Pilgrims Together in Solidarity with HCEF in Bethlehem

On May 10-23 and June 1-12, the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation facilitated the pilgrimages of two American groups that each spent over a week participating in HCEF’s Living Stones Pilgrimage program. They walked in the land of Jesus, visiting places prominent in the Bible, giving God plenty of time to work within their lives, and met the “Living Stones”- faithful Christians who live and worship even today in the Holy Land.




Pilgrims learn about the many programs HCEF has to serve those in need.  

In the words of HCEF President/CEO, Sir Rateb Rabie, KCHS: “HCEF’s Living Stones Pilgrimage sets out to bring Christians home to Palestine, connecting them with the roots of their faith and building solidarity with their brothers and sisters in Christ. It is an opportunity to put faith into action, to join HCEF in replacing despair with hope, fear with human security, and humiliation with dignity.” These two pilgrimages fulfilled this mission.

The two pilgrimage groups were part of Pax Christi International (PCI) and First Presbyterian Church (FPC) of Boulder, CO, led by Pilgrimage Director Robert Cooke and Reverend Dr. Carl Hofmann, respectively. Their visit to the Holy Land included all of the places that correspond to the most significant events in the life of Christ: the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, site of Christ’s birth; the field where the shepherds heard the Good News; the Church of Annunciation in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth, the site where Mary first learned she would bear the Son of God; the Via Dolorosa, or “Way of the Cross,” the fourteen station path that marks Christ’s journey in Jerusalem to his crucifixion as well as his triumphant resurrection – these latter two sites are found in the Holy Sepulcher Church. 


The Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem – The Path Christ walked bearing His Cross for Humanity. 

The pilgrims not only saw these profound holy sites, along with many other places of great historical significance, but they also encountered the Living Stones of the Holy Land firsthand. The Living Stones are those Christian Palestinians who have carried the traditions of their ancestors – the first followers of Christ – to the present day. Some of these living stones include HCEF’s own staff in Bethlehem, pictured with FPC above.

The groups also met with the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, HB Fouad Twal, Palestinian students of Bethlehem University, and they had the special opportunity of breaking bread with Palestinian elders at HCEF’s Birzeit Senior Citizen Center (BSCC)


A pilgrim admires an original work of Palestinian embroidery.

PCI also took part in their 15th Annual Meeting of the Holy Land Coordination, in Bethlehem, which focused on the situation of vulnerable Christians in the Middle East. This conference was consistent with the LSP’s theme of being conscientious of present concerns in the context of a historically rich journey.


HCEF’s Regional Manager, Anthony Habash guides pilgrims through the treasures of Palestine’s past.


Both groups also were among the first pilgrims to visit HCEF most recent and successful project: The Bethlehem Museum. At the Museum, the pilgrims were given a tour by HCEF’s Regional Director, Eng. Anthony Habash, who introduced them to its rare collection of Palestinian artifacts such as centuries-old ceramics/pottery, glass, paintings, icons, olive wood and mother of pearl – treasures that exist as tangible proof of the substantial role Palestinians, the “Living Stones,” have played in the Holy Land’s grand story.

Although the groups finally departed from the Holy Land, their pilgrimages did not end there. They will never forget the places they have visited and the faces they have seen. They will never read or hear the gospels in the same way. Their ears, eyes, minds and hearts have been opened in this unforgettable pilgrimage to the lands where Jesus Christ lived, died, and was resurrected.

HCEF is proud to have worked with Pax Christi International and with the First Presbyterian Church, and to have facilitated their time in the Holy Land, introducing them to the Living Stones. 

If you are interested in organizing a life-changing pilgrimage, please contact Andrew Griswold, HCEF’s Pilgrimage Manager by email: agriswold@hcef.org or by phone: 301 458-7060