Birzeit Heritage Week Developmentasala aqel
Birzeit Heritage Week- By Raed Saadeh
Is an event organized by the Rozana Association, in cooperation and partnership with a number of other Birzeit organizations, in order to promote the preservation and development of the old town’s fabric of houses, attics, courtyards, and alleys. As one of the programmer implemented by Rozana, Birzeit Heritage Week is an integral part of its promotional strategy.
In the future, when the Rozana realizes its vision to develop the old town of Birzeit into a bustling centre of business and activity, this strategy will continue in order to guarantee the sustainability and success of all stakeholders. Connecting Birzeit with its neighboring villages, particularly those lying on the Jericho route through Taybeh Village, is another part of the jigsaw. This should ultimately put Birzeit on the heritage and rural tourism map of Palestine.
In order to realize this vision, Rozana has identified several goals, in addition to that mentioned above. First, advocacy and lobbying efforts need to be exerted in order to legally protect the architectural heritage fabric that exists in Birzeit. Second, a preventive renovation programme will be implemented in order to preserve the exterior of old buildings. This is necessary if further investment is to take place. Finally public, private, or civic intervention may be initiated to instil life and activity in each building according to a pre-set urban master plan. The essence of this development is to maintain a wholesome approach throughout the various stages of the project to ensure its sustainability and the empowerment of its stakeholders.
Based on the above, a group of people who represent families that own properties in the old town of Birzeit teamed together to establish the Rozana Association. Today, this original group makes up two-thirds of Rozana’s membership. In addition, the Birzeit Municipality is represented by the mayor and another council member. The reason behind this structure is to ensure transparency and networking during decision making and implementation.
Birzeit Heritage Week events will take place on July 26 and 27, 2007. This is expected to become an annual event and will include a variety of Palestinian and international exhibits and presentations such as traditional handcrafts, food, drink, and music. Guests will walk through the old town’s designated streets towards the backyard of the Catholic Church where folkloric dance and music performances will be held. Exhibits are expected to open from 5pm-10pm every night.
Partner organizations, many of which are Birzeit based, will provide services according to their core competencies. Local partner organizations include the Municipality, the Greek Orthodox Scouts, the Birzeit Club, the senior citizens’ club, the agricultural development youth, Roses Association, and Juhood Association.
Heritage handcrafts and food production are an integral part of the heritage week and will include calligraphy, copper-designed products, wood carvings, embroidery, saj bread, hinnah, and more. Needless to say, the popular makers of falafel, bread, pastry, hariseh, etc., will take their rightful place among the other exhibitors. Local drinks, such as tamer hindi and almond juice, will be available. Local farmers will also be on hand to sell their wares.
One of the more eye-catching participants will be the glass makers from Hebron. They will bring their ovens and sell or distribute their glass as they make it.
International participation will be coordinated with the Representative Offices. A number of countries will display their handcrafts, promotional materials of their cities, and other items that are representative of their cultures and traditions.
Art exhibitions will also be part of the festivities. The virtuoso Palestinian and the son of Birzeit artist, Suleiman Mansour, will be exhibiting some of his paintings during the event. Other art exhibitions, displaying the works or collections of promising Birzeit artists, will complement the continuity and growth of the artistic traditions of the town.
Mr. Mousa Alloush and Dr. Munir Nasser are two of the most prominent historians of the town of Birzeit. Their participation will offer an added value to all those who would like to listen to the stories of the origins of Birzeit and the legacies of its ancestors.
A backgammon competition is planned to allow local residents and others to experience the game that has become inherent to Palestinian culture.Maximum popular and organizational participation is crucial for the success of this event. It is intended to empower participants and stakeholders alike and is designed to lead the way for future development projects that will contribute to the survival and steadfastness of the Palestinian people and their economy.
For more information about the event and the Association, write to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 054-569-6220.
Raed Saadeh is chairman of the forming board of Rozana Association and president of the Arab Hotel Association.
Photos by Christine Alloush.
Maps prepared by Riwaq Centre for Architectural Conservation.