Palestine’s Expo 2020 Dubai pavilion takes visitors on a multi-sensory tour of Jerusalem

Special Palestine’s Expo 2020 Dubai pavilion takes visitors on a multi-sensory tour of Jerusalem
The pavilion may not have an ornate exterior but its simple, yet dignified. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 05 February 2022

Palestine’s Expo 2020 Dubai pavilion takes visitors on a multi-sensory tour of Jerusalem

Palestine’s Expo 2020 Dubai pavilion takes visitors on a multi-sensory tour of Jerusalem
  • Visitors to the Palestinian pavilion are treated to an experience that employs all five senses
  • Upon entering the pavilion, visitors are transported to an authentic Jerusalem street scene

DUBAI: Palestine’s pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai is as eye-catching as it is groundbreaking.
The pavilion, situated in a prime location along the main concourse of the Opportunity District, may not have an ornate exterior, but its simple, yet dignified, design stands out easily, especially when one considers Palestine’s geographical size and diplomatic status.
With some of the expo’s biggest pavilions nearby, including those of Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Egypt, the Palestinian pavilion gives off an air of understated grandeur and is close to the Al-Wasl dome, giving it enviable visibility in the Arab world’s first world expo.




The sand-colored stones are the same that pave the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City and were brought from Palestine to adorn the pavilion. (Twitter)

On entering the pavilion, visitors are transported to an authentic Jerusalem street scene. Most guests experience the pavilion in small, guided groups of about 20 people, who are offered an informative, albeit occasionally crowded, tour of the pavilion’s displays.
Its stone-tiled floors are an immediate focal point. The sand-colored stones are the same that pave the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City and were brought from Palestine to adorn the pavilion.
According to pavilion staff, some visitors remove their shoes and kneel on the stones to be as close as possible to a land considered sacred by many.

Also paying homage to the city’s ancient architecture are modern replicas of its famous archways, floor-to-ceiling photos of the picturesque alleyways that snake through the Old City, and atmospheric audio of the city’s soundscape.
The overall sensation is immersive and hints at the pavilion’s theme — See, Hear, Touch, Smell and Taste — creating an experience of Palestine that employs all five senses.
From the entrance, visitors follow a path lined with the same latticework and mashrabiya designs that call to mind the balconies and doors of houses in Jerusalem.
The back wall features an elevator and a remarkable panoramic image of the city, looking out over the buildings and surrounding landscape.




Some visitors remove their shoes and kneel on the stones to be as close as possible to a land considered sacred by many. (Supplied)

From here, visitors enter the first exhibit: “See.” A brief video plays, highlighting the natural beauty of rural Palestine, its industry, economy and welcoming culture. The video ends with an exhortation to create a “new perception of Palestine.”
From “See,” visitors move on to “Hear.” To amplify sensory perception, the “Hear” corridor is cast into darkness, with nothing on the walls but a few minimalist light drawings that help identify the sounds emanating from the speakers.

Along the corridor are different sound bubbles. In one, there is a call to prayer, followed by ringing church bells, evoking the proximity of the major religions in Jerusalem. In another, a poem about Palestine is recited in English and Arabic.
In a third, street sounds predominate, with cars and people speaking, bringing to life a typical Jerusalem street. In the last area, the sounds are of traditional Palestinian musical instruments, including the oud.




Hopes for statehood recognition. (AFP)

