If anyone is looking for an amazing summer experience for 2011, or know of someone who might be interested in traveling to the Middle East, I would highly recommend the Palestine Summer Encounter program. Many of you know that in the summer of 2005, I went and lived in Beit Sahour (a small town right next to Bethlehem) and spent the summer living with a Palestinian family, working for a Palestinian non-profit and learning (or attempting to learn) Arabic. I was able to afford it because of my grant from the Fund for Theological Education and will be forever grateful for that grant (primarily because it was at the first FTE conference that I met my wife Sarah…).
The Palestine Summer Encounter was an amazing experience for me. We had a really unique and diverse group of participants – many from the US – but others from around the world as well. I loved getting a chance to live in the Middle East and experience the culture, food and amazing historical sites in the region. We took weekend trips and got to visit sites like Jerusalem, Jericho, and the Dead Sea.
Of course, one of the most important aspects of the trip was learning about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and meeting and hearing from groups on all sides of the issue. I learned a lot about the situation politically, but I also got to hear stories from families whose lives were forever changed by the conflict that has been going on for far too long. I blogged a lot while I was there, and you can find some of those posts linked to here. If you’ve thought about going to the Middle East before, and would like to take part in such a great program (or know others who may be interested), please let them know about the Palestine Summer Encounter.