Proposal for Environmental and Cultural Center
Approved by the Municipality of Beit Sahour 9/7/04
We propose development in the Bethlehem District a Cultural and Educational Center. This center will include:
1) A children's playground
2) A nature center (includinga natural history museum and a living museum)
3) A modest public library including an internet educational and resource center
The proposal sets existing resources as follows:
1) A 6.5 Dunam (a little over 1.5 acres) land given to Beit Sahour by Issa Atallah at half value on the condition of establishing the library (to be called Issa Atallah library) and the museum/nature center (to be named after Dr. Sana Atallah) in combination with establishing the new building for Beit Sahour Municipality
2) A grant from the European Union in the value of Euro210,000 given to Beit Sahour municipality towards the building costs.
The proposal sets required resources and donors as follows:
1) Donations from Diaspora Palestinians including an additional donation from the Atallah family
2) Local donations of labor, supplies, and money from the Bethlehem region and beyond
3) Support from existing Non-governmental organizations
4) Grant applications
5) Municipal and state granting agencies
6) Donations from around the world
1. Land: Already secured; valued at $350,000
2. Building: $600,000 (nearly $300,000 is already available)
3. Staffing for nature center and library for first two years: $50,000
4. Endowment to provide interest income to maintain center operations: $200,000
Estimated outstanding amount: US$550,000
The building will be the property of Beit Sahour Municipality with half the square footage dedicated to Municipality work and half dedicated to the culture and education center (see attached plans and maps). The Municipality enters into a binding agreement with the board of trustees to ensure perpetuation of the Center and that its assets and its space will continue to be used only for its intended purposes. An advisory board will be composed of 7-9 members elected/selected from the area.
1. Beit Sahour Municipality – see Appendix 2. Beit Sahour Municipality will be the facility's sole owner, and responsible for the following:
• Developing the site and promotion of joint activities with local NGOs
• The engineering part of designing the building and facilities
• All construction work on the project
2. Palestine Wildlife Society – see Appendix 3
PWLS will be responsible for the following:
• Running and managing the environmental educational activities
• Coordinating with other environmentally focused NGOs
The administration of the Peace Tales project will be the responsibility of the Municipality, with the cooperation of Palestine Wildlife Society and other organizations with related missions and objectives.
Estimated 15,000 children and students from Bethlehem District.
Estimated 70,000 adults from the Palestinian society at large.
Planning and construction from the time funding is in place: 20 months
Beit Sahour Municipality, in cooperation with The World Bank, conducted a study (attached) of inhabitants of Beit Sahour. Participants identified as needs a number of projects. The most cited needs in order of support were: a playground for children, a public library, an internet room and a nature garden. These results fit well with existing agreements and resources available in Beit Sahour, and led to the following project components.
1. Children's Playground and Garden/Public Space (Peace Tales)
The garden will emphasize native flora and will be interspersed with pieces of art/sculpture donated by local Palestinian artists. In a prominent area will be a playground for children including swings, slides, and a merry-go-round (support from Playgrounds for Palestine NGO).
2. Issa Atallah Public Library
The nucleus for this library will be 2000 volumes to be donated from the Issa Atallah collection. We also have secured donations of books from philanthropists in Palestine as well as in North America and beyond. The library will thus quickly grow to become a significant resource to readers in the tri-city area. The library will include an internet room with free internet access and training.
3. Dr. Sana Atallah Museum and Nature Center
This project targets all age groups but focuses especially on the youth. It will provide the local community with quality educational time in a safe environment to learn about and appreciate nature in all its aspects.
4. Culture and Heritage Center
Our Palestinian history and heritage will be commemorated here in a living museum of materials and programs to connect across generations. We have much to be proud of from our recent and ancient history. This can include exhibits on Canaanites, Nebateans, Christians and Muslims, along with history of resistance such as the tax revolt of Beit Sahour. Many locals would donate or loan their material willingly to such a museum.
5. Small Cafeteria: Responsibility of the Municipality.
6. Conference Room: Shared between the Municipality and PWLS.
Program possibilities are only limited by imagination and local commitments. These could include self-improvement workshops in any area that the locals benefit from (embroidery, languages, gardening skills, cooking, communication, art shows, children programs, etc). The Bethlehem district also has a wealth of NGOs which have some programs that could benefit from being run under the auspices of this center. There are endless possibilities of keeping the center alive and active with new programs of empowerment and community support. The center thus becomes the living heart of the community contributing to its advancement, its physical and mental wellbeing, and to its entertainment.
