I first started coming to Palestine with pilgrimage groups, during my first stay in Bethlehem I visited the YMCA Shepherds Fields site, where I picked up a leaflet about sponsoring an Olive Tree. I also heard about the Olive Picking and thought that would be a great thing to do. One year I was free in the October so decided to join the JAI Olive Picking. After one trip I was hooked, though I already had met many Bethlehem residents and had made friendships, this experience brought it to a whole new level.
Staying with a family in Beit Sahour I learned so much more about the situation from the personal points of view, whilst the geopolitical visits and talks gave a more generalized insight. Our encounters with the farmers in whose fields we picked brought home the reality of living with a settlement or the apartheid wall being built on your ancestral land.
My real pilgrimage is up an olive tree encountering God through my encounters with the land and the people of Palestine.