“Get back. We are going to hit the center.”
“All our work was there, we lived there, our memories were there,” said Idrees Talib, Palestinian theater director. “I gave my colleagues some hope that a change would happen, but I don’t know what I can say to them after the destruction of our place.”
On Thursday, August 9th, 2018, the Israeli military carried out a missile attack that completely destroyed the Said Al-Mishal Center for Culture & Science, one of few large venues in Gaza for cultural events such as theater and musical performances. The center, located in the densely populated Gaza City, was a hub for activity, community building, and inspiring creative expression for Gazans living under occupation.
In the early evening, residents in the area received alerts from the Israeli military that the building would be hit. The army will phone locals telling them to get back. In this case, Israeli forces also fired shots at the building, not to destroy or kill, but to warn. Palestinians in Gaza call these shots “knocks.” Two hours later, larger munitions transformed Al-Mishal into dust,crumbled concrete and twisted steel. At least 18 people were wounded, Gaza’s ministry of health said.
“The razing of the landmark which held a library and offices for artistic associations including dance troupes and musicians has shaken the strip’s creative community. The building housed a recreation center for children affected by the three wars waged between Israel and Hamas during the last decade. Its cafe had buzzed with dancers, actors and artists.” (The Guardian, US Edition, August 22, 2018)
Gazans have collectively expressed deep mourning for the center across social media channels, reflecting on childhood memories created there and the sense of community the center inspired.
“This center was like the cultural spirit of us in Gaza, all dreams were destroyed after its destruction, with the remains of ashes and some memories,” Almaza Omer Odeh, a law student from Gaza, shared with Olympia’s Rachel Corrie Foundation (RCF) on Instagram.
The center is also where the Palestinian Cultural Palace, an RCF-sponsored project, practiced and performed their shows directed by Mohammed Baroud. RCF has been in contact with project organizers in Gaza, and while they are all physically safe, they have lost all of their decorations, costumes, and supplies, a material loss worth thousands of dollars. Despite this terrifying destruction, performers gathered Friday morning to sing on top of the ashes and rubble, performing for children and community members, signifying to us all that despite this violence and devastating destruction, the show will go on.
Information in this article came from The Guardian, a press statement from the Rachel Corrie Foundation and other sources.
A message from the Rachel Corrie Foundation (RFC): RCF is committed to ensuring the Palestinian Cultural Palace project continues because we firmly believe that Palestinian youth should have the opportunity to explore their cultural identity, express themselves through creative outlets, and develop their social and emotional skills in a healthy and encouraging environment. At this point in time, we are anticipating an increased need for funding to replace what was lost and to fund future programs, but we need your help to make that happen. Contributions to RCF’s Gaza Projects can be made at www.rachelcorriefoundation.org