by LAUREN SCHUSTER, Asst. Editor
This week in Kelly Commons 5A, an exhibit titled “Bethlehem Beyond the Wall,” was displayed, which showcased the everyday lives of people in Bethlehem.
The exhibit consisted of art, photography, video, maps, and artifacts. This exhibit was curated by Bshara Nassar, who is a graduate of Bethlehem University, a sister university of Manhattan College.
“I’m really hoping to show students that Bethlehem is not a place that’s mythical. […] It’s not only a place that exists in the Bible or in stories, but it is actually a real place where real people live, where there are people with culture. They are going about their everyday life, they are surviving the checkpoints, [and] they’re surviving the walls,” Nassar said.
A large part of Nassar’s motivation for curating the exhibit was his desire to challenge the often narrow lense through which media outlets show the city of Bethlehem and its people.
“We want to show a different image from what people see in the news. They always see the conflict, but we want to show the people. We want to show the people who live there and their resilience, basically,” Nassar said.
Marisa Lerer, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the visual and performing arts department, was one of many faculty members at Manhattan College who helped to bring the exhibit to campus.
For Lerer, this exhibit also has a personal tie.
“I had actually had the opportunity to travel to Bethlehem with other faculty members last year, so I got to experience the city and I got to experience the culture, and that experience is really important to me because I feel like so much of what we hear about Bethlehem is basically either, kind of, sensationalized media, or the media is very focused on one story,” Lerer said.
As both an art historian and a professor, Lerer felt that this exhibit would provide an important opportunity for people to see Bethlehem from a different point of view.
“I felt like this exhibition essentially would help students, our campus community and our wider community to actually experience the more cultural aspects of what it’s like to live in Bethlehem,” Lerer said.
Brother Jack Curran was another driving force behind bringing the exhibit to campus. Curran and Nassar first met at Bethlehem University several years ago, where Nassar was enrolled as a student and Curran was teaching. The two stayed in touch and eventually decided to team up and work on bringing “Bethlehem Beyond the Wall” to Manhattan College.
“When I went to Bethlehem, I learned a lot by being there, and I thought I was pretty informed [beforehand], and I imagine some of our students think they’re pretty informed, but maybe this exhibit will help them to become more informed from the perspective of people who live in Bethlehem,” Curran said.
After Curran talked with Nassar and got Lerer involved in the process, several months of coordination between various departments and faculty members took place in order to make the event a reality.
“It’s a lot of work, […] there’s a lot of behind the scenes work, […] and it takes a lot of people to make it happen,” Curran said.
After the “Bethlehem Beyond the Wall” exhibit leaves Manhattan College, the physical location of the Museum of the Palestinian People, also founded by Nassar, is set to open in downtown Washington, D.C., which will showcase the lives and history of the Palestinian people.