Summer and the long-awaited school holidays can turn into a detestable period for young people living in East Jerusalem and in many other cities in the Palestinian territories: the lack of public, recreational and cultural spaces is a persistent problem that deeply undermines everyday life of children and the whole community. Although the strong summer heat does not discourage the many young people who see themselves playing along the streets of the Old City, once the school year is over, finding entertainment and educational pastimes becomes an arduous task for boys and their parents. There are those who are content to play football using the centuries-old stone arches of the alleys as football goals, those who make reckless bicycle races by slalom among tourists and those who spend a few hours in their parents’ souvenir shops. Many children, on the other hand, participate in summer camps by participating in organized group activities. It should therefore not be surprising if in these days, in the Monastery of the Flagellation, the place where the Terra Sancta Museum is located, you can see numerous groups of children and teenagers with brightly colored shirts and hats that wander around the sanctuary and the museum rooms. Thanks to a project of the Association pro Terra Sancta and the Mosaic Center Jericho, many young people who attend summer camps have the opportunity to take a guided tour and carry out educational activities within the museum.
The idea reflects the strong social vocation of the museum which wants to be a place where not only pilgrims and tourists can deepen the ancient history and Christian roots of Jerusalem, but also a center that can provide a cultural opportunity for the whole community. educational that transmits respect for all religions and cultures present in the Holy Land.
In such a complicated context, where religion, which represents a fundamental aspect of society, can become a pretext for feeding resentments and divisions, the objective of the Terra Sancta Museum is, instead, to be a bridge between different cultures. Today it is the only museum in the Old City of Jerusalem that exhibits archaeological finds belonging to the different religions and cultures that have crossed the Holy Land over the centuries.
The more than four hundred young people who visited the museum in June and July are Muslim: “We want our kids to know the history and culture of Jerusalem with their eyes and they also know other religions,” says Nihad Abassi, a a young educator who works for the Mosaic Center, which took care of contacting schools and summer groups. All visiting kids were asked to design an object, an archaeological find or a moment that struck them during the visit. Nihad strongly believes in this method: “When a child draws an object he has observed, he does it and will not forget it because he will have the memory of the experience”. Shereen, 12, for example, was guided by the beauty of the exhibits and designed the collection of terracotta vases from the 1st century. B.C. exposed in the hall of daily life in the time of Jesus.
Many children got excited, remaining “open-mouthed”, for the multimedia video that illustrates the history of Jerusalem, many of them ask to be able to return again. Ali, 11, of Muslim religion, designed Jesus who carries the cross because he was struck by the images projected in the video. The drawings will be displayed in the museum in order to make the project known to all visitors.
“Palestinians do not have many opportunities to see museums of this type, even archeology is a matter of conflict. The Terra Santa Museum is a museum that speaks to everyone and tells a Palestinian story of great multicultural wealth, “says Daud Ghoul, of the Jerusalem Arts Network” Shafaq “. He too, among the promoters of school visits to the Terra Sancta Museum, together with the Association pro Terra Sancta, is committed to carrying out the project so that more and more schools and children and adults can have this wonderful opportunity.