Arab Educational Institute, Bethlehem
Insights from a preparatory seminar 9-10 April, 2013, made possible by
With the support of
The Educational Program
Arab Educational Institute, Bethlehem
Arab Educational Institute (AEI-Open Windows), a Palestinian NGO in Bethlehem and member of Pax Christi, plans to start In January 2014 a 1-year educational program in Cultural Entrepreneurship (CE). This three-semester program will recruit Palestinians in the southern part of the West Bank who wish to set up an economically sustainable, small-scale cultural business or project.
The following report covers the main insights from a seminar and preceding meetings on April 9-10, 2013, in Maarn in the Netherlands organized by Timu Kota with the support of the Ecumenical Women’s Group Twente-Bethlehem: 'Creating Connections' - 'Developing Cultural Entrepeneurship in Bethlehem, Palestine'. The Anna Lindh Foundation generously helped to prepare the event.
Changing needs of tourists
The term “cultural entrepreneurship” is relatively new in the West Bank. Its meaning relates to bridging the gap between entrepreneurship as an income generating activity of individuals or organizations on the one hand, and the field of culture on the other.
We define culture here as activities involving the creative design of meaningful experiences. By using this short-hand, broad definition, we wish to stress that it is important for Palestinians active in the tourist or visitor industry to link up to what is called worldwide the “experience economy.” In order to establish commercially or otherwise successful jobs in the tourism or cultural sectors, future cultural entrepreneurs have to look for new ways to relate their products, services and events to the creation of meaningful experiences.
The general tendency towards an experience economy moves away from standard or “mass” products, services and events. Much of present-day tourism industry tends to come closer to the individual needs of visitors. Diversification and flexibility have become key. This is also felt in the West Bank. Many tourists want to find new, unique experiences – not only the familiar experiences provided by group visits to landmark sites in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Jericho. They often look for special experiences in less-known, small-scale settings, such as Palestinian homes or neighborhoods.
Thus, ccultural entrepreneurship is not just about earning money in exchange for a limited standard product or service. It involves the creation – even the co-creation - of an overall experience for which visitors are willing to pay. Such experience is related to value creation in a meaningful, unique environment. In the Palestinian context, it can involve the offering of hospitality and relaxation, as well as the expression or realization of values such as learning, authenticity, community-building, and solidarity.
The educational program
The educational program will involve:
- Cultural tourism and the hospitality industry.
- The cultural assets of Palestine, both old and new.
- Developing a niche in the cultural industry which fits the students’ potential and meets market needs. The education will build on the talents, interests and stories of trainees, and the resources of the cultural environment.
Fostering skills in
- Product, service and event development.
- Small business management and making a business plan.
- Communications, including the effective use of (social) media for marketing purposes.
The graduates of the training will be encouraged to use the home or neighborhood as a base to offering unique products/services in various fields of cultural tourism. The trainees will be encouraged to form local and international partnerships that promote visibility, marketing and networking.
After their study, the entrepreneurs are expected to help making Bethlehem and the southern West Bank more attractive as a visitor destination – less standardized and more creative, cultural, authentic, and lively.
The training has been prepared with a subsidy of the Anna Lindh Foundation (EU).
Initiatives for cultural entrepreneurship in Bethlehem: examples
On April 9 and 10 a Dutch-Palestinian seminar was held in the Netherlands by Timu Kota, the Ecumenical Women’s Group Twente-Bethlehem, and AEI-Open Windows. The seminar’s purpose was the development of creative ideas in the field of cultural tourism from which future cultural entrepreneurs could benefit when developing their businesses in Palestine. Here below is an overview and categorization of the many ideas that sprang up during the seminar, made possible by a contribution of the ALF.
AEI will use these ideas to both clarify the concept of cultural entrepreneurship and to support future trainees to develop niches that meet the needs of foreign visitors as well as the local Palestinian society.
