Damascus: The decision to have occupied Jerusalem as capital of Arab culture in 2009, was warmly received by the Syrian intelligentsia, where there is a current outpouring of emotions for the Palestinians.
That is especially true after the latest Israeli war on Gaza, for which the Syrians raised a total of 740 million Syrian pounds (Dh 58.62 million), in donations. Syrian Television alone raised 18 million pounds in one day, and a fund-raising event, hosted as the grand finale for Damascus Capital of Arab Culture 2008, brought Lebanese musician Marcel Khalife to the Damascus Opera House.
He alone raised $45,000 (Dh165,000). The festival for occupied Jerusalem in 2009 has been postponed until March 21 due to the war on Gaza (it had been planned for January 22).
Syrian novelist Haidar Haidar said that the celebrations of the occupied city, "are recognition that occupied Jerusalem is still Arab. They are also testimony for the victory of the resistance!
He expressed the hope that among Arab intellectuals, he would like very much to take part in the festivities celebrating occupied Jerusalem as the capital of Arab culture, although for logistic reasons related to occupation, neither he nor any other Arab writer, could go to occupied Jerusalem.
Hanan Qassab Hassan, the secretary-general of Damascus 2008, noted, "The current critical time when celebrating Jerusalem as the Arab capital of culture is of special importance . It is an occasion to highlight the Palestinian question from a cultural perspective and to highlight the role played by this holy city throughout ages." she added.
"However, moving from Damascus to occupied Jerusalem as two Arab capitals of Culture, would be an occasion to underline the similarities between the two ancient cities.
She noted that in Damascus, a documentation of photographs was prepared, showing how similar the Syrian capital was to occupied Jerusalem, "the old streets, quarters, and routes, along with the architectural resemblance between the two historical cities."
Additional parallels were drawn between the Umayyad Mosque and the Al Aqsa Mosque, through audiovisual footage from the 1930s. Mayada, a student at the Faculty of Fine Arts, lamented saying, "It's a pity, we celebrated Damascus without Nizar Qabbani in 2008. We are now celebrating occupied Jerusalem without Mahmoud Darwish."