20 Arab and Hebrew artists participate

Umm el-Fahem celebrates 800th anniversary

GMT 18:11 2012 Wednesday ,23 May

Arab Today, arab today Umm el-Fahem celebrates 800th anniversary

Some children sit on sculpture, overlooking Umm el-Fahem
Umm el-Fahem - Agencies

Some children sit on sculpture, overlooking Umm el-Fahem The initiative is meant to contribute to the city's image, which the Israeli press often calls a dangerous ''stronghold'' of the local Islamic movement. Under the title 'Location-Home', the exhibition offers around twenty Arab and Hebrew artists a change to display their works in special places that exalt their characteristics. These locations include: 2-century old restored buildings in the historic centre; a historic coffee factory ('Al-Basha'); a magnificent villa that overlooks the nearby Wadi Ara valley and a patch of trees with a view on the entire city.
In the history books, Umm el-Fahem is mentioned in relation to a successor of Saladin, the Baybars, who came across a village in this area that specialised in the production of coal (Fahem). Situated along a strategic route between the Mediterranean and the southern access to Galilee, Umm el-Fahem was often caught up in battles and conflicts.
In 1948 the city was involved in the conflict between the emerging state of Israel and local militias helped by Arab armies. Nowadays it is a prosperous city with fifty thousand inhabitants - the second-largest Arab city in Israel after Nazareth - clinging to the rocky slopes dominated by mosques.
But as Marc Chagall told the mayor of the still new Tel Aviv in the 1930s, ''a city without a museum is no city."
The result of an initiative of Said Abu Shakra, Umm el-Fahem opened an active gallery several years ago, a place meant to host a dialogue with Israeli, international and Arab culture at its centre.
Now, amid celebrations for the city's 800th anniversary, the authorities in Galilee have decided to make an effort and restore areas in the historic centre, to host works of modern art. This exhibition was opened this week and dozens of art enthusiasts from across Israel came in to see it.
A good way to attract a new category of tourists, who are given a warm welcome by the local population that often sees the city depicted as ''stronghold of the Islamic Movement'' by the mass media. ''All we want is for Israelis who come here to see that our reality is much richer and more stimuliting", a local resident said.

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