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How to get Palestinians and Israelis into each others' homes

2 Ratings: 4.5
Article published in Common Ground News Service - 1 June 2010

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How to get Palestinians and Israelis into each others' homes
Carin Smaller

Geneva - "We need a cultural revolution between Arabs and Jews," proclaims Said Abu Shakra, founder of the first Arab contemporary art gallery in Israel. "I believe art is a catalyst for social change. It empowers communities and contributes to progress. Wherever there is culture, pride and a sense of belonging, things proceed in the right direction."

But before you can start changing relations, Arab citizens in Israel need to know who they themselves are. "Our youngsters suffer from an identity crisis," laments Abu Shakra. "We have to honour the history and memory of the past. We need to create a place for people to come and learn."

Abu Shakra argues that since the establishment of the state of Israel, "nothing major was done on the part of the Arab population to preserve their history." That is why the team at the gallery - located in Umm el Fahem, Israel's second largest Arab city - have taken "the responsibility for rebuilding, collecting, studying, commemorating and presenting all that was destroyed that has to do with Arab and Palestinian culture."

In the process, the gallery began to transform relations between Jews and Arabs.

Abu Shakra provides a powerful example of how this transformation occurred. In October 2000, 12 Arab citizens of Israel and one man from Gaza were killed by police officers during a demonstration in Umm el Fahem against Israel's response to the Second Intifada, the second Palestinian uprising. "The event caused a crisis between Arabs and Jews here, probably the worst since the establishment of Israel," says Abu Shakra. "Jews would not come to Umm el Fahem out of fear and mistrust."

The gallery responded immediately. They initiated an exhibition called "In House". Twenty young Jewish and Arab artists displayed their work in people's homes across the city. "For … more

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