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Greetings from Ibillin!


Greetings from Ibillin — from Archbishop Elias Chacour, and the teachers and students at the Mar Elias Educational Institutions!

I’m writing from the Guesthouse on the 6th floor of Mariam Bawardi Elementary School (grades 1-8 in the consortium of Mar Elias schools), where Duncan Ferguson and I have just spent several days talking with Abuna Chacour, senior leaders of the schools, and teachers and students. Just before these days in Ibillin, we also led a 2-week-long pilgrimage of 21 individuals from all over the USA on a Living Stones tour, meeting peacebuilders and visiting holy sites in both the State of Israel and also the West Bank. (Please check out the blog our group wrote: Living Stones Pilgrimage. It’s really good!)

Mariam Bawardi’s name may ring a bell from recent news reports. On Sunday, May 17th at the Vatican in Rome, Mariam Bawardi was recognized as a saint in the life of the Catholic Church. Born in 1846 right here in Ibillin, she is one of two Palestinian women so honored by Pope Francis and the Church, and the celebrating throughout Israel/Palestine is great. Check out the signs of Mariam Bawardi celebrations in our Flickr gallery: Pilgrims of Ibillin – Flickr

What Makes Mariam Bawardi school special? The Mariam Bawardi Elementary School and Kindergarten make sure children learn to value themselves and each other equally, as valued children of God. High academic standards are a hallmark, but music, physical education, art, drama, dance are all integrated into daily school life, too. By 3rd grade, students are learning Hebrew, English, and formal Arabic. They celebrate each other’s religious holidays. They meet with Jewish partners in “twinning” schools. The value of a Mariam Bawardi elementary education is clear as graduates excel in the most difficult majors at Mar Elias High School and win entry into exclusive universities.

How can you be part of the Mariam Bawardi/Mar Elias story?

Support the Schools: Please consider a generous gift for scholarships or school resources! 70% of MEEI students need financial assistance to remain enrolled, even though tuition is artificially low. Send checks made out to Pilgrims of Ibillin to 1541 Comanche Glen, Madison, WI 53704, or give online by clicking here.

Visit the Schools, and Israel/Palestine: Consider joining our next pilgrimage!
October 16-29, 2015 ~ Click here to download full information

What’s special about Pilgrims of Ibillin’s Living Stones tours?

We travel to listen and learn! Get to know the Living Stones of Israel/Palestine. Meet Pilgrims of Ibillin’s partners in Ibillin, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Ramle, Ramallah, and Zababdeh. Visit organizations and leaders in the West Bank and in Israel who seek a nonviolent path to peace and justice.
Visit key biblical sites in Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and the Galilee (including Nazareth), and learn why the Holy Land is known as the Fifth Gospel. Share in worship and reflection on all we see and hear.
Experience Palestinian hospitality, especially during a home-stay in Zababdeh. Get to know students and leaders at the Mar Elias Educational Institutions in Ibillin. Visit with MEEI founder and peace activist Archbishop Elias Chacour, if his schedule permits.
Visit the destroyed village of Biram where Fr. Chacour was born and lived until 1948.
Be equipped to give presentations after returning home. Prepare to share the story of new friends – Christians, Muslims, Druze, and Jews – who live with hope and work for peace despite great challenges.

Pilgrimage cost is $1795/person (payable to Pilgrims of Ibillin) plus your roundtrip airfare. We ask you to use our travel agent, Cindy Walker, so the group can arrive and depart together. Single rooms require a $300 up-charge. To check on cost of airfare from your “home” airport, contact Cindy at

Call or email Joan Deming with questions ( or 608-235-1046).

Note: our Pilgrims of Ibillin website got hacked, and is currently offline while being rebuilt. However, please check soon for good information about Pilgrims of Ibillin and all our partners: Pilgrims of Ibillin


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