Dar Al Majus Project – ‘house of the Magi’, a center for dialogue and solidarity in Bethlehem

From June 6 to 13 I went to Palestine to visit the local Pro Terra Sancta Partner, which is the NGO of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. The main reason was to attend the inauguration of the Dar Al Majus Project in which TAU has cooperated for its start-up and operation.

In the days before and after the inauguration, we visited the other projects that PTS has in Bethlehem, some of which we have also supported, such as Emergency aid for vulnerable families in Bethlehem, the Antonianum residence for older women, and other projects such as the School and Baccalaureate Institute and two modules of Professional Training in Hospitality and Aesthetics; the Niño Dios Home for disabled children; the home for young people from separated or broken families, etc.

On the day of the inauguration, first a Eucharist was celebrated in the Parroquia de Belén and then we had the civil act where various local personalities intervened (Mayor, Custodian, Consul of Italy and Vice Consul of Spain, etc.) as well as representatives of external NGOs ( Spain, the United States, Italy…) that we have supported the execution and start-up of this Listening, Dialogue and Solidarity Center for the entire Palestinian population.

Franciscan Francesco Patton, Custos of the Holy Land and president of the Pro Terra Sancta Association, told us: “the value of this initiative for the Custody of the Holy Land and for the Pro Terra Sancta Association is very great. The purpose of this new Project – Dar al Majus – is to have a space for listening, intercultural dialogue and training for people in need; a place to create connections and relationships, from closeness and beauty, from the recovery of the historical heritage of Bethlehem. The Dar al-Majus Project is a center that generates solidarity, culture and cooperation that seeks to benefit all people and intervene in the surrounding reality from the Bethlehem community”.

And Vincenzo Bellomo, director and project manager of Pro Terra Sancta in Bethlehem and Palestine, declared that: “I am moved to see the number of people gathered today and here for the inauguration of this Center, the result of the embrace that we make from here to all the world and for having had the support and cooperation from the US to Spain, from the north to the south of Italy…” Closeness and friendship are the most significant acts of solidarity; and this is what the culmination of the “Casa de los Magos” has achieved in the midst of a reality full of conflicts and violence. Feeling that only the return to the value of the local community is how values of justice, dialogue and peace can be built.

This “House of the Magi” is in the historic center of Bethlehem, a few steps from the Basilica of the Nativity, where there are many abandoned and dilapidated buildings. Once upon a time these were shops and houses, largely owned by Christians who fled the fury of a conflict that still rages silently through the streets of the town where Jesus of Nazareth was born.

The Dar al-Majus center is the reconstruction and restoration of an old Ottoman building and the house of a Palestinian family from Bethlehem, where the design, construction and equipment have all been carried out with local labor. A nice way to invest and generate employment in a population with high unemployment rates, right?

Starting today, “Dar al-Majus Community Home” will be first and foremost a place and space at the service of the Bethlehem community. Here are already the offices and many of the activities of Pro Terra Sancta for the local community: Listening and reception, Job Orientation, Training, Social Cooperatives…

Dar al-Majus is already a center where you can see the beauty and culture of the Palestinian community. In Belén, the community no longer wants to be described only as a problem, it also seeks to show how much beauty it is capable of creating. For this reason, in the Dar al-Majus space there is the possibility of exhibiting paintings, sculptures, photographs, works of art by local and international artists and other cultural activities.

It has a “Solidarity Bazaar”, on the ground floor, which can be accessed independently from the public road; In it, handicrafts, fabrics, mosaics, icons, ceramics, jewelry, etc. are welcomed. Palestinians, cooperatives and groups in the area as support and solidarity with the Palestinian people.

And also on the ground floor there are other reception and meeting spaces with an interesting and special three-dimensional immersion space: “sample sphere” designed for the community of Bethlehem and for visiting pilgrims. So that the inhabitants of Bethlehem will be able to be more aware of their history and realize the immense heritage of which they are custodians.

On the first floor, after the cultural ground floor, there are the management offices, the co-working for reception, attention, listening, psychological support, counseling for job orientation and training for young people, women and disadvantaged people.

And then you can access a second floor where you can access a beautiful terrace with plants and a 1:2 scale reproduction of the Madaba mosaic (in Jordan) with the oldest map of the Holy Land; the kitchen and classroom – dining room are installed here for training courses on typical Palestinian cuisine, which can be enjoyed on the terrace with its beautiful view of Bethlehem.