Who They Are?
- The Holy Land Trust (HLT) is a nonprofit Palestinian organization committed to the principles of nonviolence. It seeks to develop spiritual, pragmatic, and strategic approaches that empower Palestinian communities to resist all forms of oppression. Its vision is to see the Holy Land as a global model and pillar of understanding, respect, justice, equality, and peaceful coexistence.
How Did They Start?
- Holy Land Trust was founded In 1998 by Sami Awad, the nephew of Nonviolence International's founder Mubarak Awad. Their current team includes Executive Director Elias Deis, Program Coordinator Said Zarzar, Logistic Coordinator Lara Mitri, Financial Manager Dima Hayek, Development Manager Thomas Trishler, and Sami Awad, who currently serves as the Programs Director. HLT is headquartered in Bethlehem where they have operated since the organization's founding.
What Is The Holy land?
- The Holy Land refers to an area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. The world’s three major monotheistic religions: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity find their origins here. The inhabitants have shared the land for thousands of years as each of the religions maintains at least one of their most sacred sites within the sacred area. Throughout history, religious groups have disputed and even fought over claims to the Holy Land and its inhabitants.
How Does HLT Approach The Situation Within The Holy Land?
- HLT believes that a lasting and just peace is achievable in the Holy Land and that its communities can live among each other with dignity, equality, and respect. To reach such a goal, HLT operates under the following values:
- Nonviolence: They invest in a deep commitment to nonviolence as a strategic and holistic means to resolving all conflicts, to resisting all forms of oppression, and to giving a voice to the marginalized and vulnerable.
- Understanding Trauma: They believe that healing collective and inherited traumas are key to peacemaking. Fear only enhances and strengthens structures of control, separation, and segregation, which merely produces more violence.
- Personal Transformation: They understand that most decisions humanity makes are motivated by past experiences. World leaders make decisions affecting hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people. Thus, they seek leadership that honors, respects, and learns from the past, but also recognizes an inspired future vision not driven by past trauma or hate.
- Awareness and Advocacy: They see the importance of accountability in the global community. While ending the occupation and injustice is the responsibility of local communities; major global decisions and policies have affected and continue to affect this region. Coming, learning, serving, building knowledge, and advocating for peace and justice when returning home is key for helping them achieve peace and justice.
What Type Of Work Do They Do?
- HLT is organized into two main focuses.
- Nonviolence Programs
- Travel and Encounter Experiences
- These programs are uniquely grounded in historical, political, and religious perspectives. They provide a foundation for understanding the events that have taken place in the Holy Land that shape Palestinian culture and tradition.
What Are Some Nonviolence Programs They Conduct?
- One of the main nonviolence programs they coordinate is the Home Rebuilding Project, which began in 2007 through their partnership with the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition (ICAHD). Over the last ten years, Israeli bulldozers have demolished over 6,000 Palestinian homes and structures. HLT has challenged this policy in tangible ways by investing in the reconstruction of demolished Palestinian homes. HLT has helped countless Palestinian families rebuild their homes originally lost to Israeli demolition.
- Another nonviolence initiative HLT organizes is the Olive Harvest Program which originated as a response to the Israeli military and Israeli settler movement uprooting, poisoning, and setting fire to hundreds of olive trees each year. Because of the necessity and importance of the program, the Olive Harvest has been one of Holy Land Trust’s longest-running programs. Whether it is a day trip or a two-week excursion, each year they facilitate hundreds of participants to go out with Palestinian farmers to pick their olives from their groves.
- Most recently, Holy Land Trust was one of the leading Palestinian organizations taking the lead in the 2017 Sumud Freedom Camp Coalition. The coalition ushered in one of the largest direct nonviolent actions in the community of Sarura, a small Palestinian hamlet in the South Hebron Hills. The action aimed to create “facts on the ground’ and restore a Palestinian presence to a community that had been vacant for decades. Over a year later, there is an ongoing presence on that land, fit with infrastructure and community outreach.
What About The Tours They Lead?
- A core programmatic initiative, HLT organizes travel itineraries to bare witness to the history, geography, culture, and spirituality of the Holy Land. The tours allow their participants to meet those who are marginalized and oppressed to hear their untold stories, as well as learn from religious leaders, politicians, and community activists involved in the nonviolent resistance movement on the ground. HLT tours include:
- Iktashef: This summer-long journey is specifically geared for participants who are looking for a deeper investment into the dynamics shaping the Holy Land.
- Christian Pilgrimage: This tour offers participants a chance to visit the Holy Land on a pilgrimage and walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, often facilitating a profound turning point in their spiritual journey.
- Fact-Finding Tour: This 14-day tour gives its participants a schedule that includes meeting with religious leaders, politicians, and community activists who will share the strategies they employ to reach a peace settlement.
- Holy Land Pilgrimage: This tour explores the spiritual underpinnings of the Holy Land and how its geography, history, and culture have shaped our understandings of life and God. Through this tour, participants will have the space to engage with the locals in authentic ways to come to a deeper understanding of what the Holy Land has meant to them and how they see God’s role in bringing communities together through love.
- Cultural Awareness Travel: With stops throughout Israeli, Palestine, and Jordan, this tour connects our participants to the deep history of the Holy Land through the intimate sharing of the local people. This intimate context provides a broader canvas of understanding when visiting the historical site, engaging with cultural performances, and meeting with civic and religious leaders.
What Is The "Bet Lahem Live Festival"?
- Started in 2013, this event is the largest creative resistance festival in Palestine. Over 25,000 participants from across the globe come to Bet Lahem Live to join in innovative social change and cultural performances. For four days, live music, theater, comedy, and art are performed. Combined with workshops on spirituality and social responsibility, this event promotes a movement of peace and equality among the Holy Land communities. All the events are held along Star Street, a traditional pilgrimage route for Christians.