“Come and see” – Jesus urges those who want to know more about his life and teachings. The same invitation to “come and see” is at the heart of travel to the Holy Land, but genuine pilgrimage goes beyond visits to the “dead stones” of the holy sites.
Genuine pilgrimage incorporates the reality of daily life for the “living stones,” the Palestinian Christians whose roots go back to Pentecost. Today, along with their Muslim brothers and sisters, they suffer the hardships of life under occupation in Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank and of second-class citizenship in Israel. Despite their suffering, many work closely with Jewish Israelis who are seeking safety and security for all the peoples of the land.
To grasp the reality of life today in Palestine/Israel, we need to see and experience discrimination against Palestinian Israeli citizens and occupation in operation at the wall, the checkpoints, the demolished homes, the refugee camps.
EPF PIN recommends the following organizations that regularly sponsor and list trips focusing on these realities and on non-violent advocacy for justice as the basis of a meaningful peace:
- Christian Peacemaker Team
- Friends of Sabeel North America
- Green Olive Tours
- Interfaith Peace-Builders
- Joint Advocacy Initiative of East Jerusalem YMCA-YWCA of Palestine
- Tree of Life Interfaith Journeys
To organize an individual witness trip for your parish or diocese, contact the Alternative Tourism Group or The Siraj Center. Either will tailor a trip to your needs and enable you to engage with the people of the land — Christians, Muslims and Jews who are living and dying courageously for justice and ultimate freedom.
Participation in a witness trip primarily educates us but also reveals by our presence that we care, that we’re listening, that those who are suffering and working for justice are not forgotten. Our ministry of presence is an affirmation of those we meet and an invitation to seek specific ways upon return to act on our baptismal promise to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.”