The idea for the tourism office was quickly developed and financially supported by SKEW's project "Sustainable communal development through partnership projects (Nakopa)", which provides grants of up to 250,000 Euros for such development projects. However, the road to the goal was rocky. "We had to find out that Palestinian law does not provide for a tourism association as originally planned," reports Issa Juha, who works as partnership coordinator at the city of Beit Jala. "We had many meetings with the Ministry of Tourism and in the Ministry of Local Government Affairs until we could finally realize our idea." Stephan Dekker also recalls: "It took time to convince the politicians of our idea."
When it finally started, a coordinator in the Palestinian Territories and a coordinator in Germany took over the further arrangements. In their everyday work, the political support of their mayors and city councilors was extremely important to them. It was also crucial for the success of the project that civil society, such as the Bergisch Gladbach – Beit Jala partnership association, was closely involved in the activities.
Today, the tourist office has a common website for all municipalities in the district – a great relief for tourists who want to come to Bethlehem. The site is available in English, German and Arabic, with more languages and features to follow. The office, which is officially called "Joint Service Council for Tourism Development" was also represented at the International Tourism Fair ITB in Berlin, as its managing director Charlie Zeidan reports.
Not only the Palestinian side has benefited from the partnership. Jörg Bärschneider, Deputy Chairman of the Bergisch Gladbach – Beit Jala Partnership Association: "We can change our image of the Middle East through contact with the Palestinian Territories. In the media we very often hear only bad news from the region. In direct exchange with the people we learn that there is a daily reality that enriches our perception". Issa Juha adds: "Our aim is that the German partners come to Palestine to get to know our way of life and to feel that the country is safe and that it is possible to have fun here.”