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Touring to both Israel and the Palestinian Territories is getting even easier. A new Palestinian and Israeli experiential tourism project, Breaking Bread Journeys, aims to reach tourists seeking to engage with locals and visit important biblical and other sites. The new program was created by two tour operators, Christina Samara, a Palestinian and owner of Samara Tourist and Travel Agency, and Elisa Moed, founder of Israel-based Travelujah. Both women were introduced by Tony Blair's Quartet Initiative and are launching this new tourism concept with the support of the United States Agency for International Development under the Compete Project in the West Bank, which emphasizes economic development, including tourism, as a path to peace and stability.
"We realized that travel brings people together in many positive ways and helps in the pursuit of stability, prosperity and peace in the entire Holy Land," said Christina Samara. "So we designed a set of very special Palestinian and Israeli cultural and historic tours that include many of the classical sites that both of our companies have long been offering."
"However, we believed that what tourists really want is to experience the land in a personal way and we knew that by working together we could provide authentic experiences that would otherwise be virtually impossible," explained Elisa Moed. "Each of our experiences provides opportunities for small groups to engage directly with local communities. These include experiences for faith-based clientele, as well as other market segments that are keen to learn and enjoy local traditional cuisine, art, and music and, of course, break bread with the people of the land."
Photo credit: Travelujah; Breaking bread journeys engaging with Palestian womens in Nablus
Tourism to the Holy Land is important for both Israelis and Palestinians. In 2012, the Israeli tourism industry received 3.5 million visitors, and the Palestinian tourism industry received over 1.8 million visitors. In fact, visitors to the Palestinian Territories increased over 40% from 2007 to 2012 - a positive sign that the region can safely receive increasing numbers of visitors.
"We are exhibiting at the World Travel Market from November 4th to the 7th at EM575 and look forward to meeting tour operators, media and organizations interested in offering our rich, comprehensive cultural experiences in the Holy Land," said Samara.
Samara Tourist and Travel Agency is being supported in the development of this initiative by the United States Agency for International Development through their COMPETE project in the West Bank as part of the Agency's strategy to develop the Palestinian tourism sector and to make a significant impact in job creation and increased investment.
For more information, contact Christina Samara at +970-54-237-5288 or Elisa Moed at +970-52-744-4033. They can also be reached via email at: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
The website is www.breakingbreadjourneys.com
Standing in a lovely one story Ottoman period home, overlooking the picturesque valley of the Yemenites, in one of the most enviable locations in Israel, it is hard to imagine that when the original residents of this community came to their homes nearly 70 years ago, the area was an abandoned village without electricity or water, situated in an undesirable area isolated from population centers, grocery stores and other services.
But today the area breathes tremendous life, culture and art. Twelve of the twenty four local families living here are participating in a project, Women and Tales of Jerusalem, that seeks to bring tourists to discover their village and along with it, the special foods, hospitality, culture and unique handicrafts that have brought much prominence to Ein Karem and the surrounding villages connected to it.
The Woman and Tales of Jerusalem is a special social tourism initiative spearheaded by Orly Ben Aharon, Jerusalem Mayors advisor for the advancement of women. According to Orly, the project started four years ago in an en effort to empower women and promote women businesses. It began with 28 women and now there are a total of 60 different women that host in their homes. Of these 8 are Orthodox and 52 are secular including several Moslem and Christian Arab residents of Jerusalem.
Tour participants have the opportunity to delve into the life of locals, to taste their foods, hear their stories and become familiar with their fascinating folklore. The project offers a variety of different types of tours around the city and includes tastings, cooking workshops, visits with artists and other talented local residents in their homes. The city supports project participants by providing regular training to teach home hospitality and business skills and acts as a administrative headquarters to many project participants.
The unique at-home hosting is a part of a worldwide trend of "social tourism" which allows tourists to go deeper and engage with locals on a very personal level .he city's women.
Efrat Ginat's home is situated just outside the heart of Ein Karem, in an area known as the Yemenite Valley. In 1949, in the secret operation known as Operation Magic Carpet, some 49000 Yemenite Jews were airlifted to Israel. They Yemenites traveled by foot across the desert where they eventually made their way onto ELAL flights that took them and their few belongings to Israel. Upon arrival, some of them were taken by bus to a small valley outside of Ein Karem, where a number of Ottoman period homes lied vacant. They were told that these abandoned homes were to be their new home and that they should take their families and get settled.
So they did.
Efrat described the story of her grandparents arrival. "They had no electricity or water. The Jewish Agency gave them the house, two goats and one chicken and were told that with that they would never go hungry." And with that, this small community began to take shape.
Today the primary residents in this picturesque community are the descendents of the original families and with the lovely surrounding landscape ,they enjoy one of the most enviable locations in Israel. Efrat's family still raises goats not so much for their cheese and milk but rather for what she calls ‘the health of her own family". Taking care of the goats, feeding and milking them and keeping them healthy teaches many important values to her children.
In addition to giving us a tour of her farm and meeting her goats, Efrat prepared a tasty breakfast for our group. One of the highlights was the Yemenite specialty bread known as Kubane, which is generally only prepared on Fridays for Shabbat.
After visiting with Efrat, we made our way to the home Dalia Harfootf, a Kurdish mother of five boys. Her parents arrived to Palestine in 1921 from Kurdistan.
With her lively demeaner Dalia had us dancing and then had us try some of the delicious sambusak she had prepared for her next group that was soon to arrive. An engaging story teller, we learned about how she did not have electricity even into the early 1970's. She ultimately authored a letter to Leah Rabin in 1974 asking her if she had to wash her husbands laundry by hand. Within days the remaining homes had electricity.
Over the last three years Dalia has welcomed over 3000 people to her home from all over the world. Her most recent group was from China.
So far the programs have primarily attracted local tourists, however, there is a strong desire to expand the project and to be included in tours organized for tourists from abroad. One tour operator Breaking Bread Journeys has been including a hallah making experience in a local Haredi home that was borne out of this program. The company offers such engaging experiences with locals in Israel and the Palestinian Territories each day as part of their tour. According to founder Christina Samara, tourists are seeking authentic experiences to meet locals and learn about the many cultures and narratives present. Participants go into the homes and cooperatives of residents in both areas and enjoy daily "breaking bread" opportunities. By going deep into the home and lives of locals and fostering understand, the project builds itself as a bridge for cooperation.
The Israel Tourism Ministry supports the initiative with training sessions for the women, as well as helping them with marketing. The program is still in its infancy, primarily serving local tourists from all over Israel. The Israel Tourism Ministry is working hard is to expand the project to international tourists from abroad who tend to have a very narrow view of Israel.
If you go: you can find more information on the Wonders of Jerusalem programs visit this link.
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Elisa L. Moed is the founder of Travelujah, the largest Christian travel network connecting Christians to Israel.
A new Holy Land tour initiative, Breaking Bread Journeys, was officially launched a couple weeks ago by two tourism industry veterans, Elisa Moed, CEO of Travelujah, and Christina Samara, President of Samara Tourist & Travel Agency. The women, one a Jewish Israeli, and the other a Christian Palestinian, are offering topical Holy Land tours where each day provides participants with a different cultural encounter. The tours essentially divide their allocated time between Israel and the Palestinina Territories and give participants a deeper experience with an 'insiders view' of the local culture as well as classical and off the path sites. In addition to "breaking bread" with locals and industry experts daily, the project breaks new ground with this entirely new type of Holy Land tour. The tours range from 6 - 8 days in length and include the following programs, Food and culture, Pilgrimage, Sustainability, Two Eyes (Political conflict) and the Holy Land thru Herod. All of the tours can be further customized depending on the size of the group.
An introductory 3 day 2 night Food and Culture program that includes Nablus, Jerusalem and Bethlehem is being offered January 27 - 29, 2014 for visitors to Israel and the Palestinian Territories. The land only program includes 3 days 2 nights in five star properties, all meals, entrance fees, guiding, transportation, workshops and entertainment and more. To learn more please contact email@example.com. To get a sense of the food and culture tour, watch this 4 minute video.