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ARTAS FOLKLORE CENTER
Established in 1993, Artas Folklore Center was the first cultural center in the Bethlehem area to be licensed by the Palestinian Authority under the Ministry of Culture. This gave formal recognition to twenty years of work by its founder, Musa Sanad. The founding board was composed of several illustrious figures such as Sameeha Khalil, founder of In’ash il Usra, Sharif Kanaana, Abdel Latif Baghrouti and Abdel Aziz Abu Hadba. However, as the years passed Artas Folklore Center became increasingly associated with its driving force, Musa Sanad.
Located in a historic building just near the village’s Mosque of Omar and the Artas Spring, it offers a spectacular view of the Artas Valley and the shrine of Hortus Conclusus, or the Enclosed Garden below. Its main objective is to preserve and promote the especially rich tangible and intangible heritage of the village, whose unique, lush ecosystem, traces of a large number of successive civilizations, and the diverse body of knowledge and lore culled over the last century-and-a-half by foreigners and Palestinians make it “the most studied village in Palestine,” as well as encouraging the study of Palestinian folklore and traditions in general.
Architectural preservation is an essential part of the work of the center, which is responsible for preserving several important buildings. Next on the list is the endangered Baldensperger house, where two foreign women lived and studied the village during the Mandate period.
In the forefront of innovative tourism and recreation projects, the center is known for its festivals, especially its annual April Lettuce Festival, the typical rural village house/museum, its folklore troupe which has remained true to authentic forms, (though recently also acquiescing to youthful demands for change), its innovative nature and heritage itineraries, its traditional Palestinian meals offered in a setting to match, and the individualized experience it offers its visitors, whether one or a hundred.
A key institution in the village, the Artas Folklore Center not only works in preserving the village’s past, but has been instrumental in attending to the needs of the villagers, such as roads, garbage collection and schools. In addition, in advance of its much coveted community center, it is acting as a de facto community center with special programs for youth and women, for instance.
The Artas Folklore Center is run by an elected board of nine members presided over by Mohammed Ahmad Sa’ad Abu Hani. A new advisory board is expected to be formed in the near future.
Previous funders have included the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, UNDP, United Arab Republic, British, Dutch, French, Belgian and Canadian Consulates or NGOs, the Finnish Institute for the Middle East, the Center for Cultural Heritage Preservation and Juzoor. Partners have included the Arab Educational Institute, the Palestine Wildlife Society, YMCA, Center for Women’s Affairs, and Sharek Youth Forum. In addition, the Artas Folklore Center has worked in close cooperation with a large number of institutions and individuals in both public and private sectors.
The Artas Folklore Center is proud to now have as Virtual Scholar in Residence Falestin Naili, social historian and anthropologist associated with the Laboratoire de Recherche Historique Rhône-Alpes (LARHRA) in Lyons/ Grenoble, France, perhaps one of the most prolific scholars on Artas today and an invaluable resource in helping us to ensure factual accuracy in the development of our programs.
Artas offers much of interest to tourists, from simple country rambles, and authentic Palestinian cookery, which can also be ordered as take-away, to in-depth explorations of its rich and unique heritage. Visits to Artas, including its museum are best arranged by prior coordination with the Artas Folklore Center. For more information or custom tours of Artas, contact the Artas Folklore Center. (See “Contact the Artas Folklore Center”)