Centro Mosaico Jericó

“Here I found myself.” Story of Raed, mosaicist in Jericho

Giacomo Pizzi28 January 2020

1,250,000 mosaic tiles, 100 pieces to cover an area of ​​5 square meters, a month and a half to complete. At the Mosaic Center in Jericho a team of six people work tirelessly to create the mosaic covering of a niche in the crypt of the Dormitio, the church on Mount Zion in Jerusalem that commemorates the dormition of the Madonna. Every day the mosaicists glue tile after tile following the directions of Raed, the veteran of the Mosaic Center, who, with his 20 years of experience behind him, guides them in this complex operation: one of the most difficult ever faced by the group so far.

Raed got to know the art of mosaic in 1999 when he decided to attend a course promoted by the Italian Cooperation and Development Agency (AICS) as part of the restoration of the mosaic floor of the Hisham Palace in Jericho. Nisf Jubeil comes from a village of 300 inhabitants not far from Sebastia, the Roman city in the heart of Samaria. At the time of the beginning of the course he had recently married and his wife was pregnant with his firstborn. Every day Raed traveled for two and a half hours from Nusf Jubeil to Jericho to learn the mosaic art and restoration, activities unknown to him until then.

A few months after the start of the lessons, the outbreak of the Second Intifada has a strong impact on work: traveling on the streets becomes dangerous. He often sleeps in Jericho and gets a second evening job to pay for the expenses. He spends long periods away from home and the worry of having made the wrong decision grips him: “I had left a job in an Israeli construction company. It was hard and unsatisfactory work, but certainly more profitable, at least initially, than the adventure I was getting into. ” The doubts tormented him: “It was a double challenge: both with myself and with the people around me who didn’t believe in me – he still reluctantly tells us remembering those moments – Many have advised me to stop, to do other things, but I insisted because I wanted to see where this road would lead me. And I found myself. “

After three years of training, Raed decides to join the newly formed Mosaic Center association, a Palestinian non-governmental organization founded by Michele Piccirillo, Osama Hamdan and Carla Benelli. Over the years the association has grown to have an international level of prestige. The mosaics created decorate the walls of many churches in the Holy Land and beyond. The number of employees has reached 30 members, many of whom were trained by Raed himself: “She was only a young girl when she started – she says pointing to her colleague Shireen – now she already has a daughter and we continue to work together”.

To our question if after all these years he has not tired of his job, Raed replies that every project is a new challenge. Despite the initial sacrifices and difficulties, in fact, he never regretted his choice. Thanks to the Mosaic Center and the Italian partner association Associazione pro Terra Sancta, he continued his studies, graduating in a master of restoration and conservation of archaeological sites. He has traveled, known and collaborated with people from all over the world, but above all, as he is keen to underline, he does a job of which he is proud and, carrying on a cultural tradition of his land, he manages to maintain his family and to study her four children