The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation, in participation with Arab Women Union, under patronage of the Palestinian ministry of tourism on Saturday February 28th celebrated the opening of Bethlehem Museum to preserve about 3000 exquisite art crafts of the Palestinian heritage and culture.
The opening ceremony started at the Jacir Palace Hotel, then continued to the museum building where the official opening took place. The Museum tells personal stories and shares them with million of tourists and pilgrims visiting the Holy Land annually.
CEO of HCEF, Sir Rateb Rabie assured that this museum would bring the Palestinian culture and heritage to life, by collecting all the remaining Palestinian art crafts and preserving them.
HCEF’s regional director, Anthony Habash affirmed that the museum took more than 30 years to be inaugurated, and it is a recognizable achievement.
“This is the most important message; we encourage the families of Bethlehem not to hide their traditions and heirlooms which they inherited from their ancestors, and also to be proud of and preserve them by making them visible to the public.”
Researcher, heritage specialist and one of the main contributors to the museum legacies, Farah Munayyer acknowledged the great contribution for the people of Bethlehem.
“Many people, in Bethlehem and other areas of Palestine, can contribute to the museum. They can [donate] the things that their fathers and grandfathers have produced, so that the new generations can enjoy them in the future.”
The display showcases many unique art works of mother of pearl, olive wood and olive oil, embroidery, accessories, and vintage photos. Facilities include a rotating exhibition gallery, a permanent exhibition room, a VIP meeting room, a restaurant, a gift shop in addition to a library and a search center to welcome visitors and scholars that want to examine the collection of books, films and CDs.
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Fuad Twal said that the museum is an integral part of the Palestinians’ lives since it represents the past, present and future, despite the society’s tendency to modernization.
“It is true that we are more attracted to the modern aspects of life, but these are our roots and we must preserve them for the new generations. This is our identity, our history, especially for the Christian people of the Holy Land who must take care of it,” Twal stated.
Her Excellency minister of tourism Rula Ma’ay’ah, added that the museum will help the tourists know more about the Palestinian history, and boost knowledge on Bethlehem, “this museum is very important; since any person who enters it will know more about the history of Palestine and of course they will enjoy their staying here.”
Ms. Virginia Canawati, head of the Arab Women’s Union said that the museum is a source of pride for Palestine, after the long and hard work it took to establish it. Canawati also expressed gratitude to the HCEF and the leading women who contributed to the establishment of this museum, in the hopes that it will bring the Bethlehemite heritage to life.
The museum thus achieves AWU’s mission of empowering women in two ways: by supporting more than 80 women producing local embroideries and other handicrafts, and focusing on hiring women to fill job positions in the museum, gift shop, and restaurant.
The museum stands as a beacon of hope to preserve the Palestinian culture and heritage and empower the new generations, especially seen the actual colonial context in which Palestine is living.
The People Behind the Museum
The Arab Women’s Union of Bethlehem (AWU) is a prominent organization with a history spanning more than 50 years. The organization was established on November 7, 1947 by the elite women of Bethlehem at the invitation of Mrs. Bert Maalouf. Their goal was to provide qualitative services to the Palestinian people. The Bethlehem Museum of History, Heritage and Culture will be the AWU’s second museum. A dream that took 30 years in the making.
The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF): a non-profit, charitable, development organization established in 1998 with the mission of preserving the presence and wellbeing of Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land. The Foundation accomplishes its mission through a comprehensive vision which understands the importance of connecting the Palestinian people with individuals, churches, and Christian communities around the world.