The youngest of 11 children, Faisal Saleh, founder of the Palestine Museum US, was born in 1951 in the West Bank town of El Bireh.
The youngest of 11 children, Faisal Saleh, founder of the Palestine Museum US, was born in 1951 in the West Bank town of El Bireh.

In America’s only Palestinian museum, a chance to explore common ground (and mostly avoid politics)

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About 80 miles from New York City’s renowned Museum Mile stands a nondescript office building; its beige façade conceals the burst of color waiting just inside the double glass doors, which serves as the entrance to the Palestine Museum US.

Several canvases of women painted in bright pinks, blues, yellows and greens hang on the wall. A larger than life-sized bronze statue of a woman by the sculptor Sana Farah Bishara takes center stage.

Stepping inside the first gallery one is immersed in color, from the intricately embroidered thobe, or traditional Palestinian dresses to the eye-popping abstract canvases displayed alongside artifacts and ephemera.

“When we opened it there wasn’t even a speck of a museum for Palestinians in the U.S. People come here to feel a connection, to get in touch with their Palestinian identity,” Faisal Saleh, the museum’s founder and executive director, said. “Some people who visit were born there and miss it; others have never been, but are thirsty for Palestine. We are seeing this as a big cultural opportunity for people.”

Saleh views the four-year-old museum — the only one one in the nation dedicated to Palestinian art and culture — as a place where Muslims, Jews and Christians can connect through culture.

“Many of the Jewish people who come here are well versed in the region and some have been there many times. Some come here and say they were taught a narrative that they didn’t question,” the 70-year-old businessman said.

Faisal Saleh views his four-year-old museum — the only one one in the nation dedicated to Palestinian art and culture — as a place where Muslims, Jews and Christians can connect through culture. (Photo/Forward-Cathryn J. Prince)
Faisal Saleh views his four-year-old museum — the only one one in the nation dedicated to Palestinian art and culture — as a place where Muslims, Jews and Christians can connect through culture. (Photo/Forward-Cathryn J. Prince)

In June 2019, Saleh spoke about his experience of being a Palestinian refugee at Beth El-Keser Israel, BEKI, during its Shabbat Shmooze, a post Shabbat service kiddush and lecture. “It was a good opportunity for good discussion. People were curious,” Saleh said of the event.

Saleh’s talk at BEKI came after a previous visit to the museum by some of the synagogue’s members. Since then, several congregants have participated in museum events such as lectures and film screenings.

Cathryn J. Prince

Forward contributor

Forward

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