Bethlehem Beyond the Wall:

An Exhibition Organized by the Museum of the Palestinian People


Bethlehem Beyond the Wall, a new travelling exhibition that invites viewers to see a familiar place from a new point of view. Everyone recognizes Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus, few know that the city has a rich modern culture. Throughout history, Bethlehem has been a site of tragedy and struggle and survival. Today the area including Bethlehem and its surrounding villages is home to 100,000 people, the site of three refugee camps, and four generations of refugees. The city is divided by the Wall first erected by the State of Israel in the West Bank in 2002. This exhibition seeks to move beyond both myth and politics to show Bethlehem from the vantage point of view of the men, women and children who lived here the past 150 years.

The exhibition spans 1880 to the present , the era in which photographs of Bethlehem traveled around the world. We draw from photographs which the American Colony Company made between 1880 and 1945 for postcards, stereocards, illustrated books and magazines. We use photojournalism from the past and present, as well as images from family albums and private collections. The years from 1947 through 1949, known as the Nakba, are narrated by individual survivors, interviewed in 2013 for the documentary film Voices Across the Divide. Original art by young painters whose work also appears on the walls that line the streets of Dheishe Refugee Camp. A drone video made over Bethlehem reveals the city and the Wall today.   

Bethlehem Beyond the Wall shows rarely seen views of ordinary life against a background characterized by familiar landmarks as well as relentless change. We recognize the Nativity Church and its surrounding market square, the narrow stone streets through town. Once remote refugee camps, like Dheishe, Aida and Azza, have become part of the modern city.  

The constant state of struggle against a succession of colonial powers — from the Ottoman Empire to the state of Israel today — has produced a resilient culture, rich in tradition and responsive to change. The effect can be seen in the art of the newest generation who turn the walls that surround them into bold celebrations of history, and heroes executed with a distinctive mix of humor, bravery, sincerity and optimism.  

The exhibition material comes from: The Library of Congress (Washington DC), Institute for Palestine Studies (Washington, DC), Voices Beyond the Divide/Alice Rothchild, Bab El Deir Art Gallery, The Applied Research Institute Jerusalem (Arij), The Tent of Nations/Nassar Farm, Highlight Films, Ltd, Nazareth College, Jewish Voice for Peace – Rochester, Center for Cultural Heritage Reservation, Daher and Katy Nassar, Mohammad Ma’ali, Wael Abu Yabes, Ayed Arafah, Elias Halabi, Nihayah Alhaj, David Verberckt, Ryan Rodrick Beiler, Isam Telhami, Margaret Olin. Co-curators are Mary Panzer and Bshara Nassar.

The exhibition includes roughly 100 photographic images organized into discrete sections, 7 paintings (acrylic on canvas), 4 video interviews, and a series of maps to help viewers locate Bethlehem inside shifting political boundaries. A digital poster is ready for download.

This exhibition is made possible by our founding sponsor the Josephine and Paul Wenger Fund for Peace Through International Understanding of the First Unitarian Church of Rochester and JVP Rochester.

Additional sponsorship and hosting opportunities are available. For more information contact us at or 202-499-8959. You can find the Facebook event here 

To RSVP and make a gift toward this exhibition, please visit our Page here  


The inaugural exhibition took place at Nazareth College, Rochester, NY, and most recently was on display at Manhattan College, New York, NY, on February 19th-27th.

I like that this exhibit gives an insider view; the tile “Beyond the wall” is very appropriate. Its not until you can understand people and perspectives that you can begin to work solutions and I think this exhibit seems to do that. Everyday life is reality ( and the walls as well) seeing the wall as a man heard sheep, as people exercise, running by, show its prominence and yet despite it, life continuous on. Images as well can convey emotions to which work are inadequate and leave the interpterion to the viewer in an unpretentious way. I think this is a great first step in getting people to begin to thinking about and exploring an issue that is all too often neglected (and feared to be explored) but indefinitely needs to be.

Crystal Myers - Student at Nazareth College

I feel so educated on the true life in Palestine. I never knew about the divide, the wall and the violence of the government. This exhibit displays the daily life of real people. Very Inspiring. Thank you!

Allison Stewart - Student at Nazareth College

The content of this exhibit is edifying and breathtaking in so many ways, however more important at this time in american + geo history is the mere fact that an exhibit with any content of Plaestine and its people past and present is “Breakthrough”. Its is rare to see and deeply valued. Thank you for this glimse into your people.

Emile Mokhiber - Member of the Rocheseter Community

This was a very moving exhibit. So much beauty and rich culture, encase by walls of oppression. The beautiful people of Palestinian descent do not let these wall maintain their spirit. These images will stay with me forever, I will do my best to share this moving experience with others throughout my life and hope they will share what I experienced with others. This is the first step toward ending oppression and injustices.

- Members of the Rochester Community