RAMALLAH, October 24 (JMCC) - Palestinian public gatherings in Jerusalem are largely banned - even cultural events risk being broken up by the Israeli police.
Here, blogger Omar Rahman reviews the
final night of the al-Quds Underground Festival, a response to the repression of the arts in the city. He describes how he and other members of the audience were guided from home to out-of-the-way venue to view musical and theater performances.
The festival was started by Dutch composer and Jerusalem resident Merlijn Twaalfhoven after Jerusalem was named the Capital of Arab Culture in 2009.
“I thought that this was unacceptable,” said Twaalfhoven, speaking about Israel’s response to the Capital of Arab Culture. “Every people have a right to express their culture. You have a right to work on your identity and celebrating culture is giving a voice to your identity.”
Twaalfhoven began organizing a series of performances by Palestinian and international artists to connect locally and collaborate on an artistic project.
“I felt it must carry on,” he says, thinking back to first days. “I said, let’s go underground. Let’s go to private spaces, hidden spots and safe places for people to express their identity.”
Venues were organized in people’s homes, anywhere they could get away from the prying hand of the authorities. Publicity for the event was circulated by word of mouth only.
It was in this way that I was lucky enough to hear about it from a friend. So, on Saturday, 22 October, I attended the final night of this year’s festival, in what would prove to be an extraordinary experience. The night began in a parking lot of a local church, where a large gathering of Palestinians and foreign expats came together. We were then broken up into small groups to be led by a tour guide. Although there are several distinct performances every year, each small group makes their way to four or five of these, followed by a large performance at the end of the night with everyone in attendance.