Palestinian Heritage Foundation
Newsletter of the Palestinian Heritage Foundation
Edward Said Honored at PHF 12th Anniversary Banquet
On April 3, 1999, the Foundation held its Twelfth Anniversary Banquet. The most heartwarming feature of the banquet was the presence of many friends and supporters. In all, 450 people attended, several traveling considerable distance to be there.
On this special day, the Palestinian Heritage Foundation and the Arab-American community honored Dr. Edward Said. Among those joining in the celebrations were invited guests, His Eminence Metropolitan Philip Saliba, Primate of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese in North America, Drs. Clovis and Hala Maksoud, Dr. and Mrs. Rashid Khalidi, Arab League Ambassador Khaled Abdalla, former First Lady of Lebanon and
Member of Parliament, Mrs. Na’ela Mua’wad, Consul General of Lebanon, Mr. Hisham Hamdan, Mr. Richard Curtiss, Chief Editor of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Dr. Norman Finklestein Professor of International Relations at New York University, Simon Shaheen and Ensemble and many others.
This event coincided with Palestine Land Day, which is celebrated on March 30 of each year by the Palestinian people in memory of seven Palestinians from the village of Sakhnin, Upper Galilee, who gave their lives in defense of their land.
Four of Dr. Said’s friends were invited to participate in honoring him: Dr. Norman Finklestein of New York University, Dr. Rashid Khalidi, of the University of Chicago, Mr. Richard Curtiss, of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs and Ambassador Clovis Maksoud of the American University.
Farah and Hanan Munayyer presented Dr. Said with the PHF Award, as a token of appreciation for his unwavering commitment to the Palestinian cause, the Arab-American community and the Arab nation. Along with the award came a special gift, a watercolor painting of Dr. Said’s home in the “Talbieh” neighborhood of Jerusalem, by renowned artist Jihan Tannous. To a standing ovation of over 450 people, Dr. Said thanked the Foundation, his friends and the audience for their recognition.
Besides the reception and the speeches, there was a display of embroidered dresses from the different villages around Jerusalem in honor of the son of Jerusalem Edward Said, making Jerusalem the underlying theme of the evening. Further artistic displays were the antique embroidered scarves hanging over the main podium, and remarkable series of works by artists Jihan Tannous, Renata Ghannam and Orani Khoury.
The mood of the evening was that of a family party. Everyone felt connected. After all, PHF began as an idea which grew to involve those who care about a common heritage as members of a large family.
Metropolitan Saliba Speaks at Foundation Banquet
Metropolitan Philip Saliba, Primate of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America was keynote speaker at the Palestinian Heritage Foundation’s Twelfth Anniversary Banquet. His Eminence, an ardent Arab nationalist, is a symbol of humanity and optimism to Arabs of many faiths. The following are excerpts from his speech:” I am indeed delighted to be with you on the eve of the Orthodox commemoration of Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
In view of the bloody history of the Holy Land, especially in this century, we are called to meditate on the peaceful way Jesus conquered the Holy City on that first Palm Sunday. No swords, no guns, no tanks, no smart bombs and no bullets were used in His conquest. As a matter of fact, not one drop of blood was shed.
Compare if you will, this conquest with that of General Allenby who conquered the Holy City in December 1917 at the end of the First World War. I would like to express my most sincere compliments to Hanan and Farah Munayyer, founders of the Palestinian Heritage Foundation, for planning this auspicious occasion, firstly, to honor our distinguished friend Professor Edward Said; secondly, to celebrate the Foundation’s twelfth anniversary; and thirdly, to recognize Palestine Land Day.
This cultural and educational foundation deserves our support and admiration. Farah and Hanan Munayyer have labored to keep us connected to our past in a strong and vibrant way. People who do not have a past have no present and will have no future. This is certainly true as long as we do not allow ourselves to become crushed by the weight of the past or buried in the grave of history.
We should reflect on the past in order to deal creatively with the problems of the present and challenges of the future. No one can deny that the Arab image in this country has been tarnished and demonized by both biased propaganda and the lack of an organized and effective Arab response. The contributions Arabs have made to world civilization are largely unrecognized except by a few honest university professors. Our people have excelled in almost every facet of culture.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the main reason we are here is to pay tribute to a brilliant man, Professor Edward Said…… Professor Said has been a prolific champion and tireless defender of Arab culture in the face of certain Orientalists who did not really understand this culture. In this respect, we are indebted to Professor Said for setting the record straight. I am sure, however, that the central issue, which occupies and continues to consume his life, is the tragedy which befell the people of his beloved Palestine. No one has better articulated or worked harder to bring this twentieth century tragedy to the attention of the American people.
