October 2016

“This is what the Middle East Community Program has given me”

I’ve never come across so many people who have had such an effect on me, in such a short period of time.” So says Maria, at the close of the second edition of the MECP (Middle East Community Program), a program for acquiring a better and more profound understanding of the Middle East in Israel and Palestine, sponsored and organized by Association pro Terra Sancta, in collaboration with the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Milan.

Three intense weeks – from 22 August through 9 September – of lectures and visits, but above all three weeks rich in special encounters, as Maria says, with people who each day live this complex reality: “The encounters have stimulated, in my opinion, our humanity to an even deeper and broader level in terms of the overall context of the Israeli-Palestinian situation.”

And the other nine participants, both students and others, coming from various academic institutions in Italy, also feel the same way. “The quality [of the program] was very high,” recounts another young woman, “and not only from a historical-political perspective. It was wonderful to constantly be encountering interesting and lively people, who have to face this situation each and every day of their lives. Particularly interesting were those ‘outside the box’, such as David Nehaus, Sister Donatella from the Caritas Baby Hospital, the professor from the University of Bethlehem, the (female) director of the synagogue, the Italian policeman in Hebron…

From their base in Bethlehem, the young people came to know many local entities, study centers, associations, and charitable and cultural works in the area. From Jerusalem to Hebron, from Nablus to Jericho, from Bethany to Sabastiya, up to the north of the country, along the shores of the Sea of Galilee, on the Mediterranean coast, to the discovery of Acre, and on the Golan Heights, and to the borders with Syria and Lebanon.

I would recommend this type of experience to all young people like me”, says another, “so that they can see with their own eyes and touch with their own hands a reality that from abroad is hidden, forgotten or simply ignored.”

A reality different from what the media presents and from the books that many of the participants had studied, including those used for preparing for this trip. “As always, rather than from books alone, things are learned by confronting the reality and its protagonists, something that this program has certainly allowed us to do.” And if anyone though t they would get an “idea of the situation”, the three weeks of the MECP have brought to the fore “So many new questions! So many!”

The success of the program was once again this year assured by the collaboration of professors and the professionalism of the collaborators from Association pro Terra Sancta, but especially by the people who made themselves available to recount and construct with their realities “a mosaic of unforgettable faces,” as Maria concludes, “which I cannot resist taking into my heart and that have made me someone different”.

Discover more about this initiative!

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