In the historic center of Bethlehem, a few steps from the Basilica of the Nativity, many buildings are abandoned and crumbling. At one time these were shops and houses largely owned by Christians who fled the fury of a conflict that still winds silently through the streets of the city where Jesus was born. And just as many have abandoned those properties, hope seems to have abandoned the hearts of men and women who remain. To support them, the construction of Dar Al Majus Community Home, a very special cultural center, is underway.
We asked Vincenzo Bellomo, responsible for the projects of the Association pro Terra Sancta in Bethlehem, to tell us about it. Vincenzo has lived there for 13 years and is one of the main promoters of the project. “For me personally – he says – it is above all a dream come true and a 13-year commitment in Bethlehem. An unexpected gift for its beauty and grandeur, which Providence wanted to make to the community of Bethlehem, so tried by tensions. For years we have been trying to give shape to a place that could respond to the needs of the community, where to gather in a single place the many activities we carry out, encourage dialogue between those who remained and at the same time could show those who visited it ( pilgrims in particular) the face of this city through our passionate commitment and life “. Dar Al Majus in Arabic means “the House of the Magi”, the first “foreigners” who traveled to meet the embodied Salvation. “The Magi – he continues – came from afar, physically but also culturally, and allowed themselves to be transformed. From them we want to recover the beauty of traveling, the journey together towards hope, but also the beauty of the journey of those who come here. Then there is the concept of the gift, the gift of self, the sharing and the announcement of the beauty of the Christian fact that happened here, took human form “.
The center will therefore be a place of welcome and meeting, designed for the Bethlehem community, but also for visiting pilgrims. It will be structured on two floors, on the ground floor there will be a space dedicated to cultural and meeting initiatives, with the aim of telling the story of the Nativity, but also of coexistence and the beauty of the Christian announcement guarded by the living communities. It will be open to all and will allow pilgrims visiting the Basilica of the Nativity to enter even more into this reality. At the same time, the inhabitants of Bethlehem will be able to become more aware of their history and realize the enormous heritage of which they are custodians. “For the same reason – says Vincenzo – on the first floor, after this cultural part, there will be spaces dedicated to work, and especially to the training and support of young people, women and those who are disadvantaged. There will be co-working areas, counseling for job orientation, but also places for listening and psychological support, training spaces and many other cultural activities ”.
At the present stage, the design phase has begun which has seen the involvement of the community since its debut: a competition was set up between the young local architects to design the project to find the group that will take care of this dream. Four teams of architects presented their ideas in a meeting that took place inside the rooms of the structure; among them will be chosen the work that will best tell, through the synergy of the spaces, the encounter between pilgrims and the city, between its inhabitants and their past. From all the presentations of the boys, the desire to create something beautiful for their city, to put their abilities at stake to design a building for the benefit of all, emerged. The project is only at the beginning, there are still so many funds left to carry out the work, but the passion with which the people of Bethlehem took the project, bodes well for the future and for its imminent realization. “Supporting this project – concludes Vincenzo – means supporting a community in difficulty, not just any community, however, but the community that for centuries has kept the place where Jesus was born, where we were all born, the origin of our faith”.