Recently, I was struck by an article written by Edward Said and published in the New York Times Magazine, entitled The One State Solution: Why the Only Answer to Middle East Peace is Palestinians and Israelis Living as Equal Citizens Under One Flag. “There can be no reconciliation,” argued Professor Said, ” unless both people, two communities of suffering, resolve that their existence is a secular fact and that it has to be dealt with as such.”
His Eminence enumerated several reasons why Professor Said may arrive at this conclusion: in particular, the failure of the agreements signed by Israel and the Palestinians, including the last Wye-River Plantation agreement, due to Israeli intransigence.
Metropolitan Saliba concluded by asking: ” Could such a dark future for the Palestinians have provoked Professor Said to advocate the “One State” solution? Unfortunately, the facts on the ground, including the political climates in Israel and the Arab world do not support this proposed solution.”
Metropolitan Saliba has advocated a vision of a land shared by both Palestinians and Israelis since 1967: Given subsequent developments on the regional and international levels, the chances of a just peace in the Middle East were nill. Thus, I was a voice in the wilderness. I hope and pray that the One State solution of Professor Said will not meet the same fate……Very soon, the Palestinians will have lost everything, rendering any negotiation with the Israelis nearly pointless.
Ladies and Gentlemen, based on this realistic and dark picture which Professor Said has painted in his article in AL AHRAM Weekly, 29 July 1998, neither the Holy Land State which I proposed for Arabs and Jews, nor the One State solution is relevant. I predict and I hope I am wrong, that sooner or later, what is left of the Palestinians within historic Palestine, will be living in fragmented, disconnected reservations, similar to the fate that befell Native American Indians. Does history repeat itself? I am afraid that sometimes it does.
Despite this rather bleak scenario, I remain optimistic for one reason: history is not static; it is alive and dynamic. The last fifty years, in perspective, are but a brief moment in the vast span of Arab history. Furthermore, I believe that the Palestinians and the Arabs in general will emerge in the new millennium, picking up all the modern tools of science and technology to rebuild and rewrite the future for their posterity. Thus, beyond the long and dark night, there is a new dawn, a new day and a new history.”
HRH Prince Turki Donates $10,000 To PHF Activities
His Royal Highness Prince Turki Bin Abdul Aziz, a philanthropist, Arab nationalist and ardent supporter of education for Arab students and cultural projects around the world, has donated $10,000 to support the activities of the Palestinian Heritage Foundation. This generous donation came on the eve of the Foundation’s Twelfth Anniversary, in appreciation of PHF’s continued achievements in promoting Arab art and culture.
On behalf of HRH Prince Turki Bin Abdul Aziz, Mr. Joseph Qutub, the President of Arab Student Aid International, presented the Palestinian Heritage Foundation with the $10,000 check on April 23, 1999. His Royal Highness made a similar contribution of $6000 on the Tenth Anniversary of PHF. The Foundation would like to thank HRH Prince Turki for his generosity and support of the Foundation’s educational and cultural activities.
Recently, HRH donated $650,000 to build the Faculty of Science and Engineering at AL KUDS University in Jerusalem.
Reviving a Valuable Tradition
By telling stories, parents and teachers can help nurture compassion and develop wisdom
By Samia Costandi
As a researcher in the area of philosophy of education and ethics, I am haunted by the question of how and what we can teach our youth about values today.
Contemporary society has tasted the hatred and resentment that wars have propagated. It has seen galling examples of powerful countries dictating to the weak through the incessant bombardment of the innocent and the defenseless.
We have reaped the fruits of our folly as far as the environment is concerned: the deterioration of the ozone layer, the eradication of lush, green forests to create hamburger breeding grounds and the pollution of air, water and land with dangerous chemicals.
We continue to witness the difficult struggle of developing countries to become self-sufficient. We also see the complacency of the so-called developed countries as they swim in affluence and speak about sustainable development without linking ecological issues with moral ones.
We watch the dismantling of religious institutions without having figured out how to fill that void. The hearts and mind of our youth have been captured by technology. Electronic dictates of how and what to think have supplanted the rich oral and written traditions that served to nurture our imaginations for centuries.
