Action Alert:

Walking the Path of Abraham

GRALTA is proposing to lead a small group to visit Israel/Palestine in mid-September.
 
George Rishmawi (a long-time friend) will give a presentation on The Abraham Path on Thursday, August 3 at 7 PM at the Lincoln Library. George will also comment more generally on tourism to Bethlehem and other parts of the West Bank and  will respond to questions about recent events in Israel & Palestine.

The actual itinerary–trip length, activities, etc. –will be defined collaboratively by the participants, and for that reason we’d like to receive expressions of interest by July 24. 

Because each of us would arrange our own airfare, participants could arrive early and/or remain in the region to pursue their own, individual interests. We expect to do that ourselves, definitely spending additional time in Israel. If anyone wanted to participate with us, we could work together on scheduling some or all of those days.

The centerpiece of the trip would be to walk/hike portions of the Abraham Path. This is “a trail that runs through the West Bank from the Mediterranean olive groves of the highlands of the north to the silence of the deserts in the south, from the area west of Jenin to the area south of the Sanctuary of Abraham (known in Arabic as Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi) in the city of (Hebron).”

The Abraham Path refers to itself as Community Based Tourism, which it describes as “benefiting the local community in general and the fragile rural communities in particular through inviting tourists to visit these communities, walk and hike in small groups in rural Palestine, having the opportunity to discover unspoiled nature, history, cultural heritage, cuisine, and to develop lasting friendships with local Palestinians by experiencing the taste of the cultures diversity, and having the privilege of using or overnight in the communities’ accommodations.”

As the Abraham Path website states, “It is more than just a hiking trail, it’s a path that leads deep into the memory and heritage of Palestinian people, inviting you to discover the family life of the villages, the proud ways of Bedouin tribes, and the age- old traditions of hospitality that lie at the heart of Palestinian life.”

 

Here is some basic information:

  • The complete Abraham Path has 18 segments–each one is a one-day walk and each is graded by difficulty, which varies from Easy to Moderate to Hard.
  • As a group, we’d pick the segments and design the multi-day walk/hike ourselves based on the number of days we want to hike (I would propose as few as just four or five days, but perhaps as many as six to ten). Those choices would be based on the segments of greatest interest to the group, logistical considerations, and other factors.
  •  Each hike would be led by a licensed guide–English-speaking, of course.
  • Accommodations will vary nightly and will depend on where we wind up at the end of each day. Many will likely be homestays; some could be guest houses, Bedouin tents, and for one of the segments, a grotto!
  • All meals are provided: breakfasts and dinners by local families; lunches by our guide(s).
  • We’ll carry backpacks, but only for the things needed for the day’s hike. Our luggage would be transferred each day by taxi to our destinations.

In addition to the hiking, there are lots of places of interest to visit/tour along the way:

  • Significant cities include Jenin, Nablus, Jericho, Bethlehem, and Hebron.
  • Some spectacular attractions–including two that we’ve visited in the past year: Sebastiya (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sebastia,_Nablus) and the Mar Saba Monastery (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mar_Saba)
  • There are cultural opportunities, too.

In terms of trip extensions that I’d consider, one would be in Israel to visit Nazareth and meet (again) with British Journalist Jonathan Cook. Another is to take a tour of East Jerusalem and/or Jerusalem’s Old City, etc. Those are some of only many options for this iconic tourist destination. I can offer suggestions, the Siraj Center (see below) can arrange tours in the West Bank, and I’d recommend Green Olive Tours in Jaffa/Tel Aviv for tours in Israel.

Although this trip sounds “adventurous,” safety is not a concern. For example, read Naomi Zeveloff’s article in the Jewish Forward about her experience with the Abraham Path: http://forward.com/news/israel/308696/on-the-path-of-abraham/

Arrangements:

We’ll make our arrangements through George Rishmawi and the Siraj Center for Holy Land Studies, based in Beit Sahour (adjacent to Bethlehem). George is the Abraham Path’s Executive Director and Siraj’s Education Director.

I met George in 2008 though attorney Don McInnes, an active member of First Parish Church in Cambridge and worked with him since. George personally leads two tours each year: the Harvard Kennedy School’s Annual Palestine Trek (130 participants this year, and the most popular Spring Break activity at HKS) and BC Professor Eve Spangler’s annual winter break tour required for students taking her Human Rights and Social Justice in Israel & Palestine seminar.

Cost:

1. Airfare. Without specific travel dates yet, today round trip airfare from Boston/Tel Aviv, assuming a departure on Wednesday, September 6 and return on September 20 is currently $628. FYI both departure and return flights are at excellent times of the day and there is only one short Canadian layover (each way).

 The Abraham Path. I’ve been corresponding with Rania Awwad at Siraj about cost, and here’s what she tells us:

Per person cost for a four day program:

  • $920 for two travelers
  • $570 for 5 travelers
  • $490 for 10 travelers

Per Person cost for a ten day program:

  • $2020 for two travelers
  • $1250 for 5 travelers
  • $1100 for 10 traveler

These figures offer a range for planning purposes, are estimates, and will be firmed when the actual program is set. 

Rates include:

  • Meet and assist upon arrival and departure
  • Transfers by A/C bus all through out the itinerary
  • Accommodations
  • Breakfasts and dinners at the hotels and local families
  • ENGLISH speaking guide
  • Entrance fees
  • Lunch

Rates does not Include:

  • Personal expenses
  • Porterage at Hotels
  • Traveler insurance
  • Tips for the guide, driver, hotels o Services not mentioned above

As should be obvious, the Abraham Path experience does not involve five star hotels, the elegance of fine restaurants, and the like. It does involve communing with both nature and people. Much of our travel to this region has been with small groups (most recently in January when we escorted two MA House of Representatives members), and, believe me, everyone I’ve traveled with believes it was an educational experience of a lifetime with. For some, it’s a life- changing experience, as well.

2. Additional/add-on expenses.

For people who want to extend their time in Israel/Palestine, costs will of course vary. For example:

  • My favorite place to stay in Jerusalem is a hotel/hostel within the Old City. A hotel room there runs approximately $60 double occupancy; a hostel accommodation is $20. A simple breakfast is included.

  • Another option, just outside the Old City is the very nice (boutique) Jerusalem Hotel, which runs about $130/night, breakfast included. It’s a landmark and Eve Spangler’s favorite place to stay. There’s also the nearby Holy Land Hotel in East Jerusalem where both Interfaith Peace Builders and Tree of Life Educational Foundation routinely put up their guests.

  • The cost of staying in Tel Aviv is generally higher; the cost of staying in the West Bank is generally lower than those rates.

  • Please contact me with questions about transportation within the country and other expenses.

 

Additional Information:

  • Abraham Path: http://masaribrahim.ps/en/ (there is a lot to explore here)

  • Siraj Center for Holy Land Studies website: http://sirajcenter.org/

  • John Atick. John is a trekking guide and also the Abraham Path’s Communications Director. I had the privilege of interviewing him when he passed through Boston on his way to North Conway, NH for training certification in wilderness first aid. The interview concluded with a 8-minute discussion of hiking the Abraham Path and you can find that here: http://gralta.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/2017.01.15-JohnAtick-Abraham- Path.mp3

  • Wanderlust Travel Magazine: http://www.wanderlust.co.uk/magazine/articles/destinations/masar-ibrahim-abraham- path-hiking-palestine

    Please contact me with your questions/suggestions.

    Steve Low, 781-259-1300 or steve.low@gordianconcepts.com