The Siraj Center makes up the Alternative Travel Department of The Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement between People (PCR). The Siraj Center is a nonprofit tour operator, and is licensed by the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.The goal is to bridge the gaps between Palestinians and people from all around the world, having them experience the authenticity of Palestinian heritage, culture and hospitality. Being part of a non-profit organization, Siraj Center strives to serve the rural community through its alternative programs, such as walking, hiking, biking, homestay, interfaith, twinning of cities, youth programs and non-formal educational programs for educational institutions such as Harvard University, Boston College, Illinois University, Leeds University, Swarthmore College, Westtown High School, etc. In addition, trainings and workshops have been held for rural families to gain better skills and knowledge about hosting visitors in their homes.
Siraj is one of the main partners of the Abraham Path in Palestine (www.masaribrahim.ps) – a long distance walking trail retracing the footsteps of Abraham. Siraj has been successfully empowering local communities socially and economically through the cultural walking route that traverses unspoiled rural Palestine, and that highlights the history, heritage, biodiversity, and landscape of this area. Moreover, through the Masar Ibrahim al Khalil program, the Siraj Center encourages exchanges and friendships that connect travellers from Palestine and from around the world. Partnerships across all sectors of society have been created, which have facilitated successful cooperation between individuals and rural communities. Almost 80% of the income generated from such trips goes into the local communities, as Siraj encourages travelers to overnight with local families, and use local wilderness tour guides.
In addition to the Masar Ibrahim al Khalil, the Siraj Center is continuously making efforts to promote another hiking program, the Nativity Trail which is an 11-day walking program from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and which allows walkers to come across local communities, and stay overnight with local families, meeting and interacting with locals, becoming familiar with Palestinian culture, and experiencing Palestinian hospitality.
Siraj also works hard to raise awareness about the delicate Palestinian environment. We encourage visitors to either walk, or use bikes to travel though and explore Palestine. Therefore, Siraj organizes various bike tours all year round. These trips allow travelers to experience the landscape while on two wheels. Equally important, they allow the visitor more time to come into direct contact with and experience the Palestinian way of life.
The Siraj Center is part of the Palestine Initiative for Responsible Tourism (PIRT), and was in the committee that created the Palestine Tourism Guidelines – Code of Conduct. In addition, Siraj is part of the Palestinian Experiential Tourism Network, which has developed a very close association with the local Palestinian communities and grassroots organizations in order to support the people on the ground, as well as properly promote and market our country and its invaluable assets.
Finally, the team at the Siraj Center has managed to successfully market and create awareness that Palestine has much more to offer than being just a pilgrimage destination. New activities that have proven to be very popular are walking into the Jerusalem Desert, staying overnight in a Bedouin tent, early morning jeep ride through the desert to be mesmerized by the sun rising over the Dead Sea. In the evenings, a sunset walk is offered with traditional Bedouin hospitality. Repeat visitors have been experiencing true Palestine, with its archaeological sites, beautiful landscape, delicious cuisine and warm, welcoming people who extend their hospitality to all those visiting Palestine.
The Siraj Center is well-respected among the rural communities as it has enabled them to enhance their socio-economic development. The Siraj programs and partnerships have allowed sustainability for a better way of life, which otherwise would not have been possible. As a result, the Siraj Center has been recognized internationally, and honored with Virgin Holidays’ “Responsible Tourism” and the World Travel & Tourism Council’s for “Tourism for Tomorrow” awards.
Siraj welcomes visitors from all around the world to come to Palestine. For more information, please visit www.sirajcenter.org or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.