For all Italian volunteers, workers and workers who live in Bethlehem, Christmas also means “tombolata”. As usual in the rooms of the Hotel Casanova, after the Mass and a moment of reflection, we find ourselves for a dinner, rigorously of Italian cuisine, and immediately after one of the most awaited moments for adults and children: the game of bingo! Sister Laura draws the first issue and starts: among the “both!” And “quaterna!”, Sometimes she also flies some beans, laughing and playing all together like in a big family. A happy way to get together again, exchange Christmas greetings and greet the newcomers and those who have ended their adventure and prepare to go home, like Filippo, Anastasia Giulia and Fabio. In fact, they are concluding their adventure which began a year ago, from the presentation to the application for the civil service announcement “A passo da Terra2” issued by Consorzio Icaro and ATS pro Terra Sancta. Vincenzo, head of ATS Bethlehem, tells us how this collaboration was born: “Consorzio Icaro is a socially aware association in Foggia that I met directly on the field in Bethlehem and with whom the idea of collaborating for a civil service project was born. with a socio-educational and cultural mission “. Four young people arrived with very different backgrounds and experiences, who put their skills at the service of the Betlemite community and beyond.
Anastasia had been able to study the Palestinian situation on her university path in conflict resolution, but living in Bethlehem also allowed her to touch what she had studied in books: “It was a profound experience of rediscovering oneself because I had to put myself in the game, coming into contact with work and social realities with which I had never before had anything to do “. Anastasia has lent her service to various charitable works present in Bethlehem with which ATS pro Terra Sancta actively collaborates, taking care of the last, very often left on the margins of society: the disabled, deaf children of the “Effetà Paolo VI” Institute, psychiatric adults at the “House of Peace” of the Sisters of Mother Teresa and the elders of the Antonian Society. “What struck me most was the realization that human beings are able to live and survive in contexts of great difficulty, and despite everything being able to lead a normal life in the most positive way possible”.
For Filippo, however, was not the first time in the Holy Land, he had already been here with the MECP Middle East Community Program a few years ago and for a short period of volunteer work for several months, but the civil service allowed him to spend a longer period. “Time is never enough to understand this Earth and this place” tells us Philip, also a student of political science, “But staying here for a long time gave me a broader perspective with which to look at the facts that surround us. It was priceless to be able to meet many people and their stories; even with all his problems and difficulties, Bethlehem made me feel like living in a community “.
Giulia and Fabio, instead, had to move often with local means to reach other places of work: “We have experienced the true life of the Palestinians: the traffic, the long queues at the check-points and the uncertainty of being able to reach the place of work, but at the same time the collaboration and solidarity of the people in line “. Fabio, a recent graduate in History and Sciences of Religions, came every day to work in the current archive of the Secretariat of the Custody of the Holy Land in Jerusalem, while Giulia, a young architect, followed throughout the Holy Land Osama Hamdan, the architect responsible for the projects restoration of ATS pro Terra Sancta and the Custody.
“In Betania I found a family” says Giulia “I saw as a barrier the not knowing how to speak the local language and as an obstacle my being a woman in a purely male environment. In reality immediately my prejudice was denied: I received esteem and respect, I was able to follow jobs that probably a new architect in Italy would not have access to “.
Everyone, returning home to celebrate Christmas in their families, brings home a piece of humanity encountered in these lands, perhaps the most precious gift of this experience.