Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Culture in Nablus

It has been stimulating for me to be able to attend a diverse selection of events in the brief six weeks I've been here. Project Hope has organised films, speakers, presentations and round-the-table discussions, tours of the Old City and social events.

This week we had three such events: a Professor from the University to talk about the current situation, a music evening held in the local Episcopal Church as part of the Baroque Music Festival, and last night, at the Theatre in the University, a play about the French author Jean Genet.

It was a modern piece performed for the first time, by a French troupe of three people. They read out and enacted parts of the author's many books. Genet was invited, late in his life, to Lebanon, and whilst there witnessed the massacre of Palestinians in a Refugee Camp named 'Shatila'. He documented what he saw, and is well-loved here because of it. After the play, I was impressed by the number of local people who asked questions, knew of the writer's works and life, and exhibited a genuine appreciation of both his work and the troupe for coming to Nablus to perform it.

Next week at the French Cultural Centre there is a film on, called 'Children of Shatila', but unfortunately I shall miss it, as I leave on Friday. Maybe it's available on-line? I'll look for it.

All of these activities have been free, needing an invitation only. In an ideal world I think events such as these where you educate, empower and broaden the horizons of people should all be free, but I won't hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

The Director of Project Hope is involved in many of these activities, and has fingers in many pies. He told me this morning that in Islam, there is the act of 'zakat', which is where richer people distribute some of their wealth to poorer members of society in the form of charities, donations, associations, etc. I'm assuming that is why all of these events were free.

There is however, as mentioned before, a real culture of volunteering to do things just for the pleasure of getting involved in something, and not for financial gain. Some of the PH local volunteers had taken the French troupe under their wings, and found them everything they needed during their stay here. Such are life-long friendships made.

Incidentally, I have noticed that on many street corners there are drinking water machines offering free water. Now that's what I call civilized...

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