Walking through the next corridor, visitors arrive at “Touch.” Again, as with “Hear,” perceptions beyond the focal sense are limited. In this case, mysterious objects are placed in hidden compartments within white columns, stretching from floor to ceiling. Screens guide visitors through the process of feeling inside the column and guessing what the items are inside.
In some cases, the objects are emotionally charged. One is a large metal key, easily recognizable by touch. A screen informs the visitor that the key is a symbol of the dream to return to homes left behind in 1948, when nearly half the Arab Palestinian population was exiled in an event known as the Nakba, or catastrophe. Many displaced families have preserved the keys to their homes in Palestine.
Another easily discernible shape is a many-pointed star, symbolizing the star of nativity. This star was found in 1717 in Bethlehem, and is said to mark the place of Jesus Christ’s birth. A screen informs visitors that the Church of the Nativity was the first UNESCO World Heritage site to be listed under the name of “Palestine.”
Moving on through another corridor filled with mashrabiya shadows, visitors arrive at “Smell.” The smell of Palestine is represented through roses, sage, guava, oranges and olive oil soap. Each has a clay pot, which emits the scent, followed by a description of its significance.
Roses, for instance, represent the rose of Jericho, which wilts in the desert heat, but springs back to life with the first sign of moisture — a resilience believed to be synonymous with the people of Palestine.
Next is sage, or maramiya, a popular tea ingredient in Palestine, consumed after meals as a digestive aid. In the pavilion’s words, it is “a quintessentially Palestinian pleasure.”




Images of luscious olives, lemons, rice, meat and spices are projected from above on to empty white plates. (Supplied)

Olive oil soap, which has been used in the region for millennia, is also featured, its strong and refreshing fragrance lingering on the nostrils as visitors move on to the next exhibit: “Taste.”
Somewhat surprisingly, there is nothing to eat in the Taste exhibit, although the pavilion’s cafe, Mamaesh, is nearby. Instead, images of luscious olives, lemons, rice, meat and spices are projected from above on to empty white plates set on a table in the center of the room, while a short film about Palestinian cuisine is projected on an adjacent wall.

The film features tantalizing close-up shots of zaatar, falafel and kunafa, while also lingering on the people preparing these dishes. Rather than simply focusing on the cuisine, the exhibit leaves visitors with a taste of Palestine’s warmth and hospitality.
Once visitors have experienced all five senses, they are brought to a room and handed virtual reality headsets. In this immersive experience, the full sensory experience is brought together on a journey through Jerusalem’s top historical sites, from the Dome of the Rock to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.




Palestinian pavilion does not focus solely on the future, nor does it dwell excessively on the past. (Supplied)

Unlike many other Arab offerings at Expo 2020 Dubai, the Palestinian pavilion does not focus solely on the future, nor does it dwell excessively on the past. Rather, everything about the pavilion, not least the channeling of perception through the five senses, creates a feeling of immediacy and connection.
Indeed, in the video from the pavilion’s “See” exhibit, a line references the “pulsation of the present.” A visit to the Palestinian pavilion creates a shared moment in the here and now, which is both unique and irreplaceable, much like Palestine itself.


Israeli PM to press France on Iran, warn Hezbollah ‘playing with fire’

Israeli PM to press France on Iran, warn Hezbollah ‘playing with fire’
Updated 05 July 2022

Israeli PM to press France on Iran, warn Hezbollah ‘playing with fire’

Israeli PM to press France on Iran, warn Hezbollah ‘playing with fire’
  • France is among world powers trying to revive a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran
  • Iran has itself been in breach of the deal, ramping up projects with bomb-making potential

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid will press French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday for a tougher and time-limited tack on the Iranian nuclear negotiations, and warn that the Tehran-backed Hezbollah group is “playing with fire,” an official said.
Lapid’s visit to France, his first abroad since becoming caretaker premier last week, is also a chance to flex diplomatic muscles as Israelis gear up for a snap election in November.
France is among world powers trying to revive a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran that the previous US administration quit and which Israel opposed, deeming its caps insufficient.
As Lebanon’s former colonial administrator, France has additional clout in Beirut — whose economic crisis-hit leaders were jarred on Saturday when Israel shot down three Hezbollah drones launched toward one of its Mediterranean gas rigs.
“The French are very, very active on the Iranian issue,” a senior Israeli official told reporters.
“It is important for us to make our case ... Israel opposes a return to the JCPOA (2015 nuclear deal). In the same breath, we do not oppose a deal. We seek a very strong deal.”
Israel is not a party to the nuclear negotiations. But Western capitals have been attentive to its worries about its arch-enemy and worried it might take preemptive military action if it deems diplomacy a dead end.
Since the US walkout, Iran has itself been in breach of the deal, ramping up projects with bomb-making potential — though it denies having such designs. Its technical advancements have set a ticking clock on the so-far fruitless negotiations.
“We want an end to the unending talks,” said the senior Israeli official, calling for “coordinated pressure” on Iran and offering help on “drafting an appropriate framework” for that.
Israel has de facto front with Iran in Lebanon, home to Hezbollah. The senior Israeli official, alluding to Saturday’s shoot-downs, accused the group of “playing with fire.”
The official declined to elaborate on that warning, but said Lapid would share with Macron “new material explaining how Hezbollah is endangering Lebanon.”
Hezbollah and Israel fought a war across Lebanon’s border in 2006 but have been in a largely stable standoff since.
The Karish rig near Lebanon’s coast will produce gas not only for Israel, but eventually also for the European Union, the official said, tapping into EU countries’ quest to replace Russia as an energy supplier since it invaded Ukraine.


