immagine in evidenza: foto di gruppo

Can we travel to the Holy Land again?

Emma Garroni3 May 2024

I believe that it is also time to invite pilgrims to return to travel to the Holy Land. I understand very well that there is a lot of fear. I understand that the images that come from the media are frightening images, but I think it is possible today. It is safe to make the pilgrimage to the Holy Land, perhaps not as complete as in the past, but it would be a very beautiful, very concrete form of support for the small community of Bethlehem.

With these words, spoken during an interview with the Christian Media Center, Cardinal Pizzaballa invites pilgrims – and all travelers – to start to travel to the Holy Land again. In this historical moment, which sees a Middle East afflicted by terrible humanitarian emergencies and continuously destroyed by wars and armed attacks, such encouragement may seem a gamble, almost madness; yet the conditions are there, they seem to be holding up, and the support that traveling to the Holy Land would offer to local communities today is as profound as the personal enrichment that each traveler could derive from it.

In the Middle East with the Middle East Community Program

For years now, Pro Terra Sancta, in collaboration with the Mosaic Center of Jericho and Bethlehem, has been promoting the “Middle East Community Program”, known more simply as “MECP”: it is a two-week trip that is organized every summer for the benefit of a group of young volunteers, usually students of the university. The project is designed to offer participants an experience that is as authentic and local as possible: young people are led to discover the most significant places in the area and the network of local realities that operate at the service of the community, while participating in meetings and seminars that make them more aware of the history of the Middle East and, hence, of his complicated present.

Past editions

The young people who participated in the previous editions came back full of enthusiasm, struck by the surprising complexity of the places they knew and lived for two weeks, of the history that can be breathed in every corner of a land made up of a great past and a present full of contradictions. Pietro, a young participant of the 2022 edition that we interviewed after its return, brings back home precisely this awareness: he says that this was “A truly inspiring journey that showed us today’s contradictions and past glories of this region full of history and conflict”, which allowed him to get to know the various voices that populate the Middle East and to listen to their different sounds.

It is precisely the opportunity to meet people that is the strong point of the experience offered by MECP: other young participants said it was formative “To get in touch with positive realities that operate in this complicated mosaic of religions and ethnicities”And that “There were so many characters that definitely need to be met. They leave something imprinted in your heart”. It is a journey from which one returns home “much more confused than before”, but profoundly more aware: and it is the awareness of the problematic nature of reality that enriches the tools with which one looks at the world.

MECP 2019
MECP 2022

The MECP 2024 edition

For this reason, despite the international situation, the Association has decided to start the 2024 edition as well: registration is open until June 15, and on July 26 travelers will leave for the Holy Land. The length of the stay has been reduced to ten days, focusing the itinerary on the safest places to visit at the moment, but the program remains full of places to see, stories to discover, people to meet and help to offer.

The young participants will visit Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jericho, Bethany and Galilee: they will walk on the oldest roads in the world to discover palaces, monasteries, splendid archaeological sites, and will touch the most significant places of Christian history and culture. They will attend seminars on the meeting of cultures and the history of Palestine and the conflict with Israel, and they will learn about the charitable realities that Pro Terra Sancta supports on site, being able to see with their own eyes the reality of the works of aid and cultural promotion and the people who make them possible.

The complete program of the trip is available on our website; For any information, please contact the following address:

Attention to the current situation

It will obviously be necessary to assess the conditions of the countries close to the scheduled date of departure on a day-to-day basis, and there is the possibility that the trip will have to be postponed or cancelled based on the development of local and international situations; However, we chose not to be stopped by the possibility of this happening, because the experience is worth it, and because at the moment there are the conditions to leave. The coordinator of the Dar Al-Majus guest house in Bethlehem describes the situation in his city as follows: “In light of recent events, I understand that security concerns are being raised in our region. However, I would like to reassure you: at the moment, Bethlehem remains a safe and welcoming destination for its visitors. Our community is resilient and continues to offer the warm hospitality that Bethlehem is known for.”

To the reassurance for the safety of the place, the coordinator adds a note of hope: “Our proceeds go to assist needy families in the area; Staying with us therefore contributes directly to the well-being and rebirth of our community.”

Traveling to the Holy Land today can really help the local populations to return to live and work, and that is why Pro Terra Sancta has decided to launch the MECP 2024 edition as well: keeping constantly informed and always remaining critical and prudent, in the hope that the situation will remain stable and that it will be possible to bring new young people to discover an experience that will enrich them deeply.