Home News Beit Sahour Opening of Dar al-Balad, a new restaurant and "artisana"
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Opening of Dar al-Balad, a new restaurant and "artisana" PDF Print E-mail
Written by Annadwa   
Friday, 27 June 2008 10:11
{mosimage}A new Diyar institution was born this month in Beit Sahour, the traditional location of the Shepherd's Fields in the Christmas story.  Dar al-Balad, a new restaurant and "artisana", is the first Diyar institution to open outside of Bethlehem city, but it represents a first step in Diyar's vision to expand its ministries throughout the West Bank.  With the opening of Dar al-Balad, we are actively encouraging a revitalization both of life in the old city of Beit Sahour, and of Palestinian heritage through art and cuisine.  In addition to this, Dar al-Balad is also creating 15 full-time jobs for Beit Sahour, and more than 80 part-time jobs for Ajyal members, Dar al-Kalima College students, and talented artisans.  We expect to welcome 20,000 local and international visitors this year.

Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, the President of the Diyar Consortium, explains how Diyar developed the vision for Dar al-Balad:

{mosimage}"We chose the name 'Dar Al-Balad' for our fourth institution because the word Dar is our trademark that unites all the institutions of the Diyar Consortium.  Dar al-Balad has a special meaning in Beit Sahour, because it is the term used by people who have moved out of the Old City into the newer parts of town, to refer to their old homes in the city center. 

"But Diyar doesn't believe in weeping over the ruins of the past, or going back to the old days; instead, our mission is to create life in the cities that are lifeless, to transform the old, dark alleys into bright spaces for tomorrow, and to offer our people a new vision for the old houses.  By offering modern services in the ancient city center, we are creating a new approach to preserving and cherishing our heritage."

These new services include the first European-style street café in the West Bank, and a brand-new restaurant, a welcome addition to the city of Beit Sahour, headed by chef Kamal.  The restaurant is staffed in part by members of the Ajyal elder care program, who lovingly craft homemade bread for the Dar al-Balad restaurant fresh daily.  Chef Azar himself is a new addition to the area -- originally from the north of the West Bank, he has worked at the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem and in Ramallah.  Newly married to a Bethlehemite woman, he has moved to the area and settled in Beit Sahour, not far from Dar al-Balad.  Chef Kamal is excited about the opportunity to help shape the image and the feel of the restaurant at Dar al-Balad:  "it's a new life, and it means a lot to me to be involved in the development stages of this place."

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Also lending a hand at Dar al-Balad are several soon-to-be-graduates of the Dar al-Kalima (DAK) College.  One student, Shams, says it's "a dream come true" to have secured employment even before receiving her certificate from the college.  She sees Dar al-Balad as not only creating much-needed jobs in Beit Sahour, but also rescuing the city itself from a period of depression and emptiness.

Finally, the artisans themselves are delighted to have dedicated space to practice their crafts.  With space for jewelry-making, glass art and ceramics, creativity and productivity are encouraged to flourish, and artists will be able to derive a livelihood from their work by selling their art in the Dar al-Balad gift shop.  We are proud to offer visitors to Beit Sahour the opportunity to browse and purchase authentic, quality pieces of art made by Palestinian hands in our own artisana.

{mosimage}The director of Dar al-Balad, Mr. Hani Odeh, remarks that in recent years, as the economic situation in the West Bank has worsened and people have moved out of the Old City, shops in the area have closed down. "But now," he says, "Dar al-Balad is revitalizing the area and encouraging people to re-open."  A former headmaster of the Lutheran School in Beit Sahour, Mr. Odeh sees his position as a "positive challenge" and a nice change of pace from managing a school.  "Being in charge of the restaurant and the artisana, it's interesting and new." 

The opening ceremony, attended by Bishop Dr. Munib Younan (of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land), Her Excellency Dr. Khouloud Dibes (Palestinian Minister for Women's Affairs and Tourism), Beit Sahour mayor Mr. Hani Hayek, Swedish Consul General Mr Nils Eliasson, and French Consulate representative Jacqueline Coulon, along with nearly 1000 other guests, celebrated the beginning of a new era of growth and renewal for the old city area of Beit Sahour.  SIDA contributed to the renovation costs of the Dar al-Balad building, and the French Consulate donated funds for Dar al-Balad's gracious furnishings.

Located in the Old City of Beit Sahour, the Dar al-Balad artisana is open from 9am-5pm, and the restaurant from noon to midnight every day except Wednesday.  Convenient on-street parking spaces make it easily accessible from the main road.  

Last Updated on Friday, 28 November 2008 03:08



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