Birzeit – Center of Local Culture:  

Birzeit and its neighboring villages can be to a compared to a work of art drawn on the towns'' valleys and hillsides, coloring the old houses, stones and olive trees with shades of gold, brown and green. Here, much as the shades of color harmonize, so do the people.  Muslim and Christian families celebrate both Eid al-Fitr and Christmas with church bells and chants of the Quran from the mosque.  Muslim mothers bring their children to the Birzeit Easter Egg Hunt and everyone celebrates Ramadan.

The Birzeit region, encompassing the surrounding villages (Jifna, Atara, Burham, Jibiya, Aboud and Ein Sinia), forms an important economic and cultural center in the West Bank.  It is where many new factories and centers of learning and culture have developed.  Birzeit University, for example, is one of the leading academic institutions in Palestine and the Arab World.  Older industries are flourishing -- the Taybeh brewery, the Birzeit Pharmaceutical Company, while new ones are being initiated -- the winery in Aboud, a wood-working factory in Birzeit.

As the site of Palestine’s annual Heritage Festival, Birzeit is well placed in the pantheon of Palestinian villages to display its cultural history.  Its people are accustomed to receiving international visitors, one of the best restored Sufi shrines is next door in the neighboring village of Atara, and its old city of stone houses, mostly restored, is a living center of residences, cafes, schools, and small businesses.

Sights, treks and activities:  

  • Visit Birzeit University (BZU),a public university and the first university to be established in Palestine. It has the highest number of admissions among Palestinian universities and is considered as one of the most prestigious universities in the Middle East.
  • Explore the Old Town in Birzeit which contains remnants of the Greek, Roman and Mamluk civilizations such as the Mamluk stable, the Roman church, al-Umari Mosque, and the Greek Orthodox Church.
  • The al-Qatrawani Sufi Shrine is superb in its newly-restored state.
  • Hike the hills around Birzeit, make candles and mosaics
  • The Al-Khader, or St. George, Church, located east of Taybeh and built first in the Byzantine era and then re-constructed during the Crusader era. The remains of the Crusader castle St. Elias can still be seen.
  • Participate in a workshop at the Palestinian Circus School.
  • St. George''s Church in Jifna,built in the 6th century CE, now its ruins a tourist attraction.

Workshops and cultural activities:  

Guests may be offered participatory activities such as candle- and mosaic-making, learning a Palestinian dance.   Evening cultural performances may feature Palestinian movies, music, traditional songs and dances. Other workshops and activities can be arranged. 

Meals and accommodations: 

Guests will be hosted in home-stays, guest houses or a Bedouin tent.  Restaurants and women’s associations will serve three daily meals and snacks and will feature traditional dishes such as Mousakhan, Maqlooba, Falafel, and Hommus.

Local guides:  

young men and women of the Birzeit CLC have been trained in guiding tours.  They have good language skills they know their areas.

Socializing and discussions with residents: 

a CLC requirement is that it provides multiple opportunities for visitors to interact with the people of the villages.  The activities, workshops, home-stays, use of local guides – all are designed to give tourists time and space to talk with their hosts and the residents of the villages.  In fact, the youth have been encouraged to give visitors a “cultural-political touristic experience” and in some places, a special “graffiti-creating experience” (as only the youth the world over know how to do).  Candle- and mosaic-making in Birzeit will provide special opportunities for interactions with residents.

Role of the local community:  

an important component in any CLC is the involvement of the people who live there – women, men, youth, the elderly.  Men and women of the villages serve together in equal numbers on the Center’s Committee.  The older residents are the story-tellers who pass on the old stories and myths they inherited from their ancestors.  Birzeit’s CLC encompasses several women’s organizations and youth groups who play prominent parts in providing services to our guests.

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