“A’ Al-Daraj” .. Cultural and artistic activities to revive Al-Najmeh Street in Bethlehem
Bethlehem – With cultural seminars, showing films that simulate the reality of the Palestinians under occupation, and educational and recreational activities for adults and children, Palestinian activists brought life back to the historic Najma Street in the center of Bethlehem (south of the occupied West Bank), which is inscribed on the World Heritage List.
Activists called these events “A’ Al-Dairj”, in reference to the fact that these performances are presented on the stairs leading to this historic street in Bethlehem, which was established during the Crusader rule of Palestine after 1100 AD.
Al-Najma Street was recently named by this name after it was known as “Ras Fetais” Street. It was the main entrance to the old city of Bethlehem, which leads to the Church of the Nativity, the holy place for Christians of the world.
This street describes the writer Khalil Shawka, a researcher in the Bethlehem region, and he tells Al Jazeera Net that the person coming to Bethlehem from the city of Jerusalem when he reaches its current northern entrance, in the vicinity of the Bilal Bin Rabah Mosque area, used to see an old town, before the current construction, at the head of A hill, surrounded by trees, plantings and roses.
And if he wanted to enter it, he had to reach the “Arc of Al-Zarara”, which is the actual and ancient entrance to the historic Al-Najma Street, from which he passes to the Nativity Square, and then to the church. hundreds of years.
The people of Bethlehem built their shops on the outskirts of the street, which were famous for selling shells and religious craft products from olive wood, in the Middle Ages, before it expanded to include all other forms of trade later on, according to Shawka.
Fork says – to Al Jazeera Net – that the importance of the street was also in the construction of old houses closer to the palaces around it, most notably the construction of a monastery and the “Father Antonio Belloni” school, which was built in 1863, and later converted to be known as the “Salesian Monastery”.
The people of Bethlehem called this monk “Abu al-Yatama”; He used to gather the city’s orphaned children and others whose families were poor, and educate and raise them, so that the building would be a school and a home for them, where most of the people of Bethlehem would graduate.
In the 19th century, people expanded outside the Old City of Bethlehem, and the street remained of great importance, according to Shoka, until the Israeli occupation came in 1967, and trade expanded to other parts of the city until this street was completely abandoned.
After its arrival, the Palestinian Authority worked on restoring the street several times and bringing it back to life, through tax deductions for shop owners and other deductions from the municipality as well, but it succeeded for only a short time.
After the successful entry of the street into the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2012, and the failure of the official authorities to restore life to it, activists returned to revive it again, with cultural activities in it, but the Corona pandemic in 2020 aborted all of this due to the closures that accompanied it.
Cultural and artistic life
Activist Suleiman Mukarkar, director of the Power Youth Group, which works in the visual, audio and media arts, and which later contributed to cultural and artistic events, says that their activity was aimed at making a positive impact by using various arts to restore life to Najma Street.
And the goal of their movement – according to Mukarker – was to find a tourist tool for the local tourist after the Corona pandemic, after the entire tourist life in Bethlehem, which depends on tourism, was completely paralyzed.
The restoration of life to Al-Najma Street was through personal initiatives of the McCarkar Group and in cooperation with other official and cultural bodies and without support and funding. Their work began last August with the opening of “On the Stairs” activities, the establishment of an exhibition of paintings and activities for children, musical performances and the screening of films that tell the lives of Palestinians Under occupation, field tours to introduce this street were given in the shops scattered around it, or on a staircase that leads to it.
Mukarker tells Al Jazeera Net that these events are still ongoing, and will be annually and in a larger and larger way to revive Al-Najma Street, targeting children, youth and the family to support local tourism, and for there to be a continuous cultural and artistic material also presented to the foreign tourist visiting the cradle of Christ, peace be upon him, especially the historic Al-Najma Street.