TEDx conference comes to Palestine, via Beirut

BEIRUT: Beirut will host a partner event to the first TEDx conference ever held in Palestine this Saturday, as the Sunflower Theater in Tayyouneh becomes the venue for a day of international focus on Palestine.

The main event, TEDxRamallah, is being held in Bethlehem (due to difficulties with the venue in Ramallah) but the Lebanese and Jordanian capitals are hosting “partner” events.

The Beirut and Amman venues will stream the events in Palestine, while also featuring live performances from local speakers and artists.

Founded on the principle of “ideas worth spreading,” TED – Technology Entertainment and Design – was founded in 1984 in California as a one-off event, but now features several main annual fixtures, and hundreds of independently organized “x” conferences each year.

Featuring experts from a wide range of disciplines, from science to the arts and technology, speakers have from four to 18 minutes to speak on their chosen topic, and speeches are then available to view online.

Zeina Tahan, one of the organizers of TEDxRamallah, explained some of the motives behind the event.

“Palestine is not only about resistance and struggle. There is positive, inspiring stories coming out of it.”

Joumana al-Jabri, the Beirut curator, said, “The experiences that refugees have to undergo ... can generate experiences that can help them overcome different challenges.

“The focus is on how can people look at the experiences in the camp and use them productively.”

In Beirut, filmmaker Adam Shapiro and Afaf Shawwa Bibi will be hosting, and Amal Chahabi and Abdelrahman Katanany will be speaking.

Chababi, a resident of the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in southern Lebanon, was detained during the Israeli invasion of 1982. She will discuss her experiences as a refugee, and how this has shaped the social work she does within the camp now.

Katanany was born in the then Gaza Hospital in the Sabra refugee camp in Beirut in 1983 and moved in, with his family, when it was turned into a vertical refugee camp in 1986. Now an artist, he will discuss what inspires his work.

Jabri explained the reason behind holding partner events in Lebanon and Jordan.

“Usually TEDx events are held in just one city, but we felt that we couldn’t have an event in Palestine, of that scale, without including people who can’t attend, be it audience or speakers.”

There will also be one Beirut-specific talk, from Zeina Daccache, who has conducted drama therapy workshops at Roumieh prison, and directed the film,“12 Angry Lebanese,” documenting her work within the prison.

On Saturday there will also be live performances at the Sunflower Theater: modern dance and oud from Lisette Chehade; rap music from Katibe 5, a group from Bourj al-Barajneh; bagpipe music from Guirab, from the Bourj al-Shemali camp in the south and choir music from Fayha, whose members represent the diversity of Lebanon.

Other speakers, in Bethlehem and Amman, include the Palestinian architect Suad Amiry, author of “Sharon and my Mother in-Law: Ramallah diaries,” Raja Shehade – lawyer and author of “Palestinian Walks” and Alice Walker, the American author of “The Color Purple.”

There are also satellite events, being held in a further 20 cities across the world, from Cairo to New York, via London, Budapest, Berlin and Manama.

Venues in these cities will also livestream the events in Bethlehem, Beirut and Amman, and some are also putting on local performances, all linked to the Palestinian theme.

Although registration to attend the event has now closed, the conference will be available to view online on the day at





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