Stepping into Ad-Dar

By Louise Bjerre Dalum
September 3rd, 2003

“Today we celebrate that a dream has come true. The building looks small but is large in its mission”

With those words, Bishop Munib Younan launched the new Ad-Dar Conference and Cultural Center, Monday evening the 1st of September 2003.

Located in the heart of Bethlehem, Ad-Dar is of vital importance for the people of Palestine since it represents hope for a brighter future.

For Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, general director of the International Center of Bethlehem, it has been a dream come true. In his welcoming address, Rev. Raheb said,

At a time when a wall of separation and apartheid is being
Built around Bethlehem, we are here investing in people who dare to cross boundaries. At times of bombing and shelling, we set new tunes, play new songs of freedom, justice, reconciliation and compassion,

The inauguration event was attended by over 500 Palestinians and members of the international community. The celebration was under the patronage of H.E. Ms. Paula lehtomaki, Finnish Minister of Foreign Trade and development, and H.E. Dr. Nabeel Kassis, Palestinian Minister of Planning.

Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, Minister Ms. Paula Lehtomaki and Rt. Rev. Munib Younan
at the official opening.
Over 500 participated in the celebration

It is a brilliant project. I am truly happy to be part of this.
I wish this will be a place for dialogue and discussions
amongst the Palestinian people,

said Minister Lehtomaki, whose government, represented by the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs back in 1998, generously decided to sponsor the design, awarded to the Finnish Architect Juha Leiviska, and the construction of the new center.

The long and awaited journey of the construction and finalization phases of the Center was met by a number of obstacles mainly the Israeli occupation and the infamous invasion of the city of Bethlehem in April 2002. This however did not discourage any of the people dedicated to the final realization of the project from joining hands and working together - under gun and tank points, continuous curfews, and total destruction - to revive the spirit of continuity and collect the shattered pieces of the dream, which is now realized here today.

The reception took place outside in Al-Waha, the garden

In Ad-Dar, today, people of various walks of life have at least one thing in common: Culture. Rev. Raheb best described this in his words,

“What we are celebrating today is more than a building. We are investing in a community. We are creating a cultural movement.”