Jiries Atrash is the founder and director of the Bridges of Hope Program with the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme, and for the last nine years he has been the coordinator for the Tree of Life Journey to the Middle East. Jiries, 60, has his B.A. in political science and his Masters degree in Economics from the University of Denver in Colorado. He taught at the University of Bethlehem from 1977-1981 then worked as an economic advisor to the Palestine Liberation Organization then as General Director and Chief Protocol of the Palestinian National Authority (in the office of the late Yasser Arafat). Jiries represented Palestine in the United Nations and other international organizations throughout the world. He has dedicated most of his life to raising awareness about the plight of the Palestinians, particularly the Christians living in the Occupied Territories.
This group of three talented Palestinian musicians is from the historic community of Beit Sahour, neighboring Bethlehem. Beit Sahour — which means “place of vigilance” — is a place that prides itself on being the direct descendants of the shepherds of 2000 years ago who received the angelic message of “peace on earth and good will to all.” They see themselves as the keepers of that sacred vision and have distinguished themselves in their peaceful non-violent resistance against the injustices of the occupation. Surrounded by a 26 foot concrete wall and the daily indignities of living under the occupation, music plays a pivotal role in keeping hope alive in this proud Palestinian community. These young musicians are coming to our 2011 Tree of Life conferences as ambassadors of their culture and community.