by Fatima Aruri
RAMALLAH, June 30 (Xinhua) -- Twenty-six year ago, a Palestinian cultural center launched the first international music and dance festival.
However, the festival was held only 20 times amid political tensions and Israeli military assaults against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Last weekend, the festival opened again, giving the audience a chance to interact and dance with 17 music and dance groups from different parts of the world.
Themed "the Palestine we love," the festival depicts the passion of the audience in Palestine for music and dance, as well as for the resulting openness and joy.
Iman Hammouri, director of the local Popular Arts Center in Al-Bireh city, told Xinhua that this year's theme was a response to those who are manipulating the Palestinian cause.
"The Palestine we love is the one that represents all Palestinians, without internal division or partitioning, and the Palestine we want to see in the future after we are liberated," she said.
The festival is held to challenge the difficult political and economic circumstances that Palestinians suffer from on a daily basis, and to envisage "the Palestine we choose to live in," Hammouri noted.
The festival will annually invite artists from all over the world to perform in public shows in various locations. This year, the guest groups performed in Jerusalem, Gaza and Ramallah, and are expected to extend to remote villages in the West Bank.
"Two shows of the festival this year will be held at Kufur Laqef village near Qalqilya city by the young folkloric Dabkeh troupe," said Hammouri.
The tensions of Israel and the United States with the Palestinians have seen a significant rise as a U.S.-led economic workshop was held in the Bahraini capital of Manama to discuss the economic part of the U.S. Middle East peace plan, better known as the "Deal of the Century," which has been rejected by the Palestinians.
The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump stopped all funding for the UN agency serving more than 5 million Palestinian refugees in 2018, after recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moving U.S. Embassy in Israel to the disputed holy city.
Iyad Istaiti, who runs a grassroots music center in Ramallah, cut short his weekend in his hometown Jenin in the north of the West Bank to attend an oriental music performance by a Palestinian band living abroad.
"I see Palestinians alive through following such events and the tensions do not add or take away anything," he said, walking out of the show venue.