HCEF's Journey to Bethlehem for Peace brings 1000 Palestinian children to visit the city of Bethlehem and the Church of Nativity on Sunday, December 1, 2013. For many children this will be their first visit to the city of Christ's birth despite the fact that many of them live nearby. Journey to Bethlehem for Peace is an annual event that is conducted in partnership with the Bethlehem Local Youth Council and the Christian Sunday Schools and many other local and international partners.


The children will be visiting from the following cities in Palestine: Beit Jala, Beit Sahour, Jericho, Ramallah, Jifna, Zababdeh, Birzeit, Ein Arik, Taybeh, Nablus, Aboud, and Nazareth. The mayors of these cities along with other prominent community leaders have also been invited to join the children in the Journey to Bethlehem and kick off this year's Christmas Season in Palestine!

 

Once they arrive in the city, the children will take part in special performances highlighting the importance of Christmas, their dignity as individuals, and also the need for Palestinians to stand together in times of struggle. In fact, the Journey itself promotes solidarity among Palestinian communities who may otherwise feel fractured as a consequence of Israeli occupation. The Journey is done in special consideration of the children of these communities, that they may get to know and develop a connection with one another and retain that feeling of togetherness long after the Christmas season ends. 

After the performances are over, the children will gather together for the main event: the procession through the Old City of the Bethlehem to the Church of the Nativity. The children will be joined by the local Scout troop as well as prominent religious and civic leaders, including Her Excellency Vera Baboun, the Mayor of Bethlehem. Each child will march through the old stone roads of Bethlehem carrying colored balloons and messages of peace, love, and hope to be seen by the local community and the international visitors witnessing the event. 

 

When the children reach Manger Square they will release their balloons into the sky, an act symbolizing the spreading of peace, love and hope throughout Palestine and into the rest of the world! The children will then visit the Church of the Nativity to witness first hand where the Savior of the world was born, where the first ever Christmas was celebrated. 

Later in the evening the city of the Bethlehem will conduct the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. Thus, in conjunction with the Journey to Bethlehem, the Christmas Season will be officially underway!

 

Unfortunately, the children of Gaza will be unable to attend the event, but, to be sure, they have not been forgotten. On December 14th at 5:30 PM, HCEF will be conducting its Simulcast Christmas Message of Peace at the Nativity Church in Bethlehem. Bethlehem, Washington D.C. and Gaza will be brought together through a simultaneous video feed to share in singing, prayer, and messages of encouragement in the spirit of Christmas. For more information on this special event, click HERE!

HCEF extends its gratitude to the Bethlehem Heart of Christmas partners: the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Amermenian Patriarchate, Bethlehem Local Youth Council, Catholic Relief Services, St. Catharine Parish – Bethlehem, One Voice Palestine, the World Vision Jerusalem, Caritas Jerusalem, the Pontifical Mission of Jerusalem, German Association for the Holy Land, and to the many others who support and share in the vision of HCEF.  

Please join us this year in welcoming the children of Palestine to Bethlehem and in starting the Christmas season with the peace, love, and hope that these children represent! Whether or not you can make it to the event itself, please consider providing a truly special Christmas gift by sponsoring a child or even a bus so that as many children as possible may partake in the joy and celebration of the Journey to Bethlehem! 

For more information about the Bethlehem Heart of Christmas Program or HCEF and its many other programs, please contact John Hanna, Communications Intern, HCEF at jhanna@hcef.org  or visit us at www.hcef.org