As Israeli forces clash with protestors in the occupied West Bank, cultural facilities are also under attack. According to a statement posted on their website and sent in a newsletter on Monday 17 May, the directors of the Dar Yusuf Nasri Jacir for Art And Research, a grassroots artist-run centre in Bethlehem, say that their building was “ransacked by Israeli forces” and that a fire destroyed some of their property.
“There has been extensive damage throughout the building,” the centre says in its statement, but that no one was hurt, and “the offices were ransacked, and equipment was taken including phones, computer, hard drive, cameras, books and more”. The organisation shared photos on its Instagram page of broken door frames, smoke bombs and bullets casings found on the scene.
After a fire burned the centre’s “urban farm” as well as adjacent houses, its current artists in residence were “forced to leave and seek shelter elsewhere as the area was and remains unsafe”.
The center, founded in 2014 by Golden Lion-winning artist Emily Jacir and her sister, the veteran film-maker Annemarie Jacir, who has taught at Columbia University and whose three feature films were official Palestinian Oscar entries, is situated in the sisters’ family home, a 19th century, two-storey limestone-walled building. It is only half a block away from the West Bank barrier wall, near the area of Rachel's tomb, and a military checkpoint where violent clashes between Palestinian protestors and Israeli troops have taken place for the past several days.
Supported by Open Society, as well as by individual artists, some of whom, like Michael Rakowitz, have also lead workshops there, the centre has successfully fostered local talent, including an outreach programme to children at the nearby Aida refugee camp, while attracting internationally known artists to its inaugural residency programme (2018-2020). These include Trevor Paglen, Coco Fusco, Sam Durant, and—in keeping with the centre’s mandate to encourage the diaspora to return and work in the area—the Berlin-based Palestinian artist Jumana Manna.
The Dar Jacir Center, as it is known colloquially, also contains an important archive of tens of thousands of newspapers, photographs and other documents from 1860-1950 written in Arabic, Ottoman, Spanish, French and Italian. Many of these were found in the basement of the home, which the sisters’ late father Yusif Nasri Jacir, a former journalist, poured his life savings into maintaining.
Undaunted by the recent damage, the centre has been “cleaning the various cannisters, bullets and other projectiles from our garden” and vows: “We will rebuild”. Meanwhile, they say. “we will continue to stand by our mission to protect cultural life and heritage for thousands of artists, students and community members.”