Nothing shines like the soul of Palestine in the summertime. It is a season for making visits to family, global tourism, and summer students seeking new perspective on life. There are rich opportunities, from traditional experiences to modern day Palestinian life. Communities have been spending the entire year in planning and preparation for summer festivals, beginning in the village of Artas, near Bethlehem.
Artas is known for its water springs that irrigate both farms and the Artas Valley. It is also the host of the annual lettuce festival celebrations which are held around the end of April or early May. The festival offers participants a chance to dive into traditional life in a village, alongside traditional foods and some of the biggest heads of lettuce you've ever seen!
Beit Sahour has become famous for its faquos festival, which is organized annually by the Palestine Wildlife Society. Faquos means cucumber, which Beit Sahour is known for having many small fields boasting numerous rows of the plump and delicious vegetable. The festival includes bird watching and nature hikes, dabkeh performances, tasty faqous dishes, and other cultural activities. The area is also home to Shepherds Field, an iconic Catholic church which, according to Catholic tradition, is where angels announced the birth of Christ. Additionally, the site is home to olive trees which are believed to be over two thousand years old.
In the village of Birzeit, they host a week-long festival which includes drama, music, and art, bringing together vendors and craftspeople from all around the West Bank. Festivals typically are held in city centers but are increasingly reaching vulnerable rural areas. The efforts are made to extend culture, sustainability, and inclusion.
Summer in Palestine also brings a host of students from around the world who are hoping to gain international experience through volunteerism, student exchange, and direct work. Organizations in Palestine prepare and conduct many activities for these students to help them engage with and understand Palestinian culture and present-day challenges. Activities include working with community organizations, living with a host family, and learning Arabic. Palestinian universities also organize summer camps where international students and Palestinian scholars work together under a variety of assignments. Through volunteerism, laughter, dance, and hands-on experience, they both leave with greater clarity, motivation, and enthusiasm for becoming sustainable advocates for justice and peace.
In July, Masar Ibrahim organizes an international youth walk. The walk joins Palestinian students and global students alike in a foot journey that begins in Nablus and then moves through Awarta, Duma, Ain Samia, Taybeh, Beitin, and Birzeit. From here, bus trips are arranged to Bethlehem Jericho, Hebron, and Jerusalem. The students benefit in many ways. They are exposed to Palestinian culture through the many encounters with traditional living, while Palestinian students are given the chance to explore their country and roots, strengthening a sense of pride and identity within their heritage.
Summertime is a wondrous time to explore and discover Palestine through many means: traveling by bus, walking, and bicycling to name a few. Biking tours are becoming ever more popular and are encouraged for locals and internationals alike. With some developments in tourism infrastructure, more attractions have become available to the public. Summer in Palestine is a time for revitalization, celebration, and reconnection. It is a season for late night strolls through the town center, for experiencing traditional culture, reuniting with family, festivities of all kinds, laughing, dance, and fun. It is a time to remember roots and look brightly towards the future.