This summer nine Goshen College students will journey to Bethlehem, bearing not frankincense and myrrh, but a keen curiosity to learn about Palestinian culture.

These eight students, who have never been to the Middle East before, will stay with Marcelle Zoughbi, a sophomore at Goshen, and her family, in several apartments at the top of a mountain overlooking Bethlehem.

Zoughbi and her friend Krista Kaufman, a junior, had the idea for this trip one night when they stayed up talking until 2 in the morning. They e-mailed a bunch of friends to see if anyone else would be interested in going, and seven other students responded positively.

“It has been my dream, actually, to bring friends over back to Palestine,” Zoughbi said. “Palestine is my passion.”

A couple of the students going to Palestine this summer will get some SST credit from the trip, and others will use it as a required internship. Zoughbi has organized a number of activities for the students to plunge them into Palestinian culture and make the trip SST-comparable. Even now they are preparing for their summer by meeting weekly so that Zoughbi can teach the students, as Sarah Rody, a junior, said, “this is what you don't say, this is what you don't wear, this is how you don't touch a boy.”

“By bringing these eight individuals over,” said Zoughbi, “they will see the conflict through my eyes, and they will see the injustices in Palestine.” The group will take tours of Palestine, see what Christian Peacemaker Teams are doing in Hebron, visit the MCC office in Jerusalem and maybe take a trip to Jordan. They will also have regular language classes and cook Palestinian food together throughout the summer.

If there are any Israeli bombings while the students are there, they will take shelter in the cave under Zoughbi's house.

For the service component of the trip, the students will work at a summer camp that Zoughbi is directing. The camp is part of the Wi'am Conflict Resolution Center that Zoughbi's father founded, and the students will participate in peace workshops through this organization as well as lead the 250 kids who attend the camp.

With around 200 members, Zoughbi's extended family is something of a clan. She has arranged for each Goshen student to be matched with a member of her family so that the students can follow them to the market, eat dinners with them and ultimately get to know some Palestinian people on a personal level.

“It's a really wonderful opportunity to get out of the U.S.,” said Rody.

“We have such a great group,” said Zoughbi. “I'm so excited.”