- Animal riding: donkey, camel, horse
- Palestinian cooking
- Farmer demonstrating and explaining traditional agricultural handicrafts
- Arts workshop given by artist: painting and drawing the Palestinian environment
- Doing archeology under professional guidance
- Learning and playing/singing traditional Palestinian music
- Playing music in the desert
- Using crushed cement sand of the Wall for making your own sculpture
- Supporting/facilitating visitors making an amateur film on Palestine
- Creating activities for children, traditional Palestinian street games
- Cheap Palestinian meals, bread from the taboun (traditional oven)
- “Best hummus in the world”
- Theme restaurant (story restaurant, Bedouin life)
- Picnics in the field, desert, with storytelling and music in the evening
- Meals with traditional live music, storytelling
- Cooperation with ATTA (Aid to the Aged) of Mrs Nura Kort (Jerusalem). The elderly people of ATTA produce embroidery cards, but the design should be updated to meet western needs
- For international markets: practical food or food-related products
- Football shirts, story inside the shirt
- Soccer shops, on-line selling points
- Official football shirts
- Women football shirts
- Volleyball, swim clothes
- Keffiyeh with story label
- Labels attached to products with stories of origin, uses, folklore
- Candles with Palestinian stories, wisdom
- “Sell the Wall”: Wall is torn down virtually: making pictures of the wall and selling these to the international community, to famous and less famous people.
- Sand glass, using crushed wall cement as sand - “nothing lasts forever.”
Collection of products
- Christmas gift package
- Palestinian embroidered bag with variety of contents
- Creating products for high-end tourists. Making another offer for backpackers. Making a differentiation of the products on offer.
Do it yourself products
- Do it yourself: making your own perfumes, candles.
- Making products from crushed wall sand.
3. Dialogues and meetings
- Meetings with professionals, like artists, teachers, or nurses
- Seminar or conference around a theme related to Palestinian life or the political situation
- Wisdom of children, asking them for solutions. Create space for the creativity of the children. Organize an event. Talk with them about their ideas. Film it.
- “Day of the dialogue”
- Collecting stories by interviewing tourists
- Regular forgiveness stories: telling tourists about forgiveness stories, how hard it is. Asking the tourists to ask themselves questions about their ability to forgive. Creating an equal and open conversation.
- Organizing a “Dare to Ask” event. Collecting questions/needs of people and inviting others to come over to help a person to solve this (practical issue). More information about the concept in Dutch: http://durftevragen.com/over-durftevragen/geschiedenis/
Palestinian cultural events
- Festival, including agricultural festivals
- Art Biennale
- Flashmob. In a public space one person starts to paly music, sing, clap or dance. All of a sudden people join in. The audience is overwhelmed. A flashmob is well prepared. It can create a lot of attention. Organize it at the square near the church in Bethlehem around Easter or Christmas. Tourists will film the flashmob and put it online.
- Picknicks with storytelling, music and singing
- Marriage procession
- Reviving traditional rain procession (begging for rain)
- Choir in the desert
- City poet, city teller (annually chosen, giving performances)
Palestinian religious events
- Holy Mass near the Wall or in the countryside, to celebrate or contemplate attachment to the land
- Traditional procession towards the village Al-Khader south of Bethlehem. Al-Khader is considered both a Moslem and Christian holy person; in Christianity he is identified with St George, of the dragon. The feast day of St George is May 5.
- St Mary’s procession to the village south of Bethlehem, Artas
- Bethlehem Sumud Choir singing religious songs
- Serious Request: radio DJs hungerstrike for week to support a project; people ask for songs and financially contribute to the cause
- Balloons over the Wall, with messages. Sending out balloons with messages on a regular basis. The messages should be positive and kind
- Pop concert near the Wall
- Stilt walking along the wall; who succeeds walking 100 meter is sponsored, for a good purpose
- Support for House of the Elderly in Bethlehem
- Suspended coffee (buying a coffee or meal for a poor person, who remains anonymous)
- Clean-up in one day (Ramallah clean up team).
