Bethlehem -- Intercultural crossroad

A group of British, Irish and Arab college women met in Bethlehem this past summer in connection with a cultural activity that has now taken place the last three years. The goal was to foster intercultural dialogue and facilitate mutual understanding in this part of the world through cultural and social activities uniting members of the different communities.

The project was jointly organized by Biranta Study Center in Jerusalem, Glenalvon Cultural Centre in Glasgow, Scotland, and Glenard University Residence in Dublin, Ireland. This year the program consisted in an intensive course in English and Hebrew for Palestinian girls from Bethlehem. Volunteers from Scotland and Ireland gave the English classes while Arab teachers took charge of the Hebrew classes.

The activities included seminars in philosophy for the British and Irish students organized in Jerusalem by Biranta Study Center. Visits were made to the Holy Places in Galilee and Jerusalem and to other sites of historical and cultural interest. The European volunteers shared lodgings with the Arab teachers and met with Jewish students who had taken part in a similar project in previous years.

The president of the “Arab Women’s Union” of Bethlehem made available the site where the activities were held for the 43 participants. The course included classes of grammar and conversation, and seminars on the need for dialogue and understanding to construct a common future. Excursions were organized to areas not always accessible to the students, including the fertile hills of Ain Karim. An evening for the students’ families was also organized.

For their part, the Arab families offered the volunteers warm hospitality, inviting them to meals and helping them discover their rich local traditions.

Romana, n. 31, July-December 2000, p. 280.

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