osama anfora

In memory of a friend

Andrea Avveduto16 February 2024

In recent weeks, one of our collaborators, a travel companion, a friend has ascended to Heaven. Osama Hamdan, director of the Mosaic Center in Jericho and responsible for many of our projects for the preservation of cultural heritage. He dedicated much of his life to the preservation of the Holy Places, working with us for the care of Bethany, Sebastia, Dominus Flevit, the Basilica of Gethsemane and in these last months of the Holy Sepulchre.

Decisive for his life was the meeting with Father Michele Piccirillo. With him, he decided to create a professional training center for aspiring Palestinian mosaicists, the Mosaic Centre. A place where the ancient tradition of mosaic was preserved and handed down. That’s how it happened. The preservation of beauty had become her life. As a Muslim, he fell in love with Christian places and beyond, working in many churches and synagogues. “Because this,” he said, “means preserving the identity and belonging of a people to its country. Palestine is a collection of civilizations and our task is precisely to preserve this beautiful mosaic. And in this vein, we also want to train young Palestinians. Because the heritage belongs to them. We must also insist on education, because having this awareness comes from an education received. It is the only way for this conservation work to create well-being and benefits.” With Pro Terra Sancta, the collaboration had become close, ever more fruitful. Sometimes edgy, but always sincere. Osama worked with us until the last days of his life, despite the illness that had taken hold of him in the last two years. He never stopped giving directions to his collaborators, making phone calls, planning. His attachment to life was intense, total. Even in the last few months, when he was struggling to walk, he never tired of walking on the terrace of his house, to train, keep fit, keep alive.

The clashes that began on October 7 had proved this. The illness was already well under way, but he did not give up, and with his voice – which had become weaker – he repeated the words that have become a manifesto of life over the years: “Cultural heritage is an important tool for serving dialogue and peace. We must continue to live, to create jobs and signs of hope. Life must go on, always.” And today we feel the duty to continue in this vein, together with the many young people involved, to preserve the cultural heritage in Palestine, to educate to beauty as a point of possible unity among the communities that inhabit this land.

Osama is missed, and he will still be missed by the many who knew and met him. At work, but also at dinners in “his” Jericho, where he loved to spend the evenings in Giuseppe Dossetti’s old house. This is what he said, during one of the many interviews we did with him: “A beautiful life is also expressed through culture and art, two essential aspects of man”. And hers, we can say, was truly a beautiful life, despite the hardships and sufferings she experienced. A life lived to the full, because it is all in search of that Beauty. The Beauty he helped to preserve. The Beauty that today he can see, shining as never before, straight in the eyes.