February 2018 — A little more than a year ago, Marisa Lerer, Ph.D., assistant professor of visual and performing arts, was part of a faculty cohort that visited Bethlehem, the city historic to our Catholic heritage as being the birthplace of Jesus. Each Manhattan College staffer who embarked on the trip did so with a different objective; hers was to engage with the visual arts in Palestine, and foster a relationship to the culture there between Bethlehem University and Manhattan College.
February 23, 2018 –The traveling exhibition first made its way to Nazareth College in Rochester, where Nassar recalls that many non-Palestinian people only knew Bethlehem as just a place cited in the Bible. “‘Bethlehem Beyond the Wall’ puts Bethlehem on the map in the eyes of the people,” Nassar said, “saying that Bethlehem is a real place and has real people living there.”
I began to imagine visitors looking at portraits of Dabke’s, olive harvests, paintings, and of delicate hand threading embroidered dresses. In another section, there would be wedding Mawa-weels (chants) and a panel describing what the different chants meant and the history of that colorful tradition. My heartbeat started racing; I was thinking of how some of these visitors would go in knowing a little or nothing about Palestine, and then come out in love with the place, eager to visit and meet Palestinians.