We have begun implementation according to the following plan:
Phase 1: (Completed – see the attached World Bank needs assessment.) Input-gathering phase which sought input in the following areas:
• A survey of people in the three cities in the Bethlehem district (Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and Beit Jala, with a sample of 200 from each city). Participants were asked if they would contribute to such a project and what they saw as the best uses of resources for it. This also helped in increasing awareness of the project.
• Input from both governmental and non-governmental organizations both for their ideas and level of interest/support.
• Input from large donors and potential donors (individual and corporate).
Phase 2: (Completed) Preliminary engineering design and cost assessment.
Phase 3: An organizing committee will prepare rough plans based on the above phases.
Phase 4: Executive board of trustees elected between Beit Sahour Municipality and PWLS and bank accounts set-up.
Phase 5: Construction in this order:
• Children's playground and outdoor sections of the nature center (begin two months after board of trustees is established and dedicate at four months).
• Building: Begin construction at four months, complete by ten months.
• Initial library relocation, staffing to commence thereafter and with target date for full operations one year after board of trustees is established.
Projected financing and resource provision
1. Land: Owned by Beit Sahour Municipality on the condition it is used as for this project
2. Atallah estate (Bisher Atallah custodian) unknown amount
3. Mazin Qumsyiah $10,000 pledged
4. Holy Land Conservation Foundation $4000
5. Bethlehem Association donation
6. Individual donations from North America (estimate $10-15,000 first year)
7. Corporate donations (computers etc). Amount not determined
8. Book donations (Library of Issa Atallah) pledged. Others pledged. Also, book donations from publishers and distributors: In the United States, groups like Amazon, Saunders and Houghton Mifflin. In the Middle East, publishers like Dar Al Mashriq and Institute of Palestine Studies in Beirut.
9. Museum contents: many pledged from Mazin Qumsyiah and Issa Atallah Collections. Other possible donors are available including collections available in the homes of Palestinian philanthropists both at home and in the Diaspora.
10. Palestine Wildlife Society (PWLS) Contribution: PWLS will contribute some of the supporting educational equipment and materials.
Appendix 1: Quick Survey of Beit Sahour Municipal Council
The Palestine Wildlife Society approached Beit Sahour Municipal Council (www.bietsahourmunicipality.com) to implement some PRA techniques that would help in setting the arrays and ideas for the project proposed above. The 12 members of the municipal council and the mayor were surveyed to produce a ranking matrix of the project components. The results were as follows:
Scoring and ranking matrix
Name Culture & Nature Heritage Museum Public Library Internet Room Conference Room Nature Garden & Cafeteria
1 Fuad Kokaly (mayor) 3 1 5 4 2
2 George Ghatass 2 1 3 5 4
3 Issa Qumsiyeh 3 2 4 5 1
4 Majed Al-Tawil 4 5 3 2 1
5 Samah Khoury 3 1 5 4 2
6 Shawki Al-Hawash 1 3 5 4 2
7 Salwa Abu Hashish 4 2 3 5 1
8 Bassam Sha'lan 5 2 4 3 1
9 Imad Al-Zahlan 4 2 3 3 1
10 Abed Alla Rasheed 5 4 2 3 1
11 Elias Ibrahim 4 5 3 2 1
12 Shibli Abu Farha 5 1 2 3 4
13 Hanan Salsa' 4 2 3 5 1
Score 47 31 45 48 22
Rank* 4 2 3 5 1
*The ranking is 1-5 with 1 being the most preferred choice.
According to the findings above, the most preferred element among those proposed is the nature garden and cafeteria, and the second most preferred is the public library. Grouped closely together after the first two elements were the internet room, the culture and nature heritage museum and finally the conference room. It is worth mentioning that the municipality board members are all educated people who work as teachers, engineers, lawyers and employees in different fields including health, international organizations, electricity and local transportation. They thus constitute a broad cross section of the community given the small size of the group.
Appendix 2: Beit Sahour Municipality
Beit Sahour was one of the first towns in Palestine to have an organized local Council. The first elections for the local town council were held in 1925, and in 1952 the Council was transformed into a Municipality. At that time, the population of the town was 5,212. The current Municipal Council was established in Beit Sahour on August 19, 2000, with Fuad Kokaly appointed as Mayor. The present municipality council consists of 13 members, including 3 women, and has 42 employees in four major departments: Administration, Accounting, Health and Engineering.
Shortly after its formation, the new council set as a priority the creation of an effective administrative structure with qualified staff to provide high quality and sufficient guidance for short- and long-term planning, and for public and private development initiatives. The council also seeks to direct and manage growth in the town, to set a rationale for the use of land and water and to optimize resources available to the council from the different services provided throughout the town.
