Concept and coordination
The project was created by Ada Lonni, Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Turin. It was the subject of an intense, passionate and exciting discussion and elaboration with Elisabetta Donini (former Professor of Physics at the University of Turin and engaged for years in the pacifist and feminist network Women in Black) and Alessandra Mecozzi, in charge of the International Fiom from 1996 to 2012, co-promoter of the networks Action for Peace and World Social Forum.
Logo by Giulia Giorgi, calligraphy; Paolo Colasanti, graphics.
With this project, which is part of the Campaign “Cultura è libertà” (Culture is freedom), we decided to develop the theme of travel and travel narrative through historic Palestine.
The project is divided into three sections: the first, that we might call – only for ease of presentation – Travel stories, from the Bible to the Palestinian travel( book) guides of the XXI century, the second Travels in my house, the third Voices of solidarity.
Travel stories, from the Bible to the Palestinian guidebooks of the XXI century
This first section (modules 1-2-3) discusses the issue of vision, description and writing of a land with different names – Palestine, Israel, Al Shām, Holy Land  – and of the use that has been done, and is still done, of this writing. Following a historical perspective, we start focusing on the stories that the Western travelers have produced over the centuries; we analyze the aims and consequences of these stories, and highlight how they have been an excellent coverage of the process of ideological manipulation and writing of the territory, as well as a construction of geopolitics, which the Western Countries have done through the political usage of the holy places. Just a statement: the fact that we start the program with the voices of the West does not conform with a Eurocentric and Orientalist vision, but with the need to be clear about where and how they begin the manipulation and the colonial practice, and with the need to give an account of Palestinian capability to produce its own culture in spite of all. This first section ends in fact with an analysis of the elaboration of new guidebooks and suggestions for alternative travel routes in which the heirs of the ancient Canaanites offer the visitor their original historical and cultural representation of Palestine: eventually, natives and travelers impersonate their role properly if, after so many centuries, the former are beginning to offer the latter their own vision of their own land. Their words mirror their point of view on the journey.
Travels in my house
In modules 4-5 the word(say) remains to the Palestinians, and their words mirror their point of view on the journey the journey that they often make in their own land, some to look for the traces of their past in the places expropriated by Israel, in the houses abandoned in 1948; others on the rural trails once frequented, now disfigured by the signs of the occupation (walls, barbed wire, roadblocks and forced detours) and frequently inaccessible. The landscape changes, the traces of the past disappear from sight, nature is distorted in many areas, so that it is difficult to recognize the places of the past.
Voices of solidarity
The project ends with a discussion on the new journeys of the second half of the twentieth and twenty-first century, when, as a result of the birth of the state of Israel and of the Six-Day War, together with the traditional travel, a new type of journey has emerged, that we might call “the journey of solidarity”. A journey made by new people: the western travelers, the Israeli dissidents, the hosting Palestinians. A journey with new goals, to practice solidarity, knowledge, discovery, sharing and militancy. A journey of reciprocity and exchange. A journey, let us not forget it, that takes advantage of the innovative ways that technology offers us: just think of the evidences entrusted to the network, one for all that of Vittorio Arrigoni during the operation “Molten Lead”.
The project will end with a convivial and festive moment (details of which will be announced shortly). This moment might take place on the same date of the module 6, or maybe in the aftermath. A concert and a dinner are foreseen.
Methods of realization
The six modules the project is composed of can be played day after day without interruption, or distributed over several weeks. The first complete realization will be held in Turin, in the spring of 2014. The “package” can be moved to other locations, entirely or with a reduced number of modules, or even with a single module. Each module includes several protagonists – Palestinians, Italians and Europeans – whose roles are adaptable according to the needs and resources of a particular area. It is planned to integrate the speakers’ physical presence at meetings, with other personalities, especially Palestinians, using skype connection.
The materials, supporting texts and videos physical presence can be exported and shared in every venue.
Cultural proposals, locally achievable
Alongside this project, and in the same time, there will be further events concerning the culture of Palestine, the journey, the current socio-political situation, the activities of cooperation and exchange, and so on. These events – proposed and organized by groups and individuals who are already working on these issues – will take place in town area and will range from film festivals to exhibitions, from book presentations to theater performances and concer The names by which the land that goes from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean sea is defined, vary depending on who uses them and depending on the cultural-political objectives which it is intended. Since the time of the exile in Babylon the Jews, whose monotheism was defined at that time, began to present themselves as “sons of Israel” (S. Sand), and often this expression is borrowed by the western medieval travelers (eg. P. Casola). The Romans introduced the term of Syria Palaestina, a term that the West has continued to use, from Paul of Tarsus to Saint Paula, from Egeria to Pierre Loti. Next to it, the term Holy Land, mostly used by pilgrims and later, very frequently, by Westerners whose goal was the colonization of the region through the political usage of the holy places. Bilād al-Shām (Syria) is instead the term used until the fall of the Ottoman Empire by the Arabs to define the region which has Damascus as its center and extends from Syria to the Mediterranean, also including the current Lebanon (eg Ibn Battuta). Today we use the term Filasṭīn, Palestine. The Jewish traveler Benjamin de Tudela, who has been in Jerusalem in the second half of the twelfth century, spoke in turn of the region as Palestine. For our part, we have chosen to use the term Holy Land only in the first and second module, because it was the one preferred by the pilgrims before and by the colonizers later. In other modules, we used the term Palestine to indicate the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and Israel to indicate the state of Israel after 1948.