Arts and fitness for Palestinian youth

On April 11th I travelled to Bethlehem to meet with the Reverend Mitri Raheb, President of the Diyar Consortium. Rev. Raheb is also pastor of the Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem.

Theatre at Dar Al-Kalima College in Bethlehem. Photo: R. Granke

More than one year ago, CLWR received an unexpected donation of one million dollars from Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church in Calgary, which was designated to support two initiatives in Bethlehem. The first was to complete the interior of a theatre at Dar Al-Kalima College in Bethlehem (seating, sound system, etc.) The theatre serves as a lecture hall and arts venue with seating for 180+ people. It is now complete and looks wonderful. It is a modern theatre, which will serve the needs of Palestinian youth for many years to come. What a great way to invest in the arts in Palestine and provide opportunities for young people to pursue their interests and perhaps careers in the arts!

The second and more significant activity in terms of expenditures is the construction of a new sports auditorium or gym, which will be available to students in both the college and nearby high school.

This facility will be the largest indoor sports facility in the West Bank and not only provide a state of the art venue for sports recreation for the students, but also a venue for national Palestinian sports teams, including soccer, basketball and volleyball. There will be seating for 300 spectators.

West Bank gym under construction. Photo: R. Granke

The gym is to be inaugurated November 30, 2012 with Robert Granke and other Canadian officials attending. At this moment the foundation and basic infrastructure is completed and the roof will be installed within the next month, followed by the finishing of the interior.

There remains significant needs for funding of a change room facility, equipment and other interior supports. CLWR has committed to working with Rev Raheb to fundraise for the additional $500,000 required to complete the project. While the gym will be functional in the initial phase, we aim to have the full package in place by early fall such that a grand opening can occur in late November with all aspects completed.

These facilities are essential to the quality of life of Palestinians generally and especially for young people in Palestine. The gym will not only provide an opportunity for physical fitness but also promote healthy social interaction amongst Palestinians and countries in the region, while the theatre will enable further development of the arts in Palestine. It is a pleasure for CLWR to be a part of these ventures and work with Rev Raheb and his colleagues.

Robert Granke

CLWR Executive Director

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