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On Tuesday, October 29th, 2019, the Minister of Local Government H.E. Eng. Majdi Al-Saleh inaugurated the Palestinian National Forum for the Regeneration of Historic Centers in Ramallah under the slogan "Towards Vibrant Historical Centers" in the presence of the Minister of Tourism and Antiquities H.E. Ms. Roula Ma'aya, the Belgian Consul General in Jerusalem H.E. Mrs. Danielle Haven, the Deputy Minister of Local Government and chairman of the forum Mr. Ahmed Ghuneim and a number of representatives of local organizations benefiting from the project.
H.E. Al-Salih stressed the importance of the pioneering project implemented by the Ministry and the Municipal Development & Lending Fund (MDLF) in partnership with the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities with the support of the Belgian cooperation and funding from the Belgian government which was a significant addition to all national and community efforts, which contributed significantly to the revival and preservation of cultural and historical heritage.
H.E. Al-Salih added: "It is time to unite all efforts for all models in order to take-off on a strong and national determination to make the most of this national resource to be a symbol of our presence and management of local and national development, and a bridge to communicate with all peace-loving people.
H.E. Al-Salih stressed the need to work to preserve and develop this experience because it will be the model on which the Ministry will work to disseminate and that it’s a major responsibility and must be built on the experience, expressing his gratitude to all the staff who worked on the completion of the project and the Belgian cooperation for their continuous support.
H.E. Ms. Roula Ma'aya said: “The Rehabilitation of Historic Centers project is considered to be a unique model in cooperation and joint work between the national institutions which focused on the role of integration and joint management between all partners and gave local organizations a role in determining their priorities in addition to the local community that participated in determining these priorities through interactive meetings allocated for this”.
H.E. Ma'aya stressed that the national heritage is the symbol of the cultural identity of the Palestinian people and is part of the human heritage and despite the attempts of the occupation over the past years to obliterate it, it remained a witness to the Palestinian right in this land which is one of the elements of the Palestinian state. The role of local authorities in preserving cultural heritage is an important and major role, so there must be continuous cooperation and coordination to stop the demolition work in historic towns and cities.
H.E. Mrs. Danielle Haven, Consul General of Belgium in Jerusalem said: “At times when the Palestinian cause is under mounting pressure, the excellent results of this renovation project stress the importance of and the support for the Palestinian identity. Because renovating historic sites is not only a matter of stones and bricks, but foremost a matter of matter of minds and hearts. Together with you, we tried to improve social, cultural and economic development at local level by not only cleaning up the historic places, but also making them more accessible in order to bring back Palestinian life to these places”.
H.E. Mrs. Haven added: “24 projects in 12 local government units were accomplished, for example in Anabta, Burqa, Sabastiyeh and Bani Na’im to name just a few. A fully renovated historic building is not only to be visited on special occasions but should be inhabited by local companies and services, leading to more presence and therefore even more economic activity. Also, more activity will lead to more protection and preservation of Palestinian presence. The ownership of the renovations will depend a lot on the village councils and the population in the villages. Therefore, an exchange of both top-down policy recommendations coming from the ministries in Ramallah, and the bottom-up input of the local level will be crucial to ensure long term success of these investments. Enabel put a lot of effort into trust building and collaboration between all stakeholders: we hope this will lead to a fruitful take-off to a next phase, including for example a recognition by UNESCO for the site in Sabastiyeh”.
Mr. Ahmed Ghuneim added: “The place is a spirit and a memory, we have our own story and others have theirs, but we believe that the story that is in itself has to face challenges."
The work of the forum continued for three consecutive days which was organized by the Ministries of Local Government and Tourism with the support of the Belgian Government through Enabel. The Forum is the first of its kind in the field of Rehabilitation of Historical Centers.