The Municipality of Beit Sahour is the administrative body responsible for the day to day needs, the provision of basic services and the promotion of the welfare of the citizens of Beit Sahour. We have worked hard and in adverse conditions in our attempts to achieve our goals. Among the ongoing programs the Municipality is undertaking to provide improved services and infrastructure for our residents are the following:
• City planning and development strategy
• Facilities provision and maintenance
• Infrastructure development and maintenance
• Electrical installation and street lighting
• Organization of space and resource utilization
• Refuse collection and sanitation
• Social services provision*
• Job creation schemes*
*These are in direct response to the current crisis being faced throughout the region. Today Beit Sahour Municipality plays a very important role as the main provider of social services to many needy families in Beit Sahour and the surrounding villages. The Municipality has been forced to look for alternative sources to help support the citizens, such as cooperation with international institutions to support projects creating job opportunities throughout the area in an effort to alleviate the pressures faced by the ongoing deterioration of the economy. These projects have a two-fold benefit; local workers can earn a living, albeit extremely modest, and the town gains infrastructure and services that we are not in a position to fund ourselves. We are indebted to the many organizations that have supported us during these extremely difficult conditions.
Appendix 3: Palestine Wildlife Society (PWLS)
Description & History
Palestine Wildlife Society is an active and professional NGO and Non Profit Organization working in research and awareness in Conservation of Nature in Palestine (West Bank & Gaza Strip) www.wildlife-pal.org. PWLS was established in 1999 and was the first organization of its kind in the area. Since then the Society has worked to advance its strategic objectives regarding Environmental Educational Concepts, Conservation of Nature, and Biodiversity, through which work it has proved its dedication and effectiveness in raising environmental awareness throughout the Palestinians territories and the region.
Headquarters & Funding
The headquarters of PWLS is in Beit Sahour (Bethlehem District); PWLS cooperates with three national organizations working in different districts and locations in Palestine:
1. Palestinian Organization for Protection of the Environment – Jenin
2. Green Peace Association/Dier Al-Baleh – Gaza
3. Commission for Promoting of Tourism – Jericho
PWLS also works with governmental organization & ministries: Environmental Quality Authority, Tourism, Agriculture and Ministry of Education.
Mission & Objectives
The mission of the Society is “Conservation and enhancement of Palestinian biodiversity and wildlife.” In order to put its mission into practice, the Society pursues the following objectives:
1. Conservation and management of species and habitats.
2. Education about and promotion of wildlife and nature.
3. Active participation and involvement of local communities in the conservation movement and sustainable development of resources.
Achievements of PWLS
¸ Birdlife International: An Affiliation in 1999; Partner Designated in 2001.
¸ United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD): Palestine Wildlife Society with Accreditation status with UNCCD in the year 2001.
¸ Euronature – Germany: a full partner in the year of 1999.
¸ Ornithological Society for the Middle East (OSME) – UK: Country Contact
¸ OISCA – Japan International: Palestine Chapter in the year of 2001.
¸ Participated in providing the information and preparing the book of "Global Threatened Bird" the Palestinian chapter.
¸ Have trained more than 500 of the leaders in the Palestinian Society in issues concerning the environment, including students, teachers, farmers, households, women, and other target groups.
¸ Implementing the IBA’s project “Important Bird Areas in Palestine”.
¸ Been a part in the new curricula committee of the Ministry of Education that has to deal with the Conservation Education for grades 7 through 10.
¸ Part of the Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan with the Ministry of Environmental Affairs during the years1997-1999.
¸ Environmental Education Activities: covering different schools- public, private and ANRWA- in the area of West Bank and Gaza through our leaders or other NGOs or governmental offices in the areas.
¸ Writing, publishing and designing different publications that serves the best interest of the communities, the nature and the environment.
Together for People & Nature
This proposal was discussed with a number of people and other people will be approached to discuss.
Fouad Kokaly Mayor of Beit Sahour
Hazem Qumsiyeh, Elected Leader of Palestinian Teachers' Union
Bisher Atallah, Executor of Issa Atallah Estate
Sami Atallah, elder son of Issa Atallah
Imad Al Atrash, Palestine Wildlife Society
Jihan Andoni GIFTA
Rifaat Kassis, East Jerusalem YMCAm
Susan Abulhawa, Playgrounds For Palestine
George Saliba Rishmawi, Holy Land Trust
George Nimr Rishmawi, Rapproachment Center and ISM
Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center