (hence the name Co-kitchen) and solidarity. The idea is to offer disadvantaged women, who often turn to the Emergency Health and Listening Centre run by social worker Naila Nasser, a chance for redemption. Training courses will be provided in the catering and tourist reception sector. The beneficiaries will acquire an in-depth knowledge of Palestinian and international gastronomic culture, and an overview of the profession, thanks to the teaching of renowned local and Italian chefs and a technologically advanced structure that will be set up at the Dar Al-Majus Community Center. In the building that will be located in the historic center of Bethlehem, a few steps from the Basilica of the Nativity, will prepare dishes not only for tourists and pilgrims guests of the guest-houses managed by the association, but also catering services operating in other projects and for local families in events of various kinds.

We start from culture and love for culinary traditions. A project that becomes precious, even more so today, in light of the recession that will hit the Palestinian Territories following the health emergency brought by the Coronavirus. A hope to start again for the Palestinian people when they can return to normal.