On the opening day, attendees and passersby enjoyed the outdoor music performance of Muhammed Salaymeh, Issa Mashal, and Elias Arbeed. The skillful oud player Canaan Ghoul also joined the trio (and he had a solo performance on August 10 at Burj al-Luqluq in the Old City of Jerusalem).
The grand opening of the festival featured the Haifa-based Faraj Suleiman, whose music is influenced by Arabic culture as well as jazz traditions. His album Better than Berlin has become hot among Palestinians worldwide. The album, released during the pandemic and livestreamed on social media platforms, largely resonated with individuals from different age groups.
The evocative lyrics, written by Majd Kayyal, delve into serious subjects such as gentrification, colonialism, and racism, yet they also maintain a quirky spirit. For example, the song “Questions on My Mind” (a favorite for many) conveys the social eccentricities and tittle-tattles of the Palestinian community in Haifa.
Despite the temptation of the youth to just leave it all behind and emigrate to Europe, the song reminds them that the sweet charm of the neighbors, families, and love stories of Haifa cannot be found elsewhere. Despite the occasional irritations of one’s hometown, what Haifa (and Palestine) offer is unparalleled, even “better than Berlin.”