The Second Birzeit Heritage Week: Building pillars for a sustainable rural-development vision
By Raed Saadeh
Birzeit Heritage Week is not merely a cultural or heritage activity that stands on its own. It is part of a holistic approach to bringing sustainable development and prosperity to the Palestinian countryside. The Rozana Association has been diligently trying to advance the underlying concepts that are inherent in this vision.
Competitiveness is determined by the productivity with which a nation, region, or cluster uses its human, capital, and natural resources. (Professor Michael E. Porter, Harvard Business School)
Hence the questions: what are the resources that form the basis for Palestinian rural development, and how does the Rozana Association plan to network these competencies in order to instil significant productivity and competitiveness?
First of all, the Rozana is a Birzeit-based association, and its scope of work revolves around Birzeit as a centre for rural-development activities and as a leading example for others to follow in terms of understanding the competencies of their villages and the ways to incorporate them into efficient and effective productive efforts.
Birzeit possesses many resources:
1. Architectural heritage is evident in the historic centre of the town and needs to be preserved and rehabilitated according to a researched strategic master plan. A great deal of the planning has already been accomplished by the working team, which includes the Rozana as well as the Birzeit Municipality, Birzeit University, and Riwaq Centre for Architectural Conservation.
2. Human resources are apparent through the presence of the university, several elementary and high schools, and numerous skilled artisans.
3. The various layers of history and the monuments that are abundant in and around Birzeit open the door for all kinds of tour initiatives such as the course of Khans and Sufism, the path of Ibrahim al-Khalil, the village path from Taybeh to Birzeit, and many other hiking events that explore the diverse landscape of the area and the various harvest seasons that take place throughout the year.
4. Cultural heritage and cultural-exchange activities have been adopted and advanced by Birzeit. In this respect, the Birzeit Heritage Week has played an important role in fostering such an invaluable resource. During the Heritage Week of last year, nine countries participated in presenting their identities and heritage to the local community. This was a great opportunity for a firsthand encounter between these countries and the typical person-in-the-street. The Rozana received much positive feedback connected to these events. It was the first time that nine international flags were raised on top of the municipal building.
The Rozana’s mission is to network among these resources and others in order to realise its vision of a bustling historic centre in Birzeit, a centre that is linked with its neighbouring villages and the countryside in order to occupy a unique competitive position on the future tourism map of Palestine.
Hence, the Birzeit Heritage Week is not a stand-alone cultural event. All the music performances, the folklore presentations, the theatre plays, the children’s activities and games, the various galleries, the handcrafts and producer groups’ displays, and the many other activities are expected to increase income potential for the local rural community; encourage investment and diversity; promote the development of traditional artefacts; contribute to the sustainability of heritage and folklore activities; advance cultural exchange and networking; contribute to the expansion of tourism services in countryside; and encourage potential initiatives.
This year’s Heritage Week will take place in the alleys, courtyards, streets, and attics of the historic centre of Birzeit between 13 and 19 July, from 6 p.m. to 12 midnight. Two or three music or dance performances as well as a theatre play and a movie show will take place every evening. Children will have a lot of activities to diffuse their energy and to instil their creativity. Artisans, producer groups, and international communities will exhibit their products and displays. There will also be plenty of food and drink.
For more information about the event and the Association, visit our website at www.rozana.ps.