Tourism with a twist

By Marcus Dysch, September 27, 2011

A new travel company is offering British Jews the opportunity to take holidays with a difference - staying with Muslim families in East Jerusalem and visiting the Palestinian territories.

The trips are part of a range of interfaith tours offered by Middle East Journeys to encourage religious Jews, Christians and Muslims to step out of their comfort zones and meet those with other beliefs.

The company offers travellers the chance to visit Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and, ultimately, conflict-ravaged Syria - although the Damascus-based trips are currently suspended.

Fiyaz Mughal, founder of the interfaith conflict resolution group Faith Matters, has designed the tours to challenge misunderstanding among religions. Tour groups to Israel and the Palestinian territories will comprise those from all three Abrahamic faiths, travelling together.

Mr Mughal said: "Our interfaith tours allow pilgrims to put their own beliefs into a wider context, but we've also taken bookings from atheists and agnostics who want to find out about the history and culture of the region."

He said trips were already taking place to send British Christians to stay with Orthodox and secular Jewish families in Haifa and Jerusalem, and Muslim families in Ramallah and Bethlehem.

The company is predominantly targeting Christian and Muslim families in Britain, but is already planning for British Jewish families to stay overnight with Palestinians in East Jerusalem. At least one such trip is expected to take place in late November.

Mr Mughal said the company appreciated the security issues and difficulties in sending Jews to stay in the Palestinian territories, but added that arranging for visits to Maronite Christians in Lebanon was proving even more difficult.

Last updated: 2:14pm, September 27 2011