Many pilgrims to the Holy Land return home having had no contact with local Christians or only perhaps some members of foreign churches who all have a presence there. Groups are often accommodated in Jewish hotels and taken to eat at Jewish restaurants by Jewish tour guides. It used to demand an great effort to make contact with the indigenous Christians, even if their existence was known about.
Now there are ways to meet Arab Christians, Palestinian Israelis who have been the caretakers of our Christian heritage for over two thousand years. They have suffered greatly since the State of Israel was created but have not faltered in their faith and live peacefully, but not acceptingly as oppressed, second class citizens.
If you are or know someone who is organising a pilgrimage, it is now possible to connect with the Christian communities and give the pilgrimage a new vibrant dimension. Archbishop Chacour will welcome and give a talk to visiting groups himself, if he is available at the time.
Otherwise, Elias Abu Ghanima, head teacher, another inspiring speaker, at Mar Elias Educational Institutions will be available for this. Please send enquiries to ASHRAY at email@example.com
Staying in a Christian community not only gives visitors an insight into the life of Holy Land Christians but also puts money into the local economy which is quite deprived compared with the Jewish areas and settlements.
MELKITE GUESTHOUSE IN GALILEE
Mar Elias Educational Institutions Guesthouse, Ibillin
Mar Elias Guesthouse is about half an hours drive north of Nazareth – a good base from which to explore northern Galilee especially the wonderful Crusader fortified town of Acre (Acco) with its Medieval old underground city, ancient souk and harbour. Large groups can be catered for. Rooms are en-suite with airconditioning and there is a large dining hall and large library/sitting/meeting room, comfortably furnished with TV, DVD and video. The laundry room is on the roof top. A computer with wi-fi is available for use by guests. This is a modern guesthouse on the fourth floor of the elementary school (there is a lift!).
The views from all windows are extensive and the roof top gives a 360° panorama including Haifa bay and the Lebanese border hills. If staying during term time you will be greeted by crowds of joyful, young children in the playgound all wanting to meet you and practice their english with you. A guided tour of the Mar Elias Educational Institutions and the new Church of the Sermon on the Mount is available. Please ask for this when booking to make sure someone is on site when required. Please send enquiries to ASHRAY at firstname.lastname@example.org