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San Francisco's Palestine Day focuses on culture, not politics

Oct. 20, 2009 2:28 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 24, 2009 6:20 P.M.)
San Francisco - Ma'an - Over its 32 years, San Francisco's Palestine Day events went from an overtly political event with banners and slogans to a celebration of culture and heritage, reaching out to a wide constituency of Palestinians, Arab Americans and all other manner of curious culture-seeking citizens.

Fresh stuffed grape leaves, Oud, Dabka, and arghila, were over-layed with slide shows of photos depicting past and present realities of Palestine entertained more than 1,800 visitors to the festival organized by the city's Ramallah Club. The event has become so popular, organizers said, it may have to relocate to a larger venue to accommodate the crowds. The relocation, organizers said, might also see the involvement of other Palestinain groups in the area.

“Palestine is always in our hearts, and this [Festival] is the least we can do to ...preserve our culture and heritage and pass it on to our children,” said festival goer Said Khalid, who drove an hour and a half to bring his family to the event.

But San Francisco has not sworn off the political when it comes to Palestine. During the winter Israeli war on Gaza, Bay-area residents took to the streets weekly in an attempt to halt Israeli violence on the Gaza Strip, which ultimately killed more than 1,400 Palestinians.

The new track for Palestine Day, it seems, is the result of a developing tactic to highlight the lives and cultures of Palestinians beyond the fire and smoke most often seen on North American television screens.

One West Bank cultural critic praised the move, saying "Palestine, though shaped by war and conflict, has risen above it in so many ways; continues to live and adapt to realities imposed upon it. That Palestinian culture is so vibrant and expression so varied should indeed be a celebrated fact."

With reporting from Samer Elbandak
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