Thursday, April 20, 2017

The "Jerusalem Nights"

Recreating the East Jerusalem downtown

The 'Jerusalem nights' is a new concept for East Jerusalem that aims at rebuilding the sense of community and belonging to the Jerusalemites and creating a cultural/commercial hub for them to interact, coverage in discussions, attend shows and artistic productions go out to eat and in doing all that, recreate a vibrant cohesive Jerusalemite community . The final aspiration is that after a four year period, the concept of a downtown is created and the targeted area will become a regular hub for the community to go to after working hours. The old city of Jerusalem, as well as the Bab al Zahreh vicinity outside the walls of the historic city including Salah a din, Zahra and Sultan Suleiman streets, constitute the commercial area of the city which is visited in the morning by shoppers and inhabitants who go about seeking to complete their daily errands. However, the area dies down by sunset or by about 5 o'clock in the afternoon when shops mostly start to close and people leave their workplaces to go back to their homes. The customary evening activity for Jerusalemites is watching television at their residence. In some cases, local neighbourhood clubs serve as venues for community gatherings, some of which have become restricted to young men watching international sports events broadcast on big screens. The neighbourhood clubs, although do get the communities of the city together, however, have been indirectly promoting tribalism, in the sense that the communities have become detached from each other with a sense of exclusivity and isolation.

In the last few years a great cultural potential has come up especially in Zahra street with the new housing of three cultural centers within a 30 meter proximity from each other. These centers are:The National Conservatory of Music which in 2013 moved to its new fabulously renovated 500 square meter mansion with a beautiful spacious garden on 11 Zahra street. Yabous cultural center which in 2011 moved its offices to the 1350 square meter venue of the old al Quds cinema with three halls on number 10 Zahra street.
Al Hoash-Palestinian Art Court ,which in 2010 moved to its intimate exhibition space with several rooms designated for the exposition of Palestinian and international art works, on number 7 Zahra street.Not far away, and at the end of Salah e Dein street, a 5 minute walk from the three Zahra based centers is the oldest cultural center in Jerusalem, the Palestinian National Theatre- al Hakawati, established in the early 1980s with its 300 seat theatre and its 100 seat multi-purpose hall.
Also a 20 minute walking distance away, is the recently fabulously renovated old tile factory that now houses Al-Ma'mal Foudation for Contemporary Art, inside the old city at the New Gate with several exhibition spaces and an artists' residence facility.The five cultural centers have now established The Jerusalem Arts Network "Shafaq".

The Jerusalem Arts Network "Shafaq"

Five arts centre in Jerusalem have come together and formed a network called "Shafaq". These cultural centres are five of the most prominent in Jerusalem, who are open to the public, give services to the community, are legally registered, and are governed by legal boards. The five centres have agreed to a Jerusalem Cultural Strategy (JCS) based on the National Palestinian Cultural Strategy, which will guide their joint efforts and will be the basis for their lobbying in putting Jerusalem and its community and Arts on the priority list of all those concerned.

These centres are: 
  1. Al-Ma'mal Foundation for Contemporary Art
  2. The Edward Said National Conservatory of Music
  3. Palestinian Art Court-Al Hoash
  4. Palestinian National Theatre
  5. Yabous Cultural Center

What is "Shafaq" ?!

"Shafaq" in Arabic means twilight. The word is the Arabic acronym for the Jerusalem Network of Arts. It is also in the view of the centres, a very appropriate name for two reasons:
1) It depicts one of the most esthetically beautiful moments of the day when the sun is about to set, which specifically has a unique exquisite picturesque scene over Jerusalem most of the days; 
2) It is the time of day when most of the artistic and cultural activity starts, thus it is the beginning and not the end, and the start of something new, creative and inspiring. This is the spirit of this new network.