Posted by on February 20, 2015 in Blog

In 2011, Bshara Nassar participated in a New Story Leadership program that brought together young Israelis and Palestinians in a powerful learning experience. The program took 10 participants to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum which certainly seemed like an appropriate site for reflection. However, he realized that there was not a museum dedicated to showing the suffering of the Palestinian people. Although the program aspired to fairly expose participants to the historical underpinnings of the Israeli and Palestinian narratives on modern history and conflict, Nassar realized that it was missing a key element of the Palestinian experience - which inspired him to launch the Nakba Museum, which is live online and will open its first physical exhibit in Washington, D.C. this June.

Nassar, a former Arab American Institute intern, grew up near the outskirts of Bethlehem under the Israeli occupation with the constant threat of displacement from his family’s historic land. Despite his circumstances, he always wanted to be a peace builder and came to embrace non-violent methods to protest the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Nassar recounts the first hand impact of the Nakba (“catastrophe” in Arabic, referring to the 1948 war) in the refugee camp near his home which he frequently visited. “I saw what it was like to be a refugee and what I saw was that the Nakba did not just happen in 1948, but is happening today.”

When Nassar met Sam Feigenbaum, an American Jew, at the Tent of Nations farm in Palestine his ambition to open the Nakba museum became a reality. Both Nassar and Feigenbaum studied conflict resolution and whole heartedly endorse the motto made famous by Nassar’s family farm, “We refuse to be enemies,” and have made it their mission to share stories of the Nakba that have been silenced. Both Nassar and Feigenbaum are not interested in creating competing narratives, but they both hope that this museum will focus on the human suffering caused by the events of 1948. Nassar commented that “There is no political agenda here, we just want to tell the story”.

After discussing ideas and strategies they realized that they could make their idea a digital project. Nassar would help gather the stories and artwork for the museum and Feigenbaum would do the graphic design and post the content on the newly fashioned website. They hope that the museum will serve as a safe space to start deep conversations about the impact the Nakba has had on millions of people. Nassar and Feigenbaum plan to move the museum to a permanent space in the future, and they’ve set up an IndieGoGo campaign to support their vision.

The opening exhibit will be hosted on June 12-27th at the Festival Center in Washington, D.C. The opening exhibit will feature photos and prints of the Nakba as well as video interviews with refugees.