We have rendered the individual feeble in an overwhelming world governed by powerful institutions, lobbies and cartels. Our youth struggle in the throes of fatalism, apathy, disillusionment and resentment. We are not giving them skills with which to go beyond the level of mere survival in this highly competitive and materialistic society.
All of this is terrifying and dangerous. We are witnessing the demise of spirituality in an age where we need it most. What can one say, then, about teaching young people values? Can values even be taught?
Let me suggest that telling a story is one of the major vehicles we can use in our homes and schools to nurture values. Narrative is one of the most powerful tools at the disposal of parents and teachers today. Few people need to be taught how to tell a story. It is a human talent and capacity developed across the ages.
When we examine the mythologies of our respective cultures, we find a remarkable wealth and richness. The symbols and metaphors of mythology have captured everything of importance in human history, which are continually open to interpretation and reinterpretation. Stories about heroes and heroines who carried their respective societies to new thresholds of awareness abound. Stories about compassion, sacrifice, will, honesty, respect, the power of love, integrity, dignity, honor and valor fill pages of mythic Tales. We carry those tales in our hearts and minds; many Myths have been transmitted to us orally across the ages in our diverse communities and societies. Some were told and retold to us as children during family gatherings around the fireplace.
My grandmother never ceased to tell stories until the day she died. She imprinted on our young minds many values by calling upon myths, parables and epigrams, all containing much wisdom. We must revive that tradition with enthusiasm. Children learn much more from telling a story than they learn by any other method. The research shows that clearly.
A story allows the child to play different roles in her mind through the power of imagination. A tale inhabits an expanse that few mediums can provide; it creates a world in which the child can implicate herself without the threat of suffering the consequences of real experience. When such vicarious experiences take place, an understanding by the mind and heart occur at one and the same time, without the didactic efforts we misplace when we dictate and lecture, reprimand, punish or chide.
In listening to a story, the student’s imagination is prodded, different possibilities are initiated, a questioning ensues, a playful evaluation of different possibilities takes place on the emotional and intellectual levels, as a result of which the learner’s understanding is transformed.
My sons have indicated to me over the years how important that tradition has been to them, and the thrill, rapture and richness they experienced through the stories they were told and read. They continue to browse through my library looking for treasures. Most of all, I have told them our story, the story of their parents and grandparents, where we came from, how we survived, what our dreams, ambitions and goals were and are.
I believe that in the future, values may have to be taught in all disciplines through the use of narratives. Every teacher of every school subject is able to introduce some of these elements in their teaching. Our ministries of education perhaps cannot see this yet, as indicated by the budgets allotted to values in education-what is called moral education in Quebec. However, that may be the direction pedagogy will have to take if it is going to be effective. It is ultimately much more useful to teach even math and science through a story that incorporates the interplay of human dimensions than through a collection of abstract formulas listed on the blackboard.
Stories nurture compassion because they allow the listener to put themselves in the shoes of the other. Stories develop wisdom; they teach us about making decisions, about being courageous, about taking the road less traveled. Stories educate us into believing in ourselves and living in community and communion.
If I can put myself in the shoes of the other, it is likely that I will not be savagely egotistical, racist or sectarian. If I am compassionate, it is likely that I will not turn a blind eye to the homeless and poor in my city. If I am empathic, it is likely that the humiliation of another human being will give me any satisfaction. If I am nurtured to be tender and sensitive, the relations between the bird on the tree, the tree itself, the Earth, the seasons and the whole cycle of life gain new meaning.
We have at our disposal a very powerful medium that, if used wisely, can be instrumental in helping us cross many cultural, social, political, emotional and intellectual barriers at the dawn of the 21st century. Not all myths are constructive though. Hierarchical and patriarchal myths that feed on themes of conquest and domination can be destructive. It is time that we abandon those myths that feed on conceptual mind traps that have led us to grave consequences.
Perhaps we can create new myths that are all-inclusive, myths that promote symbols and metaphors of partnership and sharing in this shrinking global village, myths based on co-operation rather than competition.
If anything, tell your children your own personal stories, for each human being is a hero or heroine in their own right as they journey across the complex path of our human condition.
Samia Costandi is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of culture and values of McGill University’s faculty of education.
Photographic Exploration Of Palestine At Dahesh Museum
“Revealing the Holy Land: The Photographic Exploration of Palestine,” will run June 8 to August 28 at the Dahesh Museum in New York City. Exquisite nineteenth century photographs document the modern rediscovery of ancient Palestine ( a territory now comprising Palestine, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan and parts of Syria ) by the nations of the west during the first golden age of photography. Ninety-two vintage prints and two albums document a critical moment in the history of photography, the early history of scientific Biblical scholarship, and Britain’s cultural and political involvement in the region.
