Old City Landmarks Open Their Doors
“Abwab al-Khareef”: Culture, Art, and Community Bazaar Opens the Fall Season by the Gates of the Old City of Jerusalem
“Abwab al-Khareef” (Doors/Gates of Autumn) opened on Friday, October 1, 2021. The event was “a cultural, artistic, and community” initiative of various individuals and local organizations in Jerusalem to celebrate the heritage of the Palestinian community of the Old City of Jerusalem through the promotion of arts and culture in preparation for the upcoming season.
The organizers felt that Jerusalem residents had faced a slew of challenges in the last year, from pandemic lockdown to home demolition orders, and they needed an event to revitalize the community and bring it together again. On the “Bazaar Abwab al-Khareef” social media pages, the event was described as the embodiment of the integration of Palestinians in their city. It also expressed a shared appreciation of the treasured landmarks that have sustained residents across the years and paid tribute to the heritage woven with love and a sense of belonging and commitment.
Open Doors of Three High Schools
A few hundred persons, mostly from Jerusalem, attended the afternoon event. Several activities took place simultaneously in renowned locales with open courtyards, working rooms, and sports courts.
Among the venues that were open to the public were the two prominent Roman Catholic high schools in the Old City of Jerusalem: The Collège des Frères, which is affiliated with the De La Salle Brothers (adjacent to the New Gate), and the St. Joseph’s Sisters’ School for Girls (near Jaffa Gate). The Greek Orthodox school of St. Dimitri High School, situated between these two schools, also opened its doors for children to jump on bouncing castles, play with balloons, and engage in gymnastics and athletics. Science-based and mind games for children (“Engineering for Kids”) were available.
Participation of the Business Community
Art centers, galleries, cafés, and restaurants starting from the New Gate to Jaffa Gate welcomed passersby to join in for artistic, educational, and recreational programs. These included the Habash family shop, Segafredo Café, Yerevan restaurant, Hamilat al-Tib, and the Patrakis Guesthouse.
Moreover, at different stations, including Sandrouni Ceramics: Armenian Art Center, Jerusalem Pottery Hagop Karakashian, Anadiel: Contemporary Art Gallery, and al-Ma‘mal Foundation for Contemporary Arts, visitors were instructed in the basics of arts, crafts, and ceramics. Talented artists, such as Hamada Maddah (clay workshop) and Abdel Jalil al-Razem (Arabic calligraphy), were on hand to demonstrate their craft.
Music, Dance, and Other Performances
Abwab al-Khareef also included several music and performance activities for various tastes and age groups.
Among the performers, showcasing local talent, were the Sarab Music Ensemble, Mazaj Ensemble (The Jerusalem Society for Music Teaching and Research), the YWCA of Jerusalem Kids’ Ballet; and contemporary dance by Angela Nassar and Maen Ghoul, the Arab Catholic Scouts, Douban Dance Group, Ouf Dance Group, JAW Zaffeh Group, Nakhleh Shiber Theater, al-Quds Innovation Academy, and al-Asdiqa’ Music Group.
Manal Ghneim led a storytelling activity, and Ahmad Jubeh performed a fire show.
Throughout the afternoon, Jerusalemites enjoyed strolling through the bazaars between the New Gate and Jaffa Gate, which sold Palestinian-made creative T-shirts, jewelry, paintings, olive-wood items, flowers, and embroidery.
Coming Together as a Community
Passersby also enjoyed going on short walks in their city as well as playing board games: There was a backgammon competition and a pool table tournament.
Meanwhile, those who visited St. Joseph’s School between those hours got the chance to relish fresh-made saj bread (unleavened flatbread baked on a convex metal griddle) served with labneh and za‘atar. Those with a sweet tooth savored the vast selection of treats offered at Pâtisserie Abu Seir, while others enjoyed a glass of wine with cheese at The Gateway (both located at the New Gate).
“This was an atypical event,” said a Jerusalem resident who attended the event with her family of four. “We rarely see events in this street that are tailored for the Arab community. It has been such a tough year.”
The event was organized by the YWCA of Jerusalem, Sabeel, Jerusalem Tourism Cluster, Tamer Institute for Community Education, (engineer) Omar Ayyoub, and the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center. Support was provided by the Pontifical Mission, Faisal Husseini Foundation, Tamer Institute for Community Education, Palestinian Bible Society, and AlQuds Fund and Endowment.