With the United States pushing another peace plan, now is the time for unity. By Sami Awad

With the United States pushing another peace plan, now is the time for unity.

Bet Lahem Live serves an essential function for building unity among division. The military occupation of these historical lands of holiness has thrived on divisions: political divisions, social divisions, cultural divisions, and religious divisions. While much happen for peace and justice to be realized, creating unity amongst the division is essential in that process.

For decades Palestinian communities have been divided in real physical and administrative ways, muddling our collective call for freedom. Palestinians living in East Jerusalem experience life altogether differently than Palestinians living in Haifa, not having full citizenship.

Palestinians living in Area A, in places like Bethlehem and Jericho are able to build their homes with limited restrictions, whereas communities in Area C must perpetually face home demolitions by the Israeli Civil Administration. Gazans have been sealed off from the outside for more than a decade and Palestinians living in the diaspora have all been cut off from returning to their historical lands. These real and understandable division have squandered opportunities for building a real movement of peace.

While Bet Lahem Live is one of the biggest festivals in the West Bank, bringing in some 30,000 Palestinians, what makes it unique is the intentional way it addresses these divisions.

More than just bringing together bands, artisans and performers from all over the Holy Land and around the world, Holy Land Trust facilitates numerous workshops around nonviolent resistance. This year we are focusing exclusively on these issues of division, uniting everyone around the rallying around the unity of Palestinian identity, reminding everyone that we are first Palestinians.

The theme of this year’s Bet Lahem Live is #IamPalestinian. Using this, our panels are designed to bring us back together in a shared history, culture, and language and challenge the divisions which separate us.

In carrying this message to the local community, there has been an outpouring of support. In previous years, we’ve had to rely heavily on international donors to make sure that Bet Lahem Live remains free and open to everyone. This year, it almost exclusively financed by the local Palestinian community. This year we are only asking for $4,000 dollars in support to complete our programming.

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