Join us in a pilgrimage of transformation-
A journey for justice
Responding to the Palestinian Christian Call to
“Come and see”
Alternative Tourism group (ATG) invites you to 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.
Embarking on a pilgrimage for transformation and hope
The decision to visit the Holy Land is the first step in an incredible journey. Whether this will be your first pilgrimage to the Holy Land or you have visited many times before, we ask you to consider how Christians might best reflect the teachings of Jesus Christ when they are in the land where He walked. This journey will reveal —in contrast to daily headlines that make us feel helpless and inured to suffering and violence— that there is hope for bringing the fruits of peace to all. What is yet needed is the momentum and commitment of people of faith and courage. This pilgrimage of transformation will show us how each of us can be a peacemaker and proponent for justice in our own small or large ways.
Invited – to see the truth of Palestinian reality and speak truth to power
Your Palestinian brothers and sisters invite you to engage in a pilgrimage; to “Come and see” the truth of our reality. We desire that churches around the world visit us so we can receive you as pilgrims visiting us to pray, and carry to back a message of peace, love and reconciliation. We assure you of encounter through which we will come to know the facts about the people of the Holy Land - Palestinians and Israelis alike. Above all, we invite you to take back with you and “say a word of truth and to take a position of truth with regard to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land”.
Palestinian Christians – encountering the Living stones
Palestinian Christians have prepared guidelines for people like you – people whom we consider to be visionary pilgrims and visitors who seek authentic, face-to-face human encounters in the Holy Land, and who wish to connect with the Palestinian Christians -- the “Living Stones” and who share their faith. Indeed, are expectations from each of you is optimistic – that your pilgrimage will transform you into being an advocate for justice for our peoples.
Israel subjects Palestinians to a regime of apartheid and colonialism
Only a few months ago, an international tribunal found that “Israel subjects the Palestinian people to an institutionalized regime of domination amounting to apartheid as defined under international law. This discriminatory regimemanifests in varying intensity and forms against different categories of Palestinians depending on their location. The Palestinians living under colonial military rule in the Occupied Palestinian Territory are subject to a particularly aggravated form of apartheid. Palestinian citizens of Israel, while entitled to vote, are not part of the Jewish nation as defined by Israeli law and are therefore excluded from the benefits of Jewish nationality and subject to systematic discrimination across the broad spectrum of recognized human rights. Irrespective of such differences, the Tribunal concludes thatIsrael’s rule over the Palestinian people, wherever they reside, collectively amounts to a single integrated regime of apartheid”.
The state of Israel is legally obliged to respect the prohibition of apartheid contained in international law. In addition to being considered a crime against humanity, the practice of apartheid is universally prohibited.
Being transformational pilgrims
In this context, the invitation to you is to be as ‘Transformational pilgrims’ seeking to make a positive difference in the lives of the Palestinians. Meeting Palestinians who are living under occupation will be an act of solidarity that brings hope to us people and contributes to our economic development.
Palestinians have now developed compelling and unique tour itineraries and programmes for visitors and pilgrims with the ultimate goal of “promoting peace with justice for the people in the Holy Land.” Palestinians are particularly conscious of the tendency in the West to attach biblical and theological legitimacy to the infringement of their rights. It is for this reason that we invite Christians, to engage in a ‘pilgrimage less taken’ which will open up encounters and experiences that prompt a deeper and different kind of reflection of the Word of God and to rectify their interpretations so that they might see in the Word of God a source of life for all peoples. Beyond the rhetoric and the media spin is a reality of suffering that has been denied for decades.
The cry of Palestinian Christians
Palestinian Christians often bemoan the fact that Churches have done a grave disservice to their flocks by ignoring the plight of millions of dispossessed Palestinians. As Christians living in the Holy Land, we remain convinced that when our Christian sisters and brothers from around the world gain access to a more comprehensive picture of our reality, they will no longer be able to ignore their cry for peace with justice.
In many countries today, the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and the oppression this brings to their daily lives is not well understood and is often obscured in the media and by powerful interests. While some are misled and disempowered to speak or act, many Christians andother people of conscience feel disturbed by a one-sided narrative that justifies the ongoing occupation and its gross human rights violations.
The essence of true pilgrimage
With this background, some come to the Holy Land as spectators, touring holy sites
as they would museums, not caring or realizing that for Palestinian Christians these are living places of worship. Reflecting the pious practices of the Pharisees, they search for a personal blessing, seeking to renew an egocentric, individualistic faith. What they choose to see and do only reinforces their prejudices, preconceived notions, and limited understanding of a complex situation. Yet true faith requires more from a Christian than purveying stereotypes and untruths and supporting injustice. The genuine Christian pilgrim seeks the living Christ in the now, in solidarity with the oppressed, the poor, and the imprisoned. They look for truth and seek justice, supporting and blessing both Palestinian and Israeli peacemakers. Christianpilgrimage must comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
Challenge to the theological community
Based on the relationships a pilgrim group may build with Palestinian Christians on their pilgrimage, pathways to truth, peace, and reconciliation by:
- Listening to the Biblical reflections of local Christians, the descendants of the first Christians, whose experiences have given them a deep and personal understanding of the Scriptures that forms the basis of Palestinian Christian theology.
- Making connections between your lifestyles and the national policies of your countries and the injustices Palestinians live with each and every day. As these connections become clear, accept the responsibility to respond by working for a transformation in our own lives and home communities.
- Experiencing the diverse environment of Palestine by accompanying Christian Palestinians on visits to our Muslim brothers and sisters to share and learn from each other.
- Offering a voice of comfort to the Palestinian people as you hear about their daily humiliation, anger, frustrations, and struggles.
- Committing to stand with Palestinians in their struggle for dignity and freedom.
For you as Christian pilgrims, what should be even more important than the holy sites are the communion of living saints at the pilgrimage places. Journeying to a place of divine blessing, presence, and power should be done in the context of human living. Because we are all members of Christ’s body, we cannot be witnesses to other Christians’ lives without caring about their expressions of faith, their traditions, their joys and struggles.
The Living Stones- Keepers of the sacred traditions of the Holy Land
For decades, millions of Christian have journeyed to the Holy Land and returned home without even realizing that their pilgrimage was missing something very important: face-to-face human encounters with those who share their faith. Palestinian Christians’ continuous presence for more than 2,000 years in the land of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection gives them a unique connection to Christianity and its traditions. They also share, along with the rest of the Arab world, a culture of hospitality renowned for its warmth and generosity. In addition, Palestinian Christians have vast experience welcoming pilgrims to their land, continuing a tradition their ancestors began centuries ago. As hosts, the Palestinian Christians are able to show visitors holy sites rarely seen by ordinary tourists and can illuminate these sites with a faith that is physically linked to these places.
For Palestinian Christians, the holy sites are not mere tourist destinations —they are often their own local churches— places that have meaning in their every day worship. The people in these communities -- the “Living Stones” -- are the keepers of sacred tradition in the Holy Land and protectors of the places that mark events in the life of Christ and the prophets.