As Palestinians Rebuild Following the Latest War Between Israel and Hamas, Housing Will Take Center Stage

By reviving  the traditional concept of exchange-in-kind rather than money, (called il oneh in Arabic), that includes communal effort to construct houses, or, say, lend a hand to olive farmers at harvest time, Riwaq has managed the restorations on a modest budget of $10,000. By involving villagers in renovating their own properties, their programs have also helped revive traditional artisanal building techniques and provided jobs in rural communities that in turn help stem the exodus of young people to big cities.

They’ve even established a new residency that opens next week, in a refurbished historic home in Qalandia, near the main checkpoint on the road to Jerusalem, open to scholars and professionals investigating topics related to “architecture, conservation, environment, community, urbanism, visual art, modern history, and historic archives.” 

The trend toward restoration of old, often Ottoman-era homes, is also evident in Bethlehem, where Golden Lion–winning artist Emily Jacir and her veteran filmmaker sister Annemarie Jacir have converted their old family home into a cultural residency center.

The 19th-century, two-story limestone-walled building known as Dar Jacir has welcomed internationals like the Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz as well as children from a local refugee camp who enjoy their “urban farm.” But in spite of such bucolic scenarios, Dar Jacir is only half a block away from the West Bank barrier wall, near the area of Rachel’s Tomb, and a military checkpoint where violent clashes between Palestinian protestors and Israeli troops are common. 

On May 15th, the sister’s ancestral home was ransacked by Israeli troops and Dar Jacir’s Instagram feed showed images of broken door frames, walls blackened by smoke bombs and bullet casings found on the scene. A few days later the intrepid artists announced in a statement that they been “cleaning the various cannisters, bullets and other projectiles from our garden” and promising, “We will rebuild.” The centre is currently fundraising online for the $25,000 needed to repair damages.

As many Palestinians sift through the rubble of a fortnight’s destruction, it’s comforting to know that traditional typologies reinvented by a new generation of creatives are paving a path to a brighter future.

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