"When I think back to the summer I spent in Palestine, I usually tear up because I remember all the memories, emotions and people that came with the experience. However, amongst all the struggle and conflict, I want to share one of my favorite memories that represented hope amongst all the despair: Mohammed Assef, the Palestinian who won Arab Idol. I remember spending every Saturday night watching the competition with my host family, anxiously waiting in the center of Beit Sahour to hear the results and finally getting to see him perform in Bethlehem.
What I loved most about being in Palestine when Mohammed Assef won was that I got to be part of an experience filled with hope. It was absolutely moving to be surrounded by Palestinians that felt alive again amongst the ongoing occupation."
Alana Del Vecchio PSE 2013
"Last year I attended a lecture at Central CT State University presented by Miko Peled, an Israeli peace activist. During his presentation, he spoke about the Holy Land Trust and the Palestine summer experience. I wanted to understand more about the conflict between Israelis and the Palestinians. I was a 62-year young American woman who basically believed what the news media allowed us to see. After attending the lecture, I decided I wanted to volunteer with Palestine Summer Encounter, to experience for myself what I had NO knowledge about. I also had NO understanding of the events that led up to the illegal Israeli Occupation of Palestine.
Palestine Summer Encounter opened my eyes to the reality of what it is like to live locked behind the separation Wall on a daily basis. I still cannot believe what the Palestinians have endured over the past sixty years and what they continue to endure as shared by the family I lived with, and by many other Palestinians and Israelis that we met. The most amazing thing is how the Palestinians have retained their amazing spirit! I felt so welcomed by everyone I spoke with and met while at PSE. By the end of my time in Palestine, I had a new family that I loved... many new friends from around the world... and I am happy to let you know I consider Palestine my other home. Inshallah"
Lila Coddington Middlebury, Connecticut, USA- PSE Participant 2013
“My two months on Palestine Summer Encounter allowed me to be able to engage with a place more than I ever had done before. The beauty of creative resistance that exists within the people of Palestine and Israel is something of complete awe. My time spent there was perhaps the most influential thing I’ve ever done, it has greatly ignited my passion for social justice and encouraged me to advocate for the injustice of this conflict as much as I can. People were unbelievably welcoming and I feel incredibly touched to have been able to learn from those I meet. I have been deeply touched and moved by my experience.
I could be hearing cars go by, sounds from the market nearby, or calls of prayer but there was an overwhelming sense of peace. A feeling of beauty is created when communities facing such destruction co-exist. I witnessed Christian families share and make food for Iftars during Ramadan and Muslim families sharing among Christians as well. Palestine can be overwhelmingly peaceful.”
Julia Brown- PSE Participant 2013
“Every year has something special for every person, and 2013 was one of my favorite years! One of my ambitions came true when I started working with Palestinian teenage girls, and since I believe in women’s’ rights, I believe in those young girls as I believe in myself; they can change the world and they can become great leaders! During the year, we held many sessions with different trainers and it was very beneficial to the girls. For example, some sessions included music, art, drama, meditation, and body healing and building trust within the group. I could see a difference in their character in every meeting. I mean how they used to be so quiet and didn't know how to express themselves and how they became now; they can express their feelings about anything they want freely and they know what they want to do in life. I would like to thank one of my biggest inspirations in 2013 while working with this group, Dianne G Brause, for adding her input in this project and providing great ideas to work on through her experience. I also extend my thanks to Holy Land Trust for giving me the chance to work on such an amazing project and for believing in me.”
Nijmeh Hodali- Project Coordinator- Girls Empowerment Project Holy Land Trust
“Traveling around was indeed the highlight of my year! I was committed to a women leadership program – a challenging experience that helped me discover and develop my potential to care for myself, others and the world around me in unfamiliar settings. I had the chance to visit Croatia, Turkey, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Germany in one year! I was glad to come back to the office with a renewed confidence and enthusiasm, ready to take on the challenges of the tourism industry.”
Rana Salman- Travel Coordinator Holy Land Trust
“I can’t believe how amazing 2013 was! I witnessed transformation during every project I worked on this year. Many people have served with me, either in the home rebuilding project or during the olive harvest season. In April, we had our 6th home rebuilding project. With the help of our supporters from Amos Trust in the UK, the house was finished in two weeks in Battir village in Bethlehem. The logo of the campaign was “Challenging Injustice. Rebuilding Hope” and it was an amazing feeling for me to bring hope back to a family that lost so much. In the Fall, we helped six families to pick their olives during the harvest season. I was happy to accompany three groups coming from the USA, Canada, and Italy to help pick olives in groves where farmers were threatened by settler violence. I invite you to join us next year for an unforgettable experience!”.
Marwan Fararjeh- Field Coordinator