Bethlehem, Palestine – On Thursday, October 12th, Bethlehem Museum welcomed people from throughout Palestine to celebrate Palestinian Heritage Day. The day’s events, presented in partnership with the Palestinian Ministry of Culture and the Arab Women’s Union of Bethlehem, focused on honoring Palestine’s unsung heroes who not only keep our cultural traditions alive, but who are also actively working to “build the future of tradition”—innovating and creating new forms at the same time that they preserve and honor our ancestors’ creativity.
Central to Palestinian Heritage Day festivities, was the opening of Bethlehem Museum’s Mother-of-Pearl and Ceramic Exhibition, entitled “Sadaf and Khazaf,” highlighting the talent and skill of Palestinian artists from Bethlehem and Hebron. On display, were priceless, historic works of art by families considered to be the forefathers of mother-of-pearl and ceramic crafting, including pieces from the Hanania and Friej families in Bethlehem, and the Fakhouri family in Hebron.
Of the exhibition, Yousef Abu Ta’a, Bethlehem Museum Manager, stated: “By putting these pieces on display, we encourage these industries to keep the spirit of the craft alive, to keep producing them. These pieces are much, much more than merely a collection of beautiful pots—they are born from the very hearts and minds of our ancestors; they are an integral part of our history and heritage that must be preserved.”
The festivities also included a book launch supporting a well known Bethlehem-based author, Osama Alayasa’s, latest novel, Beersheba’s Cat, which explores life in Beersheba Prison in Israel; as well as a special culinary event seeking to revive a traditional Bethlehem dish called “Eggplant fatteh,” which has sadly been absent from Palestinian tables for years. As part of the culinary event, Ms. Virginia Qanavati of the Arab Women’s Union of Bethlehem, taught the chefs at Al-Karmeh, Bethlehem Museum’s second floor restaurant, how to prepare the traditional dish, which will soon be offered as part of Al Karmeh’s regular menu.
The celebration of Palestinian Heritage Day was not meant to nostalgically reflect upon the rarities of a bygone Palestinian era, but rather, to root attendees in the everydayness of life in Palestine—to focus on how Palestinians continue to produce and push the limits of culture and tradition.
While taking in the festivities, Dr. Ihab Bseiso, Palestine’s Minister of Cultural Affairs, emphasized his support for Bethlehem Museum’s role in promoting Palestinian culture and art: “Our culture is the essence of our social vitality. As stewards of these artistic traditions, it is our responsibility to engage and inspire our people in the face of adversity. How else will we face the challenges of the present if not through creativity and innovation?”
Bethlehem Museum Is a project of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation, HCEF) created The Bethlehem Museum to dedicate and to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation for the role Palestinian Christians play in preserving Palestine’s heritage, identity and culture.