West Bank cinema reopens in former terrorist hub

The reopening of cinema in Jenin allows the once-violent West Bank town to show new face to the world.

• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

Children crowded the ticket window as President Salam Fayyad climbed stairs covered in red carpet and scouts rapped out a snare-drum beat to inaugurate Cinema Jenin, reopened last month after more than 20 years in this northern West Bank city.

The renovation is the brainchild of German filmmaker Marcus Vetter and Jenin resident Ismael Khatib, whose son Ahmed, 12, was killed by Israeli soldiers in 2005. Mr. Vetter documented Mr. Khatib’s decision to donate Ahmed’s organs to six Israelis in the film “Heart of Jenin,” then renovated a cinema to provide a local venue to show it.

“Cinema Jenin is a safe place for Ahmed’s friends to learn and have fun,” Khatib said.

German and Palestinian volunteers spent two years painting the walls purple, reupholstering the 355 old chairs, and landscaping outside the 700-seat theater. The cinema’s three-day opening film festival, attended by the director of Tel Aviv’s Cinematheque, marks Jenin’s transformation from a notorious terrorism hometown to a city of cultural institutions including music and acting schools.

“The cinema tries to help build a Palestinian state through making films, providing jobs, and giving hope,” Vetter said.

Rasha Alhamad, a dentist, waited to see “Heart of Jenin.”

“It’s something great,” she said. “We can show our culture to the world.”

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