The Middle East Community Program (MECP) 2019, this year, was all-female: nine young female students from the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan and from other Italian universities participated in the annual program organized by the Association pro Terra Sancta in collaboration with the Catholic University which ended last September 7th. The summer school was designed specifically for young curious people fascinated by the Holy Land who wish to deepen their knowledge of the complex Israeli-Palestinian reality by coming into contact with local communities and the territory. “I am very satisfied to have participated in this program because it allows us to understand and learn more about a part of the world which, although small, is imbued with culture and problems to be faced,” says Anna, one of the girls of the group, at the end of the three weeks of travel.
Political sciences and languages for interactional relations, development cooperation, but also letters and psychology: this is mainly the background of the studies of the girls who approached the MECP to live a formative experience close to their interest and which allows them to observe this land, for centuries at the center of human history, from different angles: from the historical political dimension to a knowledge of the territory in its geographical, cultural and social conformation.
Listening to the lectures of professors from the University of Bethlehem, such as Walid Atallah (historian) and Father Yiad Twal (director of the schools of the Latin Patriarchate), or the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, such as Sergio Dalla Pergola (professor emeritus of demography), or during the meeting with Hadas Lazar (an Italian teacher in Tel Aviv and an expert on Israeli culture), the girls received a historical picture seen from different and different perspectives. From the desert of Judah to the Golan Heights, passing through Bethlehem, Hebron, Nazareth, Samaria and the Mediterranean coast, the cultural and social dimensions have been experimented “in the field” with numerous excursions to places of great historical-artistic value or with meetings in associations and social works.
The trip was enriched by the meeting with the Associazione pro Terra Sancta volunteers of the two locations in Bethlehem and Jerusalem. The girls met the archaeologist Daniela Massara in Bethlehem for an accurate explanation of the Basilica of the Nativity and Vincenzo Bellomo to learn about the many social works, while in Bethany they attended a lecture on the enhancement of Palestinian cultural heritage held by Carla Benelli and Osama Hamdan within the project “Betania Ospitale”.
Each of them, in addition to the many unanswered questions that this land raises every time you try to know it, will come back with the memory of a face or a particular story of the many voices heard: the Operation Dove volunteers, the visit to the border with Lebanon and Syria, the children of the Hogar Niños of Bethlehem. “The meeting with Sahera Dirbas, marked me very emotionally for the events that she tells about Palestinian families,” Uendy tells us. Sahera Dirbas is a Palestinian director and freelance producer originally from Haifa, and presented in a meeting some clips of her films whose main objective is to preserve Palestinian memory and traditions and document the difficulties encountered by her people.
“This opportunity to come into contact with those who work directly with the local community brings you into contact with people who, despite everything, still have hope of peace,” says Nadia. “I’m already advising my friends!” And finally Caterina, who has the dream of becoming a journalist: “This experience allows us to have an incomparable view of the situation here. Keep it up!”.