one of the major cities in Palestine, Hebron attracts numerous shows and festivals throughout the year. If your Arabic is not up to standard, it can be difficult to know when these are on as many advertise in Arabic, however, with help from the staff at The Excellence Center, knowing when something is on is simply a matter of asking, or alternatively, checking out some of the sites listed below.
On one such occasion, volunteers at the center were informed that a particular cultural show was on at the training institution directly opposite the center. This performance was put on by Al Kamandjati, an organisation that organises cultural events throughout Palestine, and on this instance, one that stopped in Hebron for three days. This particular festival though was not only showcasing Palestinian culture, but cultures from all over the world. It included documentaries on Egypt, Egyptian musicians, performances from Tanzania, Gipsy music and of course numerous Palestinian performances.
The show that the volunteers watched was a traditional Azerbaijan performance – one lead female single, Kamila Nabiyeva, whose voice has been described as sacred, and two instrumentalist, Alakbar Alakbarov on the tar lute, and Elshan Mansurov on the kamancha fiddle .It was, as every volunteer agreed, unique and spectacular. The singer was particularly powerful, while the instrumentalists were obviously experts – the overall performance, set in a stage dimly lit with candles and lanterns against a dark velvet embroidered curtain, made for an intimate and immersive performance, living up to its appeal across all borders.
Before the volunteers though attended this show, they found themselves involved in an impromptu game of basketball at the nearby school while a game of football (or soccer for everyone else) was underway at the stadium. Playing two locals versus three volunteers – two would play while one would catch his breath – the volunteers did manage to give a good account of themselves, but the youngsters proved their match. After this, and prior to the main event, a girls choir treated an audience to their singing abilities, reciting traditional songs and the Quran, and then, for the volunteers, it was a game of football with the school children as they waited for the main event to begin.
As part of the festival guests and the volunteers were also treated to a display of Palestinian resistance art and a photo display of Palestinian villages in the 1800s. The ‘resistance’ art (while not explicitly named this) was profound, it definitely gave guests, in particular the volunteers, another insight into the Palestinian way of thinking and life, while the photos of Palestinian villages seemed to demonstrate the longing these paintings seemed to invoke by virtue of their contrast. It was a powerful display, and when combined with the girls’ choir that sang in the midst of these displays, was a poignant glimpse into the inner longings and thoughts of Palestinians.
As this particular evening demonstrated, time in Hebron is always time spent amongst Palestinian hospitality. Not only was the performance itself exceptionally good, but the time spent prior with the school children playing basketball and football ensured the evening was an especially memorable one.