Below I am posting the latest newsletter, emailed out on Thursday, of the Alternative Tourism Group. The ATG is a Palestinian NGO founded in 1995 and based in Bethlehem whose mission is to promote what might be thought of as “justice tourism.” That is to say, it facilitates tours and Holy Land pilgrimages so that visitors from abroad might see for themselves the realities of the Israeli occupation.
You can go here to visit the ATG website. The group makes a special effort to reach out to Christians and to church tour groups to “come and see”– specifically to undertake “a journey of truth and transformation that will reveal the love of God to you through the eyes of the Palestinian people who, despite having suffered decades of occupation and dispossession–maintain their dignity, faith, and capacity for hope.”
Special programs offered by ATG include the Olive Campaign, the Nativity Trail, and the “Home Stay” program, the latter offering visitors the opportunity to spend up to several weeks in the homes of local Palestinian families. The Nativity Trail, as you would expect from the name, affords visitors a chance to hike the trail followed by Mary and Joseph as they journeyed from Nazareth to Bethlehem, while the Olive Campaign takes visitors on a ten-day tour of Palestinian farmlands that is timed to occur during the olive harvest season. That season takes place each year during the month of October, and the next tour begins this coming Saturday, October 14, and will run through October 23. Should you make the trip, it may leave you with some memories you may never forget:
Since the year 2000, the olive harvest has been overshadowed by the Israeli policies of repression, closure, blockage of streets, confiscation of agricultural lands, as well as repeated attacks against Palestinian farmers by Israeli settlers and military. Now with the construction the Apartheid Wall and the continuous expansion of Israeli settlements at the expense of agricultural land in the occupied Palestine, many farmers are separated from their trees, and help is most needed.
And yes, in case you’re wondering, should you make the trip, you will get a chance to help with the olive picking.
Last month, the ATG held an international conference in Jordan that drew supporters from nine different countries. At the confab’s conclusion, the participants issued “a letter to Churches and to Palestine Solidarity Groups around the world who seek justice in Palestine.” The emailed newsletter mentioned above focuses on the conference and the letter it produced. It also mentions the most recent edition of The Alternative Journal, the organization’s periodical.
Below is an excerpt from the email, followed by links to the letter in PDF form and to the periodical.
In this issue of the Palestine & Palestinians newsletter, we would like to highlight 2 main important issues that took place for the ATG.
The Alternative Tourism Group and Kairos Palestine organized the 5th international meeting for the International Reference Group on the Pilgrimage for Transformation. The group, represented in 21 members, from 9 different countries met to discuss an action plan to place the tourism situation in Palestine at the forefront, taking into consideration all the obstacles that are placed on this sector, nationally and internationally.
The International Reference Group met in Madaba, Jordan, from the 14th till the 16th of September 2017, and has come up with concrete recommendations and actions that will be followed in the coming 2 years.
The following, is a letter concluded by the workshop, an invitation to solidarity, to come and see, to join the Pilgrimage for Transformation.
We invite all of you to share this letter with churches, and Palestinian solidarity groups, to have the voice of Palestinians, the voice of the living stones, heard.
The second , is the publication of the newest Alternative Tourism Journal, Sustainable Just Tourism in Palestine. ATG is continuously working on publishing reports and papers specialized in the tourism sector in Palestine.
Furthermore, we would like to remind you of our upcoming campaigns, the Nativity Trail, and the Olive Picking Campaign.