Egypt FM in London to inaugurate partnership council

Egypt FM in London to inaugurate partnership council
Updated 04 July 2022

Egypt FM in London to inaugurate partnership council

Egypt FM in London to inaugurate partnership council

CAIRO: Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry headed to London to inaugurate the first partnership council between his country and the UK.

The council will be co-chaired by Shoukry and British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. It will include political consultations and discussions on economic and trade issues, with the participation of British Trade Policy Minister Penny Mordaunt.

A spokesman for Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said the launch of the council comes in light of strengthening cooperation between the two countries in various fields.

While in London, Shoukry met with Lord Tariq Ahmad, British minister for South Asia, North Africa, the UN and the Commonwealth, to discuss bilateral relations.


Woman stabbed by husband in front of court in Jordan

Woman stabbed by husband in front of court in Jordan
Updated 04 July 2022

Woman stabbed by husband in front of court in Jordan

Woman stabbed by husband in front of court in Jordan
  • The woman, who was rushed to the hospital and admitted to the intensive care unit, was listed in fair condition.

AMMAN: A woman was stabbed by her husband in a public street in Karak in front of the Karak Sharia Court on Monday, according to a Jordanian security source.

The unidentified man pulled out a knife and stabbed his wife in the back, chest and right hand, according to a source at Al Karak Public Hospital.

She was rushed to the hospital shortly after and admitted to the intensive care unit. She was described as in fair condition.

The attacker has since been apprehended, and police are currently investigating the incident.

According to eyewitnesses, family disputes between the couple led them to review the case at Sharia court before the situation escalated and the husband attacked the victim.

Following the death of 18-year-old Iman Ersheid, who was shot dead on campus, public outrage in Jordan has fueled calls for the death penalty to be enforced in such cases.

Last week, the High Criminal Court in Jordan sentenced a 50-year-old to death for stabbing his ex-wife before the Northern "Rusaifa" Sharia Court in a similar incident.


US offers cash rewards to curb Iran smuggling

US offers cash rewards to curb Iran smuggling
Updated 05 July 2022

US offers cash rewards to curb Iran smuggling

US offers cash rewards to curb Iran smuggling
  • Navy targets weapons and drugs in Arabian Gulf and Red Sea

JEDDAH: The US Navy is offering cash rewards of up to $100,000 for information leading to the interception of smuggled weapons and narcotics in the Arabian Gulf and the Red Sea.

The initiative by the Bahrain-based 5th Fleet does not directly name Iran but analysts said it was clearly aimed at curbing the flow of Iranian arms to the Houthi militia in Yemen and restricting the lucrative regional drugs trade operated by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
“Any destabilizing activity has our attention,” 5th Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Timothy Hawkins said. “Definitely we have seen in the last year skyrocketing success in seizing both illegal narcotics and illicit weapons. This represents another step in our effort to enhance regional maritime security.”
Operators fluent in Arabic, English and Farsi will staff a phone hotline, and the Navy will also take tips online in Dari and Pashto. Payouts can be as high as $100,000 or the equivalent in vehicles, boats or food for tips that include information on planned attacks targeting Americans.
Asked whether new seizures could increase tensions with Iran, Hawkins listed the weapons and drugs the Navy hoped to intercept under the program. “That’s what we’re after,” he said. “That’s not in the interest of regional stability and security.”

