middle east community program

Middle East Community Program 2018

Giacomo Pizzi25 September 2018

Israel and Palestine: between land and community

“A wonderful experience to better understand a land so complex through the eyes of its inhabitants”

Sitting in a restaurant in the center of Jerusalem, enjoying the last hummus and felafel before returning home, the MECP (Middle East Community Program) students discuss with each other: it is time to take stock of these intense three weeks spent together with the Association pro Terra Sancta to deepen the historical-political, cultural and social dimension of the Middle East and in particular of Israel and Palestine.

The program, organized in collaboration with the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan and now in its fourth edition, saw the participation of 15 university students (the number has doubled compared to the last edition) of different age groups and different directions of study, all united by the desire to know more closely a complex reality such as the Israeli-Palestinian.

Among the stories, anecdotes and laughs for the joyful moments of conviviality lived together with the staff of ATS, many reflections and considerations have emerged on the past experience: “the strength of this program is that we could hear different voices that can offer more useful perspectives to create a general framework ” Maria says. In fact, the students were able to attend lectures by professors from the Bethlehem University, such as the rector of Walid Atallah or the historian Michael Sansure. “It is important to understand that these places do not express a single truth, but multiple, different narratives of the same reality. Through the lectures given by experts such as Osama Hamdan, architect and director of the Mosaic Center, or Hana Bendcowsky, director of the Jerusalem Center for Jewish-Christian Relations, we have managed a broad and multifaceted vision of the political and social context with all its contradictions.

Very often the places themselves have spoken themselves: the visits of Hebron with TIPH (Italian carabinieri on mission), the Tent of Nations, excursions in Galilee and Samaria are experiences that have profoundly marked the participants. Moreover, for some, having stayed in Bethlehem has allowed us to establish direct dialogue with the local Palestinian population and to be able to know closely the daily reality of those who live and face the difficulties of this land every day.

The faces of the people met have given indelible emotions in everyone’s heart, some like Elisa remembered with pleasure the meeting with the women of the Shouruq women’s association: “The face that I bring home is Najwa, a girl from Bethany, a student like me who tries to build her own future in a much more difficult context than mine “, who like Marco was impressed by Sister Lucia‘s dedication to her work at the Caritas Baby Hospital, or like Francesca who brings with her the humanity that she has found in every person regardless of their belonging.

From Salvatore’s words we understand his involvement in this experience: “I would recommend it to everyone because it is not just visiting a place as guests or observers, but plunging one hundred percent into the local culture and then ‘waking up’ after three weeks. I will not be the same person when I return home. ”

“Many of us have come up with so many questions, today we come back home with certainly many answers, but new countless other food for thought that push me to want to deepen more and more” says Rebecca. “And surely to come back!” Other girls add in chorus.

Find out more about the Middle East Community Program!