By Daniel Aqleh
Palestinian Coordinator in Bethlehem
It is always wonderful to know more about the land of Palestine, and it is important to integrate with the multi-religious and Palestinian-Israeli gatherings that open the doors for the building of bridges between the people who are living in the land.
With the Abrahamic Reunion, we have hosted a journey to the southern Palestine/Israel, where we first visited the city of Hura. We were welcomed there by the Imam and learned about the city that was important to all. One of the things we learned was that in 1948 the population of the city was 120,000 people, but because of Al-Nakbah only 12,000 people remained in the city while the others left and became refugees. According to the Imam, those 12,000 have become 300,000, due to the birth rate.
I thought we were in the south when we visited Hura, but I was astonished that we were in the middle of the country, 250km north is Ras Al Naqoura, Lebanon, and 250km south is the city of Eilat.
After a wonderful visit, we went to Netivot where we visited the Tomb of the Baba Sali, and had lunch where we met some students who are studying Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution at Tel Aviv University. It was a great time to meet internationals as well as locals from different cities in the country.
After a good time in Netivot, we visited the Gaza-Israel border wall at Netiv Ha’asara, where we were welcomed by a lady by the name of Roni. She explained how close we were to Gaza. In fact, we could see the wall that separates them from Gaza, it was 500 meters away from us, and also 500 meters from the other side starts the camps on the edge of Gaza City. We were 2.5km away from Gaza City, and because of the siege that the people in Gaza have faced for a long time, we held a prayer for protection and for God to come with his mercy and justice to the land.
The last stop was in Kfar Maimon where we had a tour of “Ora’s Orchard” an eco-farm. I was so surprised by the wonder of nature. We walked in a forest and I felt the peacefulness of nature and heard the sounds of birds. It was really wonderful to be away from all people and conflict at that moment and hear from the owner there about their story and ending the journey with a prayer for peace.
Thanks for everyone who has helped in any way, shape, or form to make this a successful journey and the ability to work together as Palestinians and Israelis with the multi-faith dialog and prayer for peace and justice in Palestine and Israel.