Exhibit brings everyday life in Bethlehem to New York

A traveling exhibition by the Museum of the Palestinian People offers visitors a rare glimpse of Bethlehem from the perspective of the city’s residents. “Bethlehem Beyond the Wall” is housed in Nazareth College in Rochester, New York and will run until October 14.

The exhibition is located in Nazareth College’s Wilmot Library and visitation hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. A public opening reception will be held on October 4th from 4 to 6 pm. Another reception will be held on October 5th from 6 to 8 pm.

The exhibition contains about 100 photographs, along with several paintings, video interviews, and maps.  This exhibit focuses on everyday life in Bethlehem, from 1880 to present day.

According to exhibition co-curator Bshara Nassar, the museum team decided to concentrate on Bethlehem to show the depth of the famed city.

“We chose to focus on Bethlehem for this exhibit because we thought Bethlehem is a story-opener for many Americans who don’t know about Palestine,” Nassar said. “Everybody knows that Bethlehem is the birthplace of Jesus, and few really know that it has rich modern culture-old and modern culture.”

The exhibit is separated into seven sections, each with its own distinct theme. The first theme focuses on “The road from Bethlehem to Jerusalem.” According to Nassar, this section of the exhibit answers the question “What does it look like now to go from Jerusalem to Bethlehem?”

The second section of centers on the people of Bethlehem. Nassar states that this section tells the human story of Bethlehem, “as characterized by diversity, the deep love of family, and long tradition of hospitality, and intense bond with the land.”

Another section focuses on the agriculture of Bethlehem. This section explo. A fourth section focuses on the Church of Nativity, one of the most well-known and religiously significant sites in Palestine.

The fifth section focuses on the refugee camps of Bethlehem. There are three refugee camps in the city. The exhibit specifically shines a light on life in the Dheisheh camp, home to 15,000 refugees. Besides photographs, the section also features artwork by artists from the camps.

On October 10th at 12 pm, a conference call with a Palestinian family that resides in the Dheisheh camp will take place at the exhibition site. Nasser hopes that the call will allow the audience to learn about the “everyday story of the refugees living in Bethlehem that most Americans do not know about.” The audience will mostly consist of students from Nazareth College who will have the opportunity to engage in dialogue with the family.

The sixth section focuses on the topic of checkpoints in Bethlehem. The final section centers on the resilience of Palestinians—the focal point of the overall exhibition.

“It is important for Palestinians to know, and for people around the world who engage with us as Palestinians, to not define ourselves by our conflict and our occupation,” Nassar stated. “So, the museum in general, but this exhibit specifically, portray Palestinians as resilient people.”

The Museum of the Palestinian People, located in Washington DC, is dedicated to preserving the history, culture, and stories of Palestinians.  Since 2014, the museum has held exhibitions in over 30 venues in the United States.

Organizers hope to bring “Bethlehem Beyond the Wall” to other cities across the US. Updates regarding future dates for this and other exhibitions can be found on the Museum of the Palestinian People’s Facebook page.

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