The Arab Thought Forum organized the Jerusalem International Conference in the period between 19-21 October 2009, under the title “Role of Culture in Developing Jerusalem Identity”. The conference was held under the auspices of “Jerusalem, the 2009 Arab Capital of Culture”. The conference objectives aimed at promoting the cultural heritage of Jerusalem and the contribution of its civilization in providing the necessary immunity against the Judeaization of Jerusalem by the Israeli occupation authorities.
Abdel Rahman Abu Arafeh addressing the participants during the dinner hosted by the prime minister.
The Conference was launched in Jerusalem, and continued on the next two days in Ramallah and Bethlehem. During its sessions, the conference discussed 25 papers covering six main themes; Jerusalem Society, Jerusalem Architecture, Jerusalem Culture, Art in Jerusalem, and non-Arabs influence in Jerusalem, in addition to a special session to honor the Palestine poet Sameih Al Qasem as well as other five Palestine personalities that dedicated their time and effort to helping the Arab Thought Forum during the last 33 years.
The conference was launched in Jerusalem by a reception attended by religious, political and community representatives as well as representatives of the diplomatic missions. An opening remark was presented by the ATF Board of Trustees Chairman, Daoud Istanbuli.
During the Second day, Abdel Rahman Abu Arafeh, the ATF director opened the conference explaining its objectives and venues. Rafiq Husseini, the head of the Administrative board of Alquds 2009 Festival, presented the opening speech followed by Abbas Abdul Haq the head of the ATF Board of Directors. The prime minister, Salam Fayyad hosted a dinner to the participants in which he delivered a keynote speech covering several issues on the government role related to Jerusalem.
In Parallel, an arts exhibition was organized in Bethlehem for six Palestinian artists covering elements of Jerusalem heritage. In short period, the ATF will issue a special book that will include the conference papers and the proceeding and conclusion, it is expected that the book will be utilized as reference for furthers research by other institutions.
On the closing session, the conference adjourned with the following conclusions:
• Jerusalem Heritage composed of sacred sites, traditions and practices, has main influence on protecting the Arab heritage of the city in front of the Israeli judization policy.
• The ability of Jerusalem citizens to tolerate and resist the Israeli hostile measures, start to be negatively affected, due to the increasing Israeli aggressions, in which support required to enable the Jerusalem citizens and institutions continue their sustainability.
• The culture heritage which characterized Jerusalem requires continuous care, renovation, documentation and exposure in all written and audio visual forms.
• Jerusalem society, as the human factor that took the burden on behalf of the Arabs and Islamic nations need to be supported by all means.
• There is need to maintain and promote the culture heritage including supporting the creative initiatives in all forms of written, performance and fine arts, including the support of culture centers and promotion of extracurricular and outdoor activities.
• Special attention must be placed to the Jerusalem memories, especially in regards to the biography and memories that need to be documented and exposed together with the Jerusalem diverse culture.
• Arts in all its forms, is considered the main pillar supporting the city culture; accordingly, all forms of arts; visual, novel, theatre and popular dance needs incentives to be able to promote more creative initiatives including sponsoring the specialized institutions to enable them to support creative individuals.
• In spite of the richness of the Jerusalem architecture, the emerging of business needs has shifted the building from the traditional style which characterized the Jerusalem architecture, accordingly; Jerusalem traditional architecture needs to be preserved and respected.
• In this regard and with no relation to the political development, the need exists to document and explore the confiscated Palestinian architecture treasures in West Jerusalem, in addition to renovation and preservation of the traditional buildings in the east of the city.
• The festival of Jerusalem 2009 Arabs Culture Capital, is an important occasion that allows the exploration of many of the city heritages, this development necessitates the need to institutionalize this approach.
• There is an emerging need to institutionalize the heritage of Jerusalem and promote its horizon through the establishing of “The Nation Council of the Palestine Heritage in Jerusalem” including accessing this council with the necessary tools to develop and promote this heritage.
• Demanding the International specialized organization especially the UNESCO and other regional and international organizations specialized in culture to activate and continue their activities to preserve the Jerusalem heritage.
• The continuous Israeli Judjization acts through the underground execution and above ground demolishing and settlements construction and hardship on the renovation of the Palestine buildings, consider as severe violation of human values. In this regards its important to call for all concerned parties to make the necessary pressure to prevent the occupation authority from continuing its violations