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Case Study: Hebron in Palestine

Chiara de Cesari explains the role of the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee.
There is a very specific relationship between heritage and particularly urban local governmentality. And I think this is something we can see in a bunch of different cities and places. Starting from Italy, where we are right now, to Palestine, which are the two contexts that I know best. But also I’ve seen this at work also in my own city where I live, which is Amsterdam. And particularly because there are municipalities increasingly mobilise heritage and heritage projects to, I would say, to substitute for eroding forms of traditional forms of local governmentality. Of course, in Palestine things are both similar and very different from contexts such as Europe in Italy and Amsterdam.
But also there you can see a number of heritage organisations increasingly not only taking over formerly state functions in terms of heritage management, but also taking over functions that once would have been carried out by again, the municipalities. For example, the context where I’ve worked the longest, which is the city of Hebron in the southern Palestine, southern West Bank. You have parts of the city, which is the old city of Hebron, the historical part, the parts with the most important heritage which is still under Israeli occupation. And where the Palestinian authorities cannot operate as in other areas of Palestine. And there you have what could be considered a semi-governmental organisation.
It’s not Palestinian Authority, so it’s not governmental, but is tied to it. And at the same time, it’s relatively independent. It works with mostly European and Arab funding. And what they do is that they have restored the whole city of Hebron. And they have provided also the people who live there with all sorts of services. So they not only do heritage restoration, but they also provide people with a new sewage system, street lighting, and so on and so forth. And at the same time, because of the fact that the Palestinian and the Palestinian Authority cannot operate in the area, they have sort of slowly taken over kind of some of the functions of a municipality.
Again, because there are no other Palestinian authorities in the area. So this organisation, which is between an NGO and a semi-governmental organisation, is doing both heritage conservation and kind of the function of a municipality.

Watch this interview with Chiara de Cesari to see how a cultural heritage organisation can turn into a provider of urban services.

Chiara de Cesari explains how, in Hebron, a civil-society organisation has not only taken care of the restoration of the historic centre, but also the provision of basic urban services such as sewage and urban lighting. This is an example of how a civil-society organisation can take an active role in urban governance in order to cope with the limited actions of the local authorities.

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Cultural Heritage and the City

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