The images include tightly composed details of the architectural assemblies that record layers of occupation of an ancient city, panoramas of the Sinai desert that defy any understanding of scale, and iconic views of Jerusalem sought out by visitors today. The centerpiece of the exhibit is a group of 35 photographs taken by Sergeant James McDonald of the British Royal Engineers for their 1864 and 1868 surveys of Jerusalem and the Sinai. They are exhibited as a group for the first time since they were made.
The museum is located at 601 Fifth Avenue at 48th Street and is open 11am-6 pm, Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is free.
PHF Twelfth Anniversary Banquet Receives Worldwide Coverage
The Palestinian Heritage Foundation’s Twelfth Anniversary Banquet was covered by several publications in the United States, Europe and the Middle East.
In addition to the coverage in AL AHRAM International the Banquet was covered by the London based daily AL HAYAT, the California-based weekly BEIRUT TIMES, AL SUNNARA of Nazareth and the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.
The three publications focused on PHF’s achievements during the past twelve years and its ability to attract a high caliber of Arab-American, and American supporters.
In a lengthy article published in the May issue of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Editor Richard Curtiss, praised the achievements of the Palestinian Heritage Foundation and paid tribute to the cofounders of PHF.
Shaheen Dedicates Latest Composition to Honor Said
At the Twelfth Anniversary Banquet Simon Shaheen, PHF Advisory Board member, dedicated his latest outstanding composition to his close friend Dr. Edward Said.
Piano Diplomacy A famed Israeli musician makes an overture for peace.
Daniel Barenboim has appeared on most of the world’s great concert stages. His recordings have been heard by millions. But until he performed in a recital hall at Birzeit University earlier this year, the internationally renowned Israeli pianist and music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra had never played on the West Bank.
The trip to Birzeit from Tel Aviv, where Barenboim grew up, takes about an hour, but it represents a lifetime’s journey. In 1967, just after the Six-Day War, the 24-year-old pianist performed a series of concerts to support the Israeli war effort. Since then, he has grown increasingly critical of what he sees as his country’s harsh treatment of Palestinians and its failure to make peace with them after many years of military occupation. Last year, when asked to help commemorate Israel’s 50th anniversary, he declined. “It was not an act of defiance,” says Barenboim. “I did not have the feeling I could celebrate with an open heart.”
The idea for the concert at Birzeit, a Palestinian school repeatedly shut down by the Israeli, was Barenboim’s. But the story behind it began six years ago when he met Edward Said in a hotel in London. A talented pianist, Said has much in common with Barenboim, and fast, the two men became friends. “What appeals to me about Edward is the ability to connect art, literature, music and politics,” says Barenboim. ” I try to be like this.”
Early last year, Said arranged for Barenboim to have dinner at the home of Birzeit president Hanna Nasir, who had been exiled by the Israelis for 20 years, and his wife, Tania. Like most Israelis, Barenboim had never spent an evening in a Palestinian home on the West Bank. “Are you sure it’s safe?” he asked Said as their taxi made its way from Jerusalem into the West Bank. Barenboim was particularly drawn to Tania Nasir, a lover of art, poetry and music with a large, embracing personality. The pianist responded by inviting her to Jerusalem for a recital. And he dedicated an encore to her, telling his audience that he had spent an evening at the home of a leading West Bank citizen and had been treated not just as a friend but as a member of the family.
Soon after, Barenboim told Said he wanted to perform on the West Bank—something no Israeli musician had done since the territory was occupied from Jordan. With Said’s help and with the cooperation of the Nasir’s the recital was scheduled for January 29. The 500 people who jammed Kamal Nasir Hall (named after a cousin of Hanna Nasir’s who was assassinated by the Israelis in Lebanon in 1973) burst into applause when Barenboim walked onstage. Whatever bitterness might have been lingering in the hall was banished when he played the dramatic opening chords of Beethoven’s “Pathetique” Sonata. By the end of the evening, after a rousing four-hand encore with Salim Abboud, a young Palestinian pianist, the audience was on its feet, applauding wildly. Even the three apprehensive Israelis who had brought a Steinway from Jerusalem for Barenboim to play were impressed. “This is the way to make peace,” one of them said. “With music and with love.”