Zajel and ROOD Organize a Palestinian Folkloric Exhibition in Holland


In cooperation with Rood, the youth branch of the Socialist Party in the Netherlands, a Palestinian Folklore Exhibition was organized from 10th April to 1st  May 2005. The program, which involved visiting four Dutch cities - Rotterdam, Eindhoven, Groningen and Harlem - concentrated not only on cultural exchange but also unfamiliar aspects of Palestinian cultural heritage, history and daily life in Palestine, usually neglected by western media.





The object of the exhibition was to narrow the gap between Palestinians and the Dutch, as well as to promote mutual understanding and respect. Palestinian participants also provided first hand accounts of current life in the Occupied Territories.


The exhibition showed posters and pictures telling the story of the Palestinian people and the history of their cause; portraits of the Diaspora and Palestinian refugee camps; Palestinian daily life, particularly in the villages; traditional handicrafts as well as the paintings of several Palestinian artists and others by students of the Fine Arts Faculty at An-Najah National University. The exhibition also displayed photographs taken by the Palestinian photographer Ala’a Badarneh, showing life during the second Intifada, Palestinian civilians at checkpoints, curfews and Israeli invasions.


Palestinian embroideries made by women of the Workers Union in Nablus, national costumes and dresses, were also put on display. Films and historical documentaries were screened and there were performances of Palestinian traditional music and dance by groups such as the Palestinian Popular Dance troupe and the Al-Hanooneh troupe, amongst others. 




The program commenced in the city of Rotterdam, one of the biggest Dutch cities, the country’s main port and home to a huge number of immigrants from more than 120 different nations. The exhibition officially opened on the 11th April with a debate about Palestinian life, moderated by the Dutch journalist Emad Al-Kaka. The speakers were: Mr. Muhammad Al-Baaz, the Former Representative of the Palestinian Liberation Organization in the Netherlands, Rubriek Van Dreik, Head of the Youth of ROOD, and Mira Nabulsi, Assistant Coordinator of the Zajel Youth Exchange Program. The audience asked questions about life under occupation and how European youth could best support Palestinian people living in such difficult circumstances.


The rest of the program in Rotterdam included field visits to Boijmans van Beuningen Museum and to the City Hall, where the delegation met the Head of the Socialist Party in Rotterdam, who explained the political system of the council and political parties in the Netherlands.




The delegation also visited Libanon Public School in Rotterdam, where they gave two presentations to senior high school students. The goal was to give these students a better understanding of what their Palestinian fellows have to face in order to get their education, whether in schools or at universities, and also clarified some of the misleading terms often used by mass media, which obscure the actual conditions under which Palestinians are forced to live.


The exhibition came to a close in Rotterdam on the evening of Thursday 14th April with a cultural evening, attended by a Dutch Palestinian audience. The evening included poetry and music in addition to a dialogue between the audience and the Zajel delegation.


The next stop for the exhibition was Eindhoven, one of the Netherlands’ big industrial cities. The exhibition was displayed for two days in a hall and two days in the Technical University of Eindhoven and included a debate on the apartheid wall and Palestinian life under occupation. Mr Jamal Abdallah, from the Dutch Palestinian Platform, and representatives from United Civilians for Peace, gave presentations on the Israeli wall and its implications for the Palestinian people.


On the last day in Eindhoven, the delegation visited the City Hall and met with members of the City Council who are affiliated to different parties, including those on the right and liberals. The delegation discussed the situation of the Palestinian people and prospective political solutions for the conflict.




The third city in the program was Groningen. The visit started with a tour of the city and its famous monuments, such as the Martini Tower and the University of Groningen. The exhibition lasted for four days and included a debate about the Apartheid Wall. The audience listened to members of the Palestinian delegation talk about their experiences of the wall and the complications it has brought about for Palestinian people, especially students. Mr. Yousef Ahmed, the Middle East Coordinator of Amnesty International/Dutch Section, talked about the political background of the wall and discussed what Dutch youth could do to change European public opinion. A clip was screened from the documentary, Route 181, directed by Michel Khalifeh and Eyal Sivan.


A cultural evening was organized and a Palestinian lunch was prepared by the delegation. A film produced by An-Najah Radio station, entitled Immigrant in My Homeland, was screened during the cultural evening and was followed by a discussion about the current situation of education in Palestine and the difficulties Palestinian students face both as undergraduates and after their graduation. A presentation of the Jabalya-Groningen Committee was given and afterwards the Zajel delegation introduced some performances of Palestinian dance.


The delegation was invited by the Socialist Party to the Netherlands Parliament in the Hague and attended a session of the Dutch Parliament. They met with Mr. Harry Van Bommel, the Coordinator of the Foreign Affairs in the Dutch Socialist Party, with whom they discussed the current Palestinian situation, the exhibition and its goals. He spoke positively about future cooperation between ROOD, other Dutch organizations and Palestinian universities and associations, and not only encouraged young Palestinians to come to the Netherlands to speak about their cause, but also Dutch youngsters to visit Palestine to see for themselves the reality of the conflict on the ground.


The delegation was also invited by activists to the Middle Eastern Studies Department of the University of Leiden to give two presentations to students of the Faculty of Anthropology and of the Middle Eastern Studies Department. The presentations were about suicide missions, terror, occupation, the right to education, the Zajel Youth Exchange Program and the possibility of Dutch students undertaking voluntary work in Palestine.


The delegation also visited Delft University and listened to a presentation by Mr Wim Lankamp, from the University Administration, about the University and its different faculties. The delegation spoke about An-Najah National University, its faculties and potential cooperation projects which could be implemented. 




The last city in the schedule was Harlem, which is very close to Amsterdam. The exhibition there lasted for four days and included a debate in the Nieuve Groenmark Churche, hosted by four representatives of different Dutch organizations. Each representative talked about his/her point of view regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, explained their involvement in making changes on the ground, and explained the political reality and the difficulties facing the co-existence project between the two nations. Another discussion about a peaceful solution for the conflict also took place.


The Harlem program included a Palestinian cultural evening and during the closing ceremony there were musical performances by four Palestinian musicians and singers, who sang some old patriotic Palestinian songs and enthused the audience so much that they danced the Palestinian dabka on the beats.


Miss Nabulsi gave a speech on behalf of the delegation and the Youth Exchange Program. She explained how the project had come to be a reality after months of preparations, and thanked ROOD and its members for their efforts in making the project such a success and the delegation feel so welcome. She also thanked everyone who had visited the exhibition and all those people from different organizations who had shown their support for the project. Hosting families were also highly appreciated for their hospitality. She closed her speech by expressing the deep gratitude and gladness the delegation felt after such an important experience and invited Dutch friends in the audience to visit Palestine.


On the departure day the Palestinian delegation thanked Miss Renske Leijten, the Coordinator of the project from ROOD, who had devoted her time to the success of the project. She was invited to visit An-Najah National University and, in turn, ROOD will send four of its members to join the International voluntary workcamp of the Zajel Youth Exchange Program in August 2005, in order to strengthen relationships with Palestinian youth and associations. 


The Palestinian delegation included Ala Yousef, the Coordinator of Zajel Youth Exchange Program; Mira Nabulsi, Assistant Coordinator of Zajel Youth Exchange Program; Fawaz Lubbadeh; other Zajel activists; and Ablah Rweis, Presenter of An-Najah Radio Station.


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