JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- A five-minute walk from the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, Al-Quds cinema has resumed screening movies after a 26-year halt following the outbreak of the first intifada.
The 81-seat theater was packed out on Saturday, with viewers squeezing into the staircases to watch two Palestinian movies directed by Enas Muthaffar and Ahmad Habash.
Al-Quds, the name of Jerusalem in Arabic, is one of three movie theaters in the holy city that shut down when the intifada broke out. In 2007, Palestinian non-profit Yabous Cultural Center started refurbishing the Al-Quds building.
The cinema on al-Zahra street was founded in 1950. When the uprising against Israeli occupation started in 1987, the political climate kept viewers from movie theaters across Jerusalem and the West Bank, and many closed in dire financial straits.
The Yabous foundation, established in 1995, decides to restore the site and turn it into a cultural center to revitalize Palestinian artistic life in the city.
Large numbers of Jerusalem-based Palestinian cultural and political organizations have shut down after the city was cut off from Palestinians in the West Bank by Israel's separation wall and permit system, and Israeli authorities exercised control over allocation of funds and political activities in the city.
Israel annexed the eastern sector of Jerusalem, the intended capital of a future Palestinian state, after a 1967 war. It's control over Jerusalem has never been recognized by the international community.
"The idea behind refurbishing the Al-Quds movie theater and turning it to a cultural center is to strengthen Palestinian cultural, patriotic and human values and to maintain a local, Arab and international dimension to the city," Yabous foundation director Rania Elias told Ma'an.
The foundation had serious financial troubles before they were able to complete the work, and followed Israel's rigorous planning regulations to safeguard the building from demolition threats, she added.
Al-Quds now has three halls: the Morocco hall, paying tribute to Moroccan funding, will host exhibitions, music and dance, the Faisal al-Husseini hall, which still has some work pending but will seat 420, and the movie theater.
After a lapse of 26 years, viewers can now watch Arab and international films, bring children to special youth screenings, and anticipate festivals and education programs, in the hoped-for capital city of Palestine.