After their daily Ramadan fast-breaking meal, some 3,000 people gathered at Nablus' Sama Park to enjoy Syrian and Egyptian drama series on a big screen and a Spanish flamenco performance last week.
Nablus is not alone. In recent months the West Bank has turned into one giant performance and culture center. One of the major attractions was the Palestine International Festival of Dance and Music. Tens of thousands of Palestinians flocked to watch exciting performances by various groups and artists.
Ramallah Mayor Janet Mikhail invited residents to join in the street dancing as part of the Ramallah Festival of Contemporary Dance. The city also hosted the Jerusalem Festival and the International Film Festival.
Even Jenin, the intifada's "suicide bombers capital" got its fair share of cultural events.
The Palestinian Authority is calling the recent cultural wave "resistance through culture" with many of the events held under the banner "Palestine fights and challenges the blockade."
Mary Dabit, one of the organizers of the Ramallah Festival explained their motives in creating the festival. "We wanted to bring the sense of change and of a new cultural process we are going through to the street, and primarily share this feeling with people who do not usually visit cultural centers."
Palestine Festival of Dance and Music in Ramallah (Photo: Assam Rimawi)
Surprisingly, and contrary to the positive response from French, Spanish and Italian troupes, groups from Arab countries were less prominent in the festivities. This stems either from an inability to arrive or fear of being accused of normalizing relations with Israel in the case they needed to pass through it on their way to the West Bank.
Supporting the fight for freedom
The Palestinians are attributing profound importance to the foreign acts' participation in the events. "These groups don't come here to make money but to support the Palestinian people in their fight for freedom and independence," director of the The Palestine International Festival Iman Hamouri said.
The Palestinian Authority's Culture Minister Siham Barghouti told Ynet that by participating in the events people were in fact saying they oppose the occupation and adhere to national Palestinian principles.
"This should be normal life, and should not be treated as a rare phenomenon - people have to take a breath and consume some culture, that is human nature."
Barghouti said this was no cultural revolution but a result of the security stability in the West Bank. "The lives of the Palestinian people have always been abundant in cultural activities, but recent years have seen a drop in creation. With the recent security stability and governmental encouragement, cultural elements in the Palestinian Authority have decided to boost cultural initiatives in order to enrich the lives of the Palestinians."
Boney M concert in Ramallah (Photo: Assam Rimawi)
The summer's climax was undoubtedly the Boney M concert in Ramallah to a crowd of thousands of enthusiastic fans. Heavily covered by world media, the concert symbolized a new era for the Palestinian Authority.
New prosperity also brought with it some controversies. More and more young Palestinians are choosing the party life in night clubs and discothèques over lounging in cafés and smoking hookahs.
Conservative media were quick to slam the new trend which threatens to sweep thousands of youngsters.
Will this new cultural boom sustain? In a volatile Middle East now focused on resuming peace talks, one never knows.
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