“In order to get to know a place, it is necessary to meet and speak with people who live in it”. This was the first impression of the students that participated to the Middle East Community Program. The third edition of the program was organized by Association pro Terra Sancta in collaboration with the Catholic University of Milan and the support of the Mosaic Center Jericho, and has allowed seven Italian university students to visit the Holy Land for three weeks. In a totally different way.
Along with the charm of Jerusalem, amazed by the Dome of the Rock and the Terra Sancta Museum, they visited Bethlehem where they were based. Then Galilee with places “we had never heard of” they tell us while thinking of Hebron, Acco, Golan, Jerico, Bethany, and the village of Sabastiya in Samaria with its rich archaeological and historical heritage.
But what made this experience special, was not just visiting the places. “It was very interesting and educational to meet positive realities that work in this complicated mosaic of religions and ethnicities,” says one of the students, Alessandra. “There were so many people people we met. All of them left something in our hearts”.
People like Sr. Lucia of the Caritas Baby Hospital in Bethlehem. Hers is a mission to help all of mankind, or like Nassar of the Tent of Nations, that made his home a place of peace! Then there were Carla Benelli, head of the cultural projects of the Association pro Terra Sancta, and the architect Osama Hamdan, director of the Mosaic Center Jericho. With their expertise and knowledge they underlined the importance of enhancing the territory and the population through the recovery of what the earth has offered for centuries: from stone a mosaic, from olive trees to soap, from earth to ceramics, from its depths to history.
With the help of staff of the Association pro Terra Sancta they were able to meet different personalities who offered “points of view that the books do not teach” showing the different dimensions within this land that is holy, but slways in trouble. As Lilith told us, it is not easy to understand the context: “I’m a lot more confused than before, the more you learn of this place, the more you are confused. Yet it was great to be able to touch this reality with our hands”.
“I would recommend this experience to those who already have a background on Middle East studies because it is very structured; but also to those who are simply curious”, Teresa said. “It allows you to look at the reality of a conflict in a way that goes beyond historical facts.”
The MECP (Middle East Community program, therefore, remains a “unique opportunity” that definetly has to be repeated next year!