The First International Rural Tourism Workshop in Palestine A Platform for Developmentasala aqel
The First International Rural Tourism Workshop in Palestine A Platform for Development
By Raed Saadeh
Is there a chance for Palestinians to realise their vision of statehood and for rural Palestine to prosper taking into consideration the prevailing circumstances and future scenarios?
The Rozana Association, in its attempt to provide answers to this question, took upon itself the mission to network with partners to promote rural tourism in and around Birzeit. In this endeavour, the Rozana adheres to a community-based, socially responsible approach to leveraging resources and capacities needed to develop the communities’ distinctive competencies in order to generate sustainable income and improve the quality of life and environment.
Hence, a partnership that includes the University of Torino, Birzeit University, Siraj Center, and the Rozana is organizing an international workshop on rural tourism in Palestine on 4 and 5 November at Birzeit University. Local and international scholars will present their papers and ideas in an attempt to deal with some of the questions, issues, and challenges set by the workshop organizers. Rozana is not new to such initiatives. Created in 2007 by a number of individuals from families who own houses, attics, and courtyards in Birzeit’s historic area, Rozana has already organised major events including Heritage Week, the Spring Festival and the Maftoul Festival.
The context of Palestinian rural tourism needs to be clarified in terms of the available and potential resources and capacities that will create the platform for its sustainability and progress. Yet the impact of such development on the community and the associated historic sites and shrines needs to be investigated and guidelines established and enforced to ensure proper progress.
The workshop will discuss a number of issues that will foster awareness-raising, consensus-building, and a convergence of related efforts. The role and involvement of local communities are fundamental in the proposed discussions. Development depends entirely on the transfer of ownership to local stakeholders as their involvement will not only establish a genuine product, but will also generate the skills and local leadership needed to sustain and protect such efforts.
Other sessions will discuss the role of culture and environment in the tourism package, the potential to market and internationally brand Palestinian rural tourism, and finally the efficient and holistic incorporation of architectural heritage and village historic centres in the proposed development process.
To connect to the spirit of the workshop and to link to its proposed objectives, a number of exhibits will take place during the event to promote rural tour initiatives, rural cultural and heritage festivals, and Palestinian arts and crafts. Field trips will take place the next day to introduce participants and guests to nearby destinations and paths.
Finally, the workshop will coincide with Rozana’s Maftoul Festival to be held on 4 November at Birzeit’s Catholic Church Garden. The festival includes a performance by Artist Sana Mousa and a competition of the best maftoul dish overseen by a panel of Palestine’s best chefs. Bon Appétit.
Rozana and its partners (the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, Birzeit University, Siraj Center, and the University of Torino) are confident that the workshop will be a first, but important, step to awaken people’s awareness of the importance of tourism, as both a source of economic growth and a means to enhance the countryside’s image and identity.
Originally Published in ” this Week in Palestine ” Issue No 150, October 2010