Beit Sahour: Palestinian Artists Move to Save the Old Through the New

Once the center of a smallish, quiet town just southeast of Bethlehem, the past few decades have seen younger generations gradually depart from Beit Sahour’s Old City for more modern living, more space, and better opportunities abroad not found in an economy stifled by 50 years of Israeli occupation.

As a result, many old buildings, with their thick stone walls, vaulted interiors, and arched windows, have been neglected after passing down from family to family and enduring bouts of Israeli military presence that have also been inherent to the decades-long occupation.

But in recent years, young artisans from across the occupied West Bank, attracted by Beit Sahour’s serene and increasingly avant-garde atmosphere, have instilled new life into the historic core of the town — renovating the abandoned houses and storefronts to set up communal art spaces, while modeling a radical alternative to and rejection of mainstream conventional modes of cultural production.

A collective of Palestinian artists called MishwArt — a play on the Arabic word mishwar (a walk) — launched guided art tours this spring, to help promote the workshops and showrooms that have popped up in the Old City over the past few years.

The tours have connected local artists and solidified the burgeoning community’s progressive, independent identity, which seems to be making a conscientious effort to reclaim Beit Sahour’s cultural and political heritage, and live in harmony with the Old City’s longtime residents.
Read from source in International Middle East Media Centre