Dar al-Kalima University in Bethlehem launched today, Sunday, the third of December 2023, in partnership with Bright Stars of Bethlehem, Jafra Productions, and the Shababek for Contemporary Art, a virtual Christmas solidarity campaign entitled "Hope from Bethlehem: Peace for Palestine", through the webinar technology.
The virtual campaign was launched at a seminar opened by Rev. Prof. Mitri Raheb. Founder and President of Dar al-Kalima University during which he said: " As the first and only University in Palestine with the focus on art, culture, and design, we decided this year to have a special virtual campaign “Hope from Bethlehem: Peace for Palestine.” Dar al-Kalima University is located in Bethlehem, that is the West bank, but it is the only West Bank university with a satellite program in Gaza. We have staff, teachers and students in Gaza. We lost some of them in the Israeli airstrikes, others are displaced, from others we have no idea if they are alive or not.
He added: " As people worldwide are preparing for Christmas, they think of Bethlehem. Because of the war on Gaza and as a sign of mourning of the thousands of civilians murdered, the churches in the Holy land have decided to cancel all Christmas festivities. Yet the Christmas story is a Palestinian story per excellence. It talks about a family from Nazareth who was forced by the Roman Empire to evacuate from the north of Palestine, that is Nazareth, to the South, that is Bethlehem. Jesus was born to a displaced family. There was no place for him at the inn, so he was born in a manger. The situation in Palestine under Roman occupation was not easy at all. In fact, king Herod ordered to massacre all children in the Bethlehem area. Over 8000 children have been murdered in the Israeli airstrikes in Gaza with five weeks. The weeping that is heard today in Gaza resembles so much the weeping that was heard in Bethlehem 2000 years ago.
He concluded his speech by thanking all those who stood in solidarity with the Palestinian people from all countries of the world and called for a permanent ceasefire and a just peace.
Mrs. Ghada al-Araj, coordinator of the Gaza program, delivered a speech during which she said:" Dar AL-Kalima Gaza Training Center started in late 2019 with a vision to empower the next generation of young talented individuals and artists in Gaza by presenting them with opportunities for learning and continuous professional development in various field of Art, engaging them in community activities and initiatives and providing them with opportunities for greater exposure locally and internationally through DAK networks and events.
She added: “As of today and since more than 20 days we are unfortunately unable to reach our center in Gaza city but we believe it sustained severe collateral damage as it is located very close to the Al-Shefa Medical Compound. We are deeply saddened that due to the ongoing war in Gaza, we have lost two of our young volunteers, Mohammad Qreiqe’ and Halima Al-Kahlout whom we have fond memories with and have been part of our community in Gaza. Our staff in Gaza including our newly appointed center manager Rana Batrawi who was in Bethlehem just two days before the war, our volunteers and our friends are now displaced in the South of the Gaza Strip and are living in dire conditions due to the war, with many having lost almost everything including close family members and relatives and their homes in Gaza City.”
The seminar included many cultural performances with the participation of artists, musicians, and bands from seven countries of the world, namely: artist Sharif Sarhan from the Gaza Strip, composer and musician ŌKUBO Masato from Japan, Palestinian singer, composer and oud player Marwan Abado currently residing in Austria, Palestinian violinist George Lamam currently residing in the USA, singer and songwriter Garth Hewitt from UK, singer and songwriter Sipho Hotstix Mabuse from South Africa, singer and songwriter Marthe Christine Valle from Norway, Trio Joubran from Palestine, The Olive Branches Choir from Palestine.
The seminar included the presentation of photos from the events of the war on the Gaza Strip, and the presentation of paintings by a number of artists from the Gaza Strip, namely: the artist Heba zaqout, artist Basel Al-maqousi, artist Muhammad alhaj, artist Marwan Nassar, artist May Shaer, artist Jihad Jarbou’, artist Rana Batrawi, and concluded the seminar with a Christmas song performed by the Olive Branches Choir from Palestine.
The campaign aimed to support the artists of the Gaza Strip, who have been subjected to a lot of pain and suffering.