Première Urgence Internationale restores cultural heritage in the Gaza Strip

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Press Release

Ramallah, 16 January 2018 – Première Urgence Internationale launched a programme with the financial support of the British Council’s Cultural Protection Fund, in partnership with Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to preserve and promote cultural heritage in the Gaza Strip. Archeological sites as impressive as endangered can be found behind its close borders. The project, which will last two years, focuses on the restoration of two sites, the Monastery of Saint Hilarion and a Byzantine church in Jabalia. In order to maximise its humanitarian impact, Première Urgence Internationale will train a team of restorers, with the support of international experts, preserve and promote the Palestinian heritage.

« Access to Gaza is restricted to a very limited number of people. Consequently, the wealth of its cultural heritage is largely unknown and unprotected », comments Rossella Urru, Head of Mission at Premiere Urgence Internationale in the occupied Palestinian territory. « Our work of restoration of these archeological sites will return to the Gazan civil society, and especially its youth, a key place to better know its history. Besides its symbolic meaning, the neglect over the years, together with several military operations, made this work of preservation extremely urgent, to avoid an irreversible damage to the heritage », concludes Rossella Urru.

The political and security situation made the preservation of heritage difficult. The three armed conflicts that hit the Gaza Strip during the last ten years and destroyed many buildings didn’t spare the two sites. Première Urgence Internationale, working in Gaza since 2009, developed numerous programmes of rehabilitation of buildings affected by shelling and wear of time. This project of restoration will last just over two years. It aims at both protect and promote the Palestinian cultural heritage and at provide a humanitarian assistance to the local population, for instance by employing workers from the most vulnerable sectors.

The project will be carried out in partnership with the École biblique et archéologique française de Jérusalem (EBAF) and in close collaboration with the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, UNESCO and two universities in Gaza.

In detail:

The Monastery of Saint-Hilarion is one of the biggest and most ancient monasteries in the Middle East and takes its name from Hilarion, considered as the founder of monastic life in Palestine. It is the only archeological site currently open to the public in Gaza, visited by around 1,000 students every month. Five years ago it was included in the list of the 100 most endangered sites in the world by the World Monuments Fund.

The church of Jabalia, located in the north of Gaza, is known for its colorful mosaic pavements, damaged by the passage of tanks during the war in 2012. It was conceived as a resting place for pilgrims travelling to the holy land.

Press contact :

Jérôme POIRIÉ : +33783425719 / [email protected]

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