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BETHLEHEM – On Friday, August 4, 2017, Dr. Ihab Bseiso, the Palestinian Culture Minister, opened an icon exhibition entitled “Icons today, the new birth of an old Palestinian heritage”, held by the Bethlehem Icon Center (BIC).

The Palestinian Culture Minister, who opened the exhibition, spoke of the importance of valuing not only the spiritual aspect but also the cultural dimension of the Bethlehem Icon Center. “The Bethlehem Icon Center with its cultural and artistic dimensions will be an important component in the preparations for the events of Bethlehem, Capital of Arab Culture 2020”, Dr. Bseiso said.

Started in 1996 and as part of the UNESCO’s Cultural Capitals’ program, the Arab Capital of Culture is an initiative of the Arab League to celebrate and promote Arab culture in the Arab region.

“The message that we want to send through Bethlehem, Capital of the Arab Culture 2020, which comes from this city of peace and birthplace of Christ, is that Bethlehem is worthy of life and a better future achieved by its people and the work that they do in all areas of life” the minister added.

The minister also assured the support of the Ministry of Culture for the Icon Center and its mission to “reinstate this sacred art that was born in Palestine and accentuate its spiritual, cultural and artistic levels”.

Bishop Joseph Jules Zerey, who also attended the opening, spoke of the ecumenical quality of the center: “The center is for all Christians regardless of their denominations. I may represent the Melkite Church but the Sacred Icon is for the church and anyone who honors the Icon”.

The Bethlehem Icon Center’s director Mr. Nicola Juha then accompanied the minister around the exhibition, explaining the different stages that go into the making of an icon from wood routing and using natural pigments to the different meanings infused in the icons.

He informed him as well of the different projects that the center undertook and accomplished since its establishment in 2014, such as the Lichfield project in England and the icon of Christ the Savior, which was blessed by Pope Francis during his first visit to the Anglican community in Rome in February 2017.

The exhibition featured the students’ months-long work of intensive sketching, painting in one color and then producing an icon. It also displayed an icon of Our Lady of Palestine written by Ian Knowles. The icon, which was commissioned by a Dame of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher in England, shows the Virgin Mary wearing the traditional Palestinian dress of the women of Nazareth. Tears in her eyes can also be seen which are in reference to the miracle of tears that took place at the shrine of Our Lady of Anjara in Jordan. Baby Jesus is seen with his arms outstretched as on the cross presiding above the New Jerusalem.

Saher Kawas

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