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Bethlehem Peace Center: Symbol of Art and Culture
submitted by This Week In Palestine

By Jihan Anastas

Culture serves to manifest society’s values, heritage, identity, and ideals. It encompasses a source of pride and self-determination. Culture defines the values needed for people to conceptualise the means towards achieving development. Through cultural-exchange activities and arts, the principles of human rights, justice, peace, religious tolerance, gender equality, and environmental ethics are powerfully conveyed and thus create a level of awareness that, through time, is internalised as a social system that moulds the political system. Democracy in turn offers a venue for people to express their opinions freely as well as actively participate in the process of social, economic, and political change.

Cultural centres are particularly important in Palestinian society because they create a sense of universal connectedness that allows people to learn from and about various cultures and values; in addition, they encourage international cultural exchange programmes and facilitate partnership links. Cultural centres offer an environment that fosters an enhanced appreciation of culture in all its forms and encourages community interaction.

Palestinian culture is revealed in the art and decor of the Bethlehem Peace Center and reflected in its programmes and activities. The Bethlehem Peace Center is a true cultural centre that aims to promote and enhance peace, democracy, religious tolerance, and cultural diversity. Its central location in Manger Square makes the Bethlehem Peace Center the natural gravitational point for the citizens of Bethlehem, as well as for the thousands of tourists who pass through Bethlehem every year.

In line with the mission and vision of the Bethlehem Peace Center, its aim is to create a venue for cultural exchange among Palestinian people as well as with other cultures throughout the world. Thus it naturally becomes a springboard for international cultural exchange and the promotion of Palestinian cultural heritage.

The Bethlehem Peace Center invites Palestinians to explore various aspects of art and culture that include not only art exhibits and projects of local and international artists, musical performances, theatre shows, international days, lectures, folklore shows, activities for children and youth, film screenings, women’s workshops, cultural weeks, and literary events but also community awareness programmes in the fields of culture exchange, human rights, democracy, and gender and environmental issues.

The most visible part of the Bethlehem Peace Center is its great exhibition space that is divided into three separate halls. It is the largest of its kind in Palestine and, as such, figures prominently on the cultural landscape. It maintains a full calendar of enriching cultural events and activities that focus on local, Arab, and international cultures. In addition, and as part of its ongoing cultural programme, the Center is in the process of creating a crypt museum.

The Bethlehem Peace Center provides an opportunity for tourists from all over the world to experience the culture and art of Palestine as well as the Palestinian people, their land, and their rich traditions. In its own way, the Bethlehem Peace Center serves to encourage other cultural centres in Palestine to become the dynamo behind interactive and fruitful relationships between the citizens of Palestine and the world at large.

Architect Jihan Anastas is the Director of Bethlehem Peace Center. She can be reached at info@peacenter.org.

This Week in Palestine
July 2008

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