- Flashmob or lively surprise event in front of the Church of Nativity, visitor groups having to arrange it.
- Youngsters organizing their own theatre show or events. Finding their own sponsors– crowd sourced. Also inviting people, online and IRL to make the event possible by donating a small amount of money.
- Occupation museum (showing different kinds of permits on the wall, checkpoint game, using crushed wall sand for creative sculpturing, occupation jokes, testimonies shown on a TV, showing stereotypes of Palestinians etc.)
- Bethlehem museum (Bethlehem under siege, Bethlehem’s Christmas, heritage)
- Palestinian Christmas museum (showing Palestinian heritage relevant for understanding the Bible)
- House minimuseums (showing family album, old toys, old objects from the attic)
- Refugee museum (photos, objects from the past, testimonies on TV)
- Demonstrations of craftsmen and actors making traditional products
- Historical drama and storytelling on the spot
- Anthropological museum (Artas)
- Marriage museum (customs, old and new)
- Garden museum: “herb paradise”
- Serious games: checkpoint game, Identity game, permit card game
- Hide and seek cards with Palestinian wisdom quotes (proverbs, song texts, folk stories)
- Traditional Palestinian street games
- Day journey going from family to family: 1. Coffee 2. Lunch. 3. Dinner.
- Theme itinerary: Experiencing spirituality in nature, hermit’s or sufi’s life. Singing and poetry in the desert. Peace route, fruits route, culinary route, checkpoint route, Alice in Wonderland route, habitation route (how people used to live/still live – houses, caves, different types of structures). Taste/herb route, women’s route, story route, seven wells route.
- Shuttle along touristic route. Tasty tour bus (learning about food).
- Silent hike, artistic hike, meditative hike
- Riding on a donkey like the holy family – but now along the wall
- Discovery games in nature
- Couch riding, or riding on horse, donkey
- Story-telling “bird”– “Speak Bird, Speak Again,” children used to ask their mother who was telling bedtime stories.
- Discovery journey for youth, learning about treasures of nature
- Reality discovery (Cf. passing ten checkpoints in a day, writing/photographing all what you see, making a photo/text book)
- Interactive route: headphone, “story whisperer”, downloading theme routes for free, renting MP3player, walking map and surprise
- Experienced accompanier: a Palestinian desert “Ranger” (Bedouin, traveler).
- Neighborhood or city safari (with accompanier together on scooter, donkey or…).
- Giving different options: walks (mark the paths), finding herbs in the neigbhorhood.
- Passing the checkpoint, guiding, checkpoint stories and sounds, clown at the checkpoint, checkpoint tasks (observing).
- Story poles along a route for hikers. Pressure the button and the pole tells a story.
- Making music or doing storytelling in nature.
- Combination with picnic.
- Combination with workshop or dialogue in open air.
- People don’t know what is on offer in Palestine. Catching the tourists who visit Bethlehem just briefly and give them something for free (and link to a website, YouTube) where they can see what else they could have visited in Bethlehem. Making sure people know what they are missing.
8. Accommodation and hosting
- Staying at a farm
- Bed and breakfast
- Couch tourism, ecotourism – for individuals or families
- Host-facilitator (between couch surfing and ecotourism)
- Artists in residence, artists staying for instance a month and exploring local music, interesting landscapes
- Bedouin hospitality
- Conference/workshop room near the Wall.
Partners and advisors CE educational program 2013
- International advisors include Roel Verstaen (via PUM, Netherlands), Thom Geurts (at Hogeschool InHolland), Ina ter Avest (at Hogeschool InHolland), and Annemiek van Breugel (at University Twente).
- International organizations giving advice to the development of the CE training include Timu Kota (Netherlands), Ecumenical Women’s Group Twente-Bethlehem (Netherlands), Stebo (Belgium), and ViaVia Tourism Academy (Belgium).