June 2019
Betlemme Specialitaly

SpecialItaly Palestine: story of a very important collaboration between Italy and Bethlehem

Specialitaly Palestina is the name of the inclusive development project for the tourism sector in Beit Sahour and Bethlehem. Head of the project is the Municipality of Comacchio which proposes to develop innovative hospitality and catering activities involving 27 public and private entities from five Italian regions (Emilia Romagna, Veneto, Puglia, Basilicata and Sicily) including Consorzio Si Ferrara, Fondazione AVSI Cesena and Santa Caterina da Siena APS, Municipality of Chioggia and Municipality of Lavello.

Claudia Terragni, Local Project Coordinator in Bethlehem, tells us how a central part of the work, in addition to the passage of know-how and experiences on the kitchen and the tourist reception by the Italian partners is to develop a cultural exchange between Italian and Palestinian realities. In Bethlehem specifically, at the Terra Santa School, cooking classes were organized by Italian professionals to some local students. The same students were offered an internship in Italy where they had the opportunity to meet the realities taking part in the Specialitaly project such as the Remo Brindisi Institute in Comacchio. Learning about skills related to tourism was therefore a training opportunity for Palestinian children that did not end with education but extended to the creation of human relationships around the learning of skills, with a view to global citizenship education .

Another part of the project aims to enhance the historic center of Bethlehem, especially on Star Street, a historic UNESCO heritage street that has many abandoned houses. “Involving the Municipality of Bethlehem – Claudia Terragni explains – we want to identify four beneficiary families to whom they can renovate part of the house in order to accommodate possible tourists and pilgrims. The idea is that in setting up a business the Palestinian family will be tied to a Guest House for the management of reservations “. Among these, Dar Al Majus Guest House a few steps from the Nativity opened two years ago on the initiative of the Association pro Terra Sancta, Custody of the Holy Land and Mosaic Center Jericho. “In the realization – continues Claudia – will therefore be given importance to the continuous training of the beneficiary families and also of the tourism realities on the territory. Networking, beyond the dimension of competitors, can be a reason for economic development, allowing the Bethlehem and surroundings Guest Houses to collaborate and get to know each other “. Claudia thus shows how much training can be achieved only by giving an active role to all the actors involved. Creating meeting spaces makes entrepreneurial training sustainable growth and development, creating quality and inclusive services for the most fragile sections of the population.

Another point of Specialitaly is the collaboration with the local body LifeGate for the inclusion in the tourism sector of young people and disabled adults. LifeGate, thirty years after its foundation, is very active from an educational point of view in the field of disability, carrying out rehabilitation work with families, given the situation of abandonment of Palestinian people with disabilities. The project therefore always wants to fit into supporting the formation of a reality, already rooted and very active on the Palestinian territory.

One year after the start of the project, ClaudiaTerragni reports great satisfaction with the work carried out with all the Italian and Palestinian organizations and adds: “I was very impressed by the human relations established with the children of the Terra Santa School, with families and with all the Specialitaly Partners, we hope to be able to continue and grow more and more in this collaboration

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