Tourism in Their Own Back Yard

Rozana Association holds a hospitality training

By Anna Dintaman

Photos courtesy of Rozana Association and Konstantin Hoshana

“I get to host the first guests!” “ No, I get to host the first guests!”

A friendly argument broke out during a coffee break in a one-day hospitality training hosted at the Arraba Municipality in the northern West Bank. Thirty-eight women from local villages along the Abraham Path in the Jenin district gathered to learn about the Abraham Path/Masar Ibrahim, leadership skills, professionalism, food safety, and housekeeping.

Enthusiasm ran high as the women participated in lectures and discussions with the goal of preparing them to operate homestays for hikers on the Abraham Path/Masar Ibrahim. Trainer Malak el Masri encouraged participants to accentuate the positive and to view their home villages through the eyes of a tourist. Masar Ibrahim director George Rishmawi introduced the group to the highlights of the Abraham Path/Masar Ibrahim, and emphasized the way that the path connects the villages to each other as well as to world famous historical and cultural sites.

Upstairs, a group of 14 local men and women participated in a trekking guide-training workshop, with the topics of trails in Palestine, history, flora & fauna, and community based tourism. The goal of this training was to prepare local trekking guides to lead hikers through their villages and the surrounding landscapes.  Raed Saadeh, co-founder of the Rozana Association and the Network for Experiential Palestinian Tourism Organizations, presented about social tourism, including the Sufi trails in the Birzeit area. Dr. Walid Salim Basha of Jenin presented about the plants and animals of the Jenin area, with his love and appreciation of nature shining through in his energetic enthusiasm.

The participants from both trainings enjoyed a delicious home-cooked meal together, prepared by the Arraba Women’s Association. In spite of the chilling wind, many meaningful conversations took place over the rice, meat, stuffed grape leaves, chickpeas, salads, and dark Arabic coffee cups. The setting of the training, in the beautifully restored 19th century palace of Abdil Hadi, added to the ambiance and excitement around tourism in rural Palestinian communities. From the roof of the historic building, a magnificent view extends, inspiring participants to notice the beauty and tourism potential in their own back yards.