Palestine Summer Encounter (PSE) is a one, two, or three month service learning and cultural immersion program in Bethlehem, Palestine. Participants study Arabic in and outside of the classroom setting, live with a Palestinian host family, meet with both Israeli and Palestinian NGOs and peacemakers and volunteer.
Experience you Can Trust
In 2015 we will sponsor the 12th annual Palestine Summer Encounter (PSE) program. PSE is a joint project between Middle East Fellowship, a U.S. based 501(c)(3) nonprofit and Holy Land Trust, a Palestinian nonprofit organization. Every year we have our participants fill out extensive evaluations and use their feedback to improve upon our performance. Our experienced staff on-the-ground handles delegations throughout the year and has been responsible for the safety and well being of hundreds of internationals traveling to the West Bank.
This past Sunday, the PSE group loaded the bus for a day trip to Jerusalem.. The evening before, we had a soccer game, PSE vs. HLT staff (I’ll let you guess who won), so many of us were pretty exhausted but looking forward to learning more about the situation from an Israeli perspective. We were fortunate enough to meet up with two Israeli organizations, Rabbis for Human Rights and B’tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.
Aside from volunteering at various locations in the Bethlehem District and taking Arabic classes, another significant aspect of the PSE program has been our weekly cultural experience opportunities. Two Fridays ago, the PSE participants spent time at a local community funded permaculture farm (a farm that focuses on both care of the earth and care of people), called Bustan Qaraaqa (meaning “turtle garden” in Arabic). When our bus pulled up to the entrance of the farm, it was late afternoon, so thankfully, some of the summer heat had subsided.
Bethlehem is more of a large town than an actual city; yet, despite its humble stature, it may be one of the most well-known spaces in the entire world. One could venture to guess, however, that many people, especially in the West, have little to no idea of what the reality of the place actually is today. While Bethlehem itself is a relatively urbanized area there are number of smaller villages that fan out from the urban center into the surrounding countryside.
The past week was a mix of emotion and placement. The first place was of beauty. We went by bus through Beit Jala and across one of the Israeli roads that cut across the West Bank to get to the ancient village of Battir. It is a little piece of heaven, and a place under threat. HLT staff member Marwan led us around to the views down to the valley, which are lined with agriculture in the layered grooves of the hills making up the village. We walked along an aqueduct that brings fresh water through the area, even allowing the villagers enough water to wash in a public bath.
Renowned Author Joins Summer Program, Session II
(Above: Mark Braverman, author of Fatal Embrace: Christians, Jews, and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land).
Mark Braverman, the grandson of a fifth generation "Palestinian Jew,"  first visited Israel at the age of 17. Raised to see Israel as a blessing to his generation, Mark fell in love with the young state. "I was proud of the miracle of modern Israel," he told audiences, "of what my people had done, creating this vibrant country out of the ashes of Auschwitz." But his concerns about Israel's policies grew "in direct proportion to the pace of illegal-settlement building." 
"Still," Mark admits, "I held to the Zionist narrative: Israel's militarism and expansionism were the price of security. Then I went to the West Bank." Everything changed. "I saw the separation wall and knew it was not for defense. I saw the damage inflicted by the checkpoints on Palestinian life and on the souls and psyches of my Jewish cousins in uniform. I saw the Jewish-only settlements and the restricted roads. I witnessed the vicious acts of ideological Jewish settlers."  Ultimately, Mark was led to write Fatal Embrace: Christians, Jews, and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land, which Walter Brueggmann has described as a "courageous, evocative book that merits close attention and continued pondering." 
Mark has been a fearless advocate for peace and justice in the Holy Land. And we are honored that he will be joining us for the second session of the 2011 Palestine Summer Encounter- not just as a guest speaker, but as a "scholar-in-residence." He will be joining the tours, giving public presentations and even leading a small team of our volunteers. The hope is that Mark can serve as a mentor to a new generation of leaders seeking peace.
If you haven't read Mark's book yet, it's still available on Amazon.
And, if you haven't registered to join us in Palestine this summer with Mark, it's not too late to apply!
 Mark's grandfather was born in Palestine, in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, but moved to the U.S. before the creation of Israel in 1948.
 Walter Brueggman's forward to Fatal Embrace, June 2, 2009
Coming from an environment in America of international apathy, it has been great to see such passion in so many people to support justice. Being in the holy land and the midst of this situation has allowed us to put a face, and a smile, onto these people who for so long, and for so many are nothing more than a headline. And what a reward it has been to experience such a rich and indescribably welcoming culture.
From the Holy Land Trust website: Tuesday, 06 July 2010
How Palestine Summer Encounter led to a photoblog and new fabric designs for an artistic pair of travelers.
After having heard about the Palestine Summer Encounter program through friends, Jonathan and Amanda Apgar knew that they wanted to try coming to Bethlehem for a summer.