Inside the First Palestinian Museum in the U.S. | NowThis World

Palestine to me is the starting point It’s where I came from

It’s my heritage My cultural starting point It’s people It’s land And it’s a lot of injustice For many many many years, we watched in the US and the West in general as the mainstream media have kind of painted Palestinians in a way that kind of dehumanized them

We want to educate the public about Palestinians We want to do it through the arts My story as a Palestinian is not unique, it’s that of millions of other people I’m Faisal Saleh, I’m the founder and executive director of Palestine Museum US

I remember Palestine in the ‘50s and ‘60s, I left in 1969, two years after the ‘67 war There was a lot of anguish over the loss of home, loss of land When people left, they thought it was going to be like 2-3 weeks and everything is gonna be settled and everybody would go back But that hasn’t happened and it’s been 70 years Originally, my family comes from a village called Salama, and our family had been there for generations

In 1948 they had to leave and they lost everything In ‘69 I received a scholarship to come finish the last year of my high school in the US I’ve been in the US

for 49 years In a way I’m American and I’m like any other American here, and I work and pay taxes, and socialize with people here, and yet at the same time I’m able to relate the same way to Palestinians And somewhere in the middle here there’s this no man's land that’s kind of troubling sometimes The thought of doing something for Palestine became in the forefront for me I really wanted to do something since I had not done anything for a long time

I began an intensive effort to contact Palestinian artists in Palestine and around the world And we had some office space that was vacant for a long time and it was really in bad condition We decided to take some of that space and repurpose it for the museum In June of 2017 I started work on this project We opened in April of this year

We’re at the Palestine Museum US, we’re in the town of Woodbridge, Connecticut And we’re about a 2 hour train ride from New York City One of the biggest obstacles was to get the art to display, the majority of the art here is on loan from the artist

A lot of them came from Gaza Some from Jordan, and some from the US also, it’s wherever there are Palestinians, and there are Palestinians everywhere But a significant number is from the West Bank and Gaza

It’s difficult shipping from there, you still have to get it through the Israeli checkpoints, and the borders, sometimes it took two months to get some shipment out of there We have artists who work under extreme conditions, trying to show that despite all the negatives, all the obstacles, they’re capable of producing masterpieces of work It’s 100% Palestinian museum, it’s all about Palestine and Palestinians, Palestinian ideas, funded 100% Palestinian, currently I’m the only source of funding for the museum Most people come to the museum are coming from a distance, they’re driving one hours, two hours, sometimes three hours to come here For Palestinians, it’s like a shrine

They come here and they tell us, this is the only place that talks to us And it’s the only place that belongs to us It’s hard find places where I’m represented, and I think coming to the Palestine museum made me prouder of who I am and who I will become It makes me feel like I’m still connected to Palestine even though I’m not there right now I had a wonderful experience coming to this museum and getting to connect with a part of my history and past that I don’t normally see

The idea of a Palestine museum in the US made me so happy When Palestinians and Americans visit the museum, they’re really awed by what they see They’re awed by the photographs from the 1800s and 1900s, they’re awed by the paintings

The drawings on that wall are from the children of Gaza after the 2008/2009 attack by Israel on Gaza As part of the treatment of the children, they were asked to draw what they saw And this is some examples of some of the drawings that made it to the US from there

We have artifacts like these clay pots that are more than 100 years old They were used Palestine for storing olive oil There’s an installation there that shows an ammunition box full of rocks It really highlights the asymmetry of the conflict There are some paintings that show the Holy Lands

What we’ve done here was successful But it has a small reach, given the physical location We want to take this and branch it out to the 12 largest cities in the United States, and we want to do it over a couple years Our objective, really, is to change the discourse, from talking about political conflict, talking about war, terrorism, to talk about the human side of the Palestinians We have the artists, we have the poets, we have the writers, we have the sculptors, and that we are capable of excellence

It’s in your heart, you can’t really forget Every Palestinian, they have it in their heart They know what Palestine is And they know how much of a wound that is And they’re aching to do something about it

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