fbpx


Palestinian Brothers Once Jailed in the Intifada Work to Restore Nablus

/ 30 Apr 2022

Palestinian Brothers Once Jailed in the Intifada Work to Restore Nablus

Two brothers who were jailed for participating in the second Palestinian intifada are now running a project to restore the West Bank city of Nablus.

Abdalrahman Kittana, who received a four-year sentence, is now a professor at Birzeit University with a doctorate in urban planning from the Belgian University of Louvain. His younger brother Basel, who is in charge of running the project, obtained a B.A. in history from Gaza’s Al-Aqsa University during his 15 years in prison.

The venture, called the Yalla Project, is the idea of Abdalrahman Kittana and his wife, Alessandra Gola. They want to use architectural and urban-development research to revive the old city of Nablus, one of the largest urban centers in the West Bank.

They started the Yalla Project two and a half years ago to address the damage the city has suffered under Israeli occupation, Kittana told Al-Fanar Media.

“We seek to be part of the change, and to go, after Nablus, to all Palestinian cities in an attempt to restore the identity of these cities and to link the residents to their cities through architectural planning.”

Abdalrahman Kittana   A professor of architectural engineering and co-founder of the Yalla Project

Nearly 20 years after the second intifada, Nablus “has become devoid of its industry, trade, residents, and capital, and it has been destroyed as an urban center as a result of the policies of the Israeli occupation,” he said.

He added that the Palestinian National Authority’s urban planning was “not commensurate with the social, economic and political reality” either.

Independent Research

Kittana said his project centre conduct research on urban planning for Nablus and all Palestinian cities. The centre carries out social projects using “free from any politicised external or international support,” he said.

Kittana, who also has a master’s degree in architectural renovation and development from Britain’s Oxford Brookes University, said he chose Nablus for the Yalla Project because of the city’s size and the scale of destruction there. Many of its buildings were destroyed during the intifadas and about 60 percent of its residents have been displaced, he said.

In addition, the city’s urban planning has isolated it from the social and economic needs of its residents, he said.

The team is working on four projects: “Urban expansion in violation of the laws in Nablus”, “building codes in the pre-modern period and how to produce the old city in terms of urbanization”, “the water system in Nablus before the rule of the Romans” and “obstacles and opportunities for reconstruction in the old city of Nablus over five years.”

The project has included redesigning a café through traditional methods using local materials and skills, reviving an old house to receive foreign visitors and creating three other cafés.

The younger Kittana, Basel, said the project they aimed to rediscover the cultural identity of the city by restoring buildings and bringing brings them back to life.

The project is currently working on designing organic gardens on the rooftops of several old houses in Nablus. They are re-displaying the historic stone roofs of buildings that are nearly a thousand years old, and turning them into green spaces.

Taking the Experience to Other Cities

“The development projects associated with these efforts meet a social and economic need by providing job opportunities for different groups of society, thus enhancing the steadfastness of the Palestinian people on their land.”

Nadia Habash   Head of the Palestinian Engineers Association

Nadia Habash, an adjunct professor of architectural engineering at Birzeit University, said the importance of restoration efforts like those of the Yalla Project is that they preserve architectural heritage and identity.

She told Al-Fanar Media that “the development projects associated with these efforts meet a social and economic need by providing job opportunities for different groups of society, thus enhancing the steadfastness of the Palestinian people on their land.”

Habash has led similar projects in a number of Palestinian cities and was recently elected as leader of the Palestinian Engineers Association.

She praised the Yalla Project for employing local residents skilled in various specialties, which she said “ultimately leads to real development” and encourages similar projects elsewhere.

The project has also promoted cultural activity, she said, by holding panel discussions, organising art evenings, leading tours of the historic centre of Nablus, and holding training workshops on rehabilitation, furniture making and other skills and crafts.

She called the project a development model because it relied on self-financing, local expertise and skills, and did not import ready-made recipes that did not suit the needs of the local community.

[Enjoying this article? Subscribe to our free newsletter.]

Taking the experience to other Palestinian cities is a goal of the Yalla Project, Abdalrahman Kittana said.

“We seek to be part of the change and to go, after Nablus, to all Palestinian cities in an attempt to restore the identity of these cities and to link the residents to their cities through architectural planning,” he said.

Related Reading




No CommentsJoin the Conversation

What Others are Readingالأكثر قراءة

Copyright © 2018 Al-Fanar Mediaحقوق © 2018 الفنار للإعلام

arabic

Copyright © 2018 Al-Fanar Mediaحقوق © 2018 الفنار للإعلام