Opinion

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The fleet and its allies seized $500 million in drugs alone in 2021, more than the four previous years combined, and intercepted the shipment of 9,000 weapons, three times the number in 2020.
Despite a UN Security Council arms embargo on Yemen, Tehran has long been transferring rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, missiles and other weapons to the Houthis in Yemen. UN experts have examined missiles aimed at civilian targets and oil infrastructure in Saudi Arabia and traced the components back to Iran.
The rewards program is the latest initiative under 5th Fleet Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, who also launched a drone task force last year amid rising tension with Iran. The US Navy and Revolutionary Guard naval forces have had several encounters in the Strait of Hormuz.
The Houthis said last week they were monitoring increased US activity in the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf.“Because of this, defense and confrontation options are open,” a spokesman said.


Gaza’s economic crisis puts a damper on Eid celebrations

Gaza’s economic crisis puts a damper on Eid celebrations
Updated 04 July 2022

Gaza’s economic crisis puts a damper on Eid celebrations

Gaza’s economic crisis puts a damper on Eid celebrations
  • Commercial activity is unlikely to show much improvement during the Eid Al-Adha season as people further tighten their spending

GAZA CITY: Samira Shamali will not buy Eid clothes for her four children because of worsening economic conditions in Gaza, with businesses struggling to stay afloat, rising poverty and unemployment, and skyrocketing prices.

Commercial activity is unlikely to show much improvement during the Eid Al-Adha season as people further tighten their spending, say analysts.

“There are more (important) priorities than new clothes for Eid,” said Shamali. “I will only buy basic necessities so that we can celebrate Eid and receive guests. Prices are all on the rise, and our income is limited.”

The 47-year-old mother’s oldest child is 16 and the youngest seven.

In contrast, Mahmoud Al-Talouli, 33, has decided he will buy clothes for his children. He was out shopping with his wife and two daughters on Omar Al-Mukhtar Street in the Rimal area in search of suitable clothing.

“My two daughters are young, and they don’t know if the economic conditions are tough or good, so I can’t (have) Eid pass without buying them clothes,” said Al-Talouli, who is a carpenter and works for daily wages.

“The economic conditions are difficult, but the children should rejoice. Aren’t the difficult conditions and wars they witness sufficient (unhappiness) for them? At least (they should have a) celebration during the Eid period.”

The Gaza Strip has unemployment of over 45 percent due to the Israeli blockade.

About 80 percent of its population depends on food aid provided by UNRWA and international institutions, according to official UN reports.

Although Israel allowed about 12,000 workers from the Gaza Strip to work in the country after the last war in May last year, they were not better-paying jobs.

Hamed Jad, an economist and director of Al-Ayyam newspaper’s office in the Gaza Strip, believes that these workers are paying off old debt, and because of the uncertain job situation, are forced to save what little money is left over.

“The number of workers is limited, and the Gaza Strip has been (having these) harsh economic conditions for many years. Those who have money are afraid of the future. The political and security conditions are unstable,” Jad told Arab News.

The economy of the Gaza Strip depends mainly on the salaries of those working for the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas government in Gaza.

About 50,000 workers and retirees in the Gaza Strip receive salaries and pensions from the Palestinian Authority, while about 40,000 are employed by the Hamas government in Gaza.

The Palestinian Authority has not yet paid the salaries of its employees in the West Bank and Gaza Strip because of the economic crisis. Payments are likely to be made on Wednesday, Palestinian Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh announced on Monday.

Basem Skaik, a women’s clothing merchant, stood in front of the door of his shop, complaining about the lack of customers during the Eid season.

“The economy in Gaza has been suffering for years, (there is) security instability, high prices for most commodities, and instability in the exchange rate of the dollar, which increases prices for the consumer, reasons that may limit (people’s) purchasing (power),” Skaik told Arab News.

“We are merchants, but at the same time we live in Gaza and we also have needs. Many merchants and shop owners closed the doors of their stores, and some of them were imprisoned because they were unable to pay their debts,” he added.