Thirty young Americans of Palestinian origin arrived in the Holy Land for a 20-day program to make them discover their country and cultural heritage, and to strengthen their links with the land of their ancestors
They come from 13 different states in the U.S. but their parents come from Ramallah, Birzeit, Ramleh, Jaffa, Nazareth and Gaza. For many, it is their first visit to the country and their first time to see Jerusalem.
The group arrived in Bethlehem after crossing the border between Jordan and the Palestinian Territories. They were personally greeted by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad with church and civic representatives. 1,500 people gathered at the Convention Hall in Bethlehem to welcome them. “You are the ambassadors of Palestine,” said the Prime Minister, reminding them of the importance of the Palestinian youths’ presence abroad. This event marked the beginning of many activities, visits to the Holy Place, meeting with Palestinian and international personalities and especially with local families.
The group was received at the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem on Thursday, July 21st. Bishop William Shomali welcomed them. “Those who have emigrated are often among the best elements of a nation,” assured the Bishop, “you have the richness of languages, two cultures, two attitudes. You can be real bridges between Palestine and the West, and give a radiant image of your country in the world.”
Following this meeting, the young people went to a cocktail party organized by the Caritas Center at Notre Dame and met with Claudette Habesch, Caritas Secretary General.
The program “Know thy Heritage,” organized by the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HLCE, the Ecumenical Foundation of the Holy Land, ed) and several local NGOs, supported by the Bank of Palestine, is intended to strengthen the sense of attachment of young Palestinians in the Diaspora to their homeland, from a historical and cultural perspective, as well as in politics and economics. The 2011 edition of “Live and Visit Palestine” is a pilot, but could become an annual event and spread to countries where the Palestinian diaspora is present.