In an average year we at Holy Land Trust places 1200 of tourists with 45 number of hosts for a total of 400 nights a year. Each guest pays around $30 to stay with a host family. You can see this generates many thousands of dollars a year for the local economy – a much needed boost when our opportunities for trade, commerce and other services are limited by the occupation.
But more importantly this work generates lifelong friendships between host families and guests. Guests have the opportunity to hear stories and witness the life of Palestinian people first-hand. For many these home-stays are life-changing.
Because of Corona virus there has been no tourism in Palestine since March 2020, well over a year. We have never known a year like it. Host families have lost their income and their opportunity for friendships and hospitality. Many of our families have lost two incomes as the whole tourist trade, hotels, restaurants, bars, souvenir shops and tour guiding, has been completely shut down by the pandemic.
One of our hosts, Rodina Sahouri, an English teacher from Beith Sahour, says she enjoys hosting and appreciates both the economic boost and the chance to improve her English accent when she welcomes guests to her home.
Her husband has lost his income as an olive wood carver and she says she just wants the nightmare of Corona to end and to get back to hosting as soon as possible.
We know all of our host families are really looking forward to tourists coming back to Bethlehem. As Rodina says, the visits are good for both host and guest. We try to make sure all pilgrims and visitors who organize their tour with us stay at least one night with a family and experience a taste of life in Palestine. We hear so many stories of how much the visitors appreciated the welcome, the chance to talk to people from different generations, the warm hospitality and of course delicious Palestinian food.
Elias Deis - Executive Director
Holy Land Trust’s E.D., Elias Deis has worked for over a decade at Holy Land Trust. He was formally the Travel & Encounter Program Director and serves on the Beit Sahour City Council.
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