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Summer Camp in Palestine

Rediscovering Home and Embracing Sun-Kissed Adventures

By Nisreen Shahin

Living abroad is a transformative experience that broadens our horizons and exposes us to new cultures, perspectives, and opportunities. However, no matter how far we roam, an undeniable connection to our homeland beckons us back. For Palestinians who live in the diaspora, the journey to spend the summer in Palestine is a time of reconnection, nostalgia, and rediscovery. They embark on an adventure filled with cherished memories and a renewed sense of belonging. Stepping off the plane and setting foot on familiar soil after a long absence is a surreal experience as the scents of familiar spices waft through the air, the melodies of their native language fill their ears, and the smiles of their loved ones who joyfully anticipate the return of their beloved relatives and friends greet from afar. As they reconnect with family, childhood friends, and neighbors, a sense of belonging is evoked, and they are reminded of enduring bonds that transcend time and distance.

Iyad on a trip to the Dead Sea after a 4×4 adventure lead by the Bedouin community living in Nabi Musa.

When planning the ultimate summer getaway, Palestine shines brightly as an exceptional destination. Boasting breathtaking landscapes and a vibrant culture, Palestine offers an unforgettable summer experience for every traveler. What if such a summer is the first opportunity for Palestinian diaspora youths to rediscover their homeland? Summer in Palestine can be an exciting and memorable experience, especially for youngsters who visit their homeland for the first time.

Through Rise Up, a summer camp organized by Al-Bireh Society US in partnership with Palterhal for Adventure and Exploration, Palestinian youths who live in the diaspora come to spend an enjoyable summer in their homeland, a sojourn to reconnect with and rediscover Palestine. These youths immerse themselves in the rich culture and exciting traditions of the country of their origin as they explore the bustling markets in Nablus, Hebron, and Jerusalem that teem with local delicacies and beautiful handicrafts, indulge in the mouthwatering flavors of authentic cuisine, and savor traditional dishes that tell stories of Palestine heritage. They engage with welcoming locals and learn about their narratives and customs.

Ali and the campers at Ein Fara in Wadi Qelt, a valley near Jerusalem threatened by Israeli settlers.

One of the most endearing aspects of spending the summer in Palestine is that you get to experience the genuine warmth and hospitality of its people. Whether you interact with residents of small villages such as Deir Ghassaneh or Aboud or stay in cities such as Ramallah or Nablus, you will be greeted with open arms and friendly smiles. The locals’ generosity and willingness to share their culture and traditions will enrich your travel experience and forge lifelong connections.

For adventure enthusiasts, Palestine is an absolute playground during the summer months. You can embark on thrilling hikes to the Jordan Valley, the agricultural terraces in Battir, and the natural springs in Wadi al-Qelt or set off on a wild safari to encounter the exotic flora and fauna of Burqin, Faqua, and Arrabeh. The diverse landscape of Palestine offers endless possibilities for outdoor enthusiasts, ensuring an action-packed summer like no other.

Lina (right) and Tess, at the goodbye bonfire celebration at Amin’s farm in El-Bireh. A farm that protected local land from settlement expansion.

A summer camp in Palestine offers Palestinian diaspora youths the unique opportunity to connect with their roots, discover their cultural heritage, and create lasting memories. Such an experience of reconnection is deeply personal, an enriching journey that allows them to honor their ancestors, embrace their cultural heritage, and gain a greater understanding of themselves. It helps foster a sense of pride and belonging and strengthens cultural identity. In doing so, they embark on a path of self-discovery, enlightenment, and a renewed appreciation of the diverse tapestry of humanity.

In the summer of 2023, 25 youths from all over the United States participated in Rise Up. Let’s listen to some of our campers reflect on their experience:

Ali Eyad Salem is 17 years old and lives in Florida; his family is from Dar Tawil. He says, “I was one of the lucky teens to be given the opportunity to be part of the Rise Up summer camp in Al Bireh. This camp enables diaspora teens like myself to experience our homeland in a way most others cannot. Among other things, we hiked the Jericho mountains and tasted the famed Nabulsi knafeh. These experiences have changed me. Actually, immersing myself in my culture and homeland has connected me in a way I cannot describe. It’s time for me now to go back to Florida and live my detached life, but this opportunity has sparked something in me. It has changed me forever, and I can’t wait to come back. I am more proud than ever to be Palestinian. Alhamdulillah.”

Tarek Hasan is 16 years old and lives in Tennessee. He asserts, “Going into the Rise Up camp, I thought I knew everything there was to know about Palestine. I was so wrong! I have learned so much more about the history of Palestine and how Palestinians are occupied by Israeli forces every day. I also had some amazing experiences across Palestine and made some great new friends who share a heritage that is similar to mine. Overall, it was an awesome experience for me, and I’m so happy I did it.”

Campers visiting the Dormition of the Theotokos Church‎ in Aboud village.

Lina Bahour is 13 years old and lives in California. She says, “Rise Up summer camp was one of the best camp experiences I have ever had. This camp was about education, fun, and meeting new people. We learned about our country, Palestine, and the history of our land. My favorite day of this camp was when we went to Jericho. We went on a hike at Ein Fara and swam in fresh spring water. We also went on a 4×4, camel riding, and saw the Dead Sea. Thank you, Rise Up, for the best summer and the best experience.”

Fadi Quran, a Rise Up camp leader, explains, “Our goal is to deepen the relationship of the rising generation of Palestinians in the diaspora with their homeland. We aim to provide them with the knowledge they need to defend their cause and do our best to do so in an educational style that is engaging and fun. The camp is expanding next year. Reach out to us if you wish to join.”

Wael HajMohammed, the founder of Palterhal, maintains, “If we want our children to move mountains, we first have to let them get out of their chairs! It is always an incredible, life-changing, and eye-opening experience to tour Palestine with children and teenagers, both those who already live in their homeland and those who live miles away from their homeland. Connecting these youth with each other and their roots is an integral part of our mission.”

A summer in Palestine is an unforgettable journey filled with natural wonders, cultural immersion, outdoor adventures, and the warm embrace of its people. So pack your bags, don your adventurous spirit, and embark on a sun-kissed escapade to Palestine that will leave you with cherished memories to last a lifetime.

  • Nisreen Shahin is the founder and general manager of Makers– Tech4Good, a non-profit organization located in Ramallah that aims to create and disseminates affordable solutions to neglected challenges of people with disabilities. She is also the co-founder of Palterhal for Adventure & Exploration, working to promote Palestine as an exceptional destination for both local and foreign tourists.

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