If there is one act that exemplifies the trauma and tragedy of the 1948 Nakba, it is Israel’s colonial act of bulldozing, to the ground, some 420 Palestinian villages. Such a vindictive act was executed not only to prevent Palestinians from going back home, but also to erase any traces of Palestinian existence on their historic homeland.
Such a mammoth and irreversible loss has been deeply engraved in the collective memory of every Palestinian living in the diaspora or in Occupied Palestine. And this was perhaps the unconscious reason behind the establishment of Riwaq in 1991.
We build... In spite of all the odds against us
420 villages were waiting to be saved.
And that was how Riwaq’s Mission was outlined.
It’s about people and the quality of their lives, and not about stones
With all modesty, Riwaq can proudly say that it has succeeded in shifting the focus of cultural heritage preservation from the physicality and materiality of historic buildings to focusing on the quality of people’s lives and the quality of the private and the public spaces in which they live.
Over time Riwaq has also shifted its work from the restoration of single buildings to the revitalization of entire historic centers. Together with municipal councils and local communities, Riwaq has so far rehabilitated 20 of the 50 historic centers. The 50-Village Project entailed setting in motion different Programs. Some were meant to respond to threats and challenges in locations such as Jerusalem and its hinterland; others aimed to create jobs for the high numbers of young unemployed in those villages; provide training and specific skills for local architects and laborers; empower women, especially in deprived rural areas; alleviate the shortage of decent housing in historic centers; and create children’s playgrounds and community public plazas: Saحhat or what we like to think of as “arenas for social change.”