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Silicon Valley Proclaims May 15th Palestinian Cultural Day
Palestinian Cultural Day was officially proclaimed by the cities of San José, Sunnyvale, and Milpitas, and by Santa Clara County in a ceremony on May 15, 2009. The day celebrates Palestinian heritage and remembers the Palestinian Catastrophe in the hope that it will never be repeated.
The city of San José officially named the 15th of May 2009 as Palestinian Cultural Day in a proclamation signed by Mayor Chuck Reed and all ten city council members. In a ceremony held at the Santa Clara County Government Center, Councilman Ash Kalra presented the Proclamation to Samir Laymoun, representing the local Palestinian community.
Sunnyvale Mayor Anthony Spitaleri and Milpitas Vice Mayor Pete McHugh also presented proclamations of Palestinian Cultural Day on