Christmas 2017 in Palestine: Though the city of Hebron itself is vast majority Muslim our volunteers here at the Excellence Center who celebrate Christmas still found many opportunities to celebrate the winter holiday in Palestine. Today we speak with two of our current and two of our former volunteers who met up with each other to enjoy the special holiday even though they are thousands of miles from home.
Maneesha and Alexa are currently volunteering with us, both are from the United States. Maneesha is fifty-two and is bringing her expertise in software engineering to our universities here in Palestine; Alexa is twenty-nine and participates in our “Volunteer to Write about Palestine” program. Maneesha and Alexa traveled the short trip to Jerusalem to meet up with their friends who formally volunteered with us at the Excellence Center. Upon finished their time volunteering with us, Ola from the United States and Coco from Germany chose to travel around Israel. They visited Nazareth, Ramallah and Tel Aviv before settling in to Jerusalem for a several day stay. Ola had just completed her time volunteering with us at the Excellence Center in our “Teach English and Learn Arabic” program and we had the pleasure of celebrating her twenty-second birthday with her here in Palestine. Coco is twenty-three and works as a midwife back in her home country of Germany.
Maneesha and Alexa traveled to Jerusalem two days before Christmas to meet up with Ola and Coco to celebrate the holiday. The four of them stayed in a hostel right at the opening of the Old City of Jerusalem by Jaffa Gate. The city was bustling with Holiday energy and the shop keepers presented and array of goods along the streets of the old city. Alexa had never been to the “new city” of Jerusalem and while looking for a pharmacy she witnessed it for the first time, “it’s so strange walking from the old city right into the new city, it’s like immediate culture shock.”
The four of them visited Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity (the site of Jesus’s birth and manger) the day before Christmas eve and they marveled at the massive Christmas Tree all lit up in the square outside in the central square which peacefully houses both the church and a mosque. On Christmas Eve the four took the beginning of the day easy and then eventually wandered through the old city off Jerusalem looking for spices and shopping for groceries for their planned Christmas Eve dinner. Additionally, keeping with the spirit of the Holiday they also picked up some presents for family and friends back home.
After cooking a delicious meal in the hostel kitchen with fresh spices from the old city they relaxed in preparation for their long planned night. After recharging our volunteers met up with other internationals from the hostel and went to Midnight Mass at the Abbey in Jerusalem. Upon the concluding of the service there was a reception of coffee, tea, chocolates, challah and Nutella. Then their night really began. Our volunteers along with other internationals took part in the popular Christmas Eve walk from Jerusalem to Bethlehem and not even the chill and rain could deter them. Upon reaching Bethlehem they were permitted to enter the Church of the Nativity which all four agreed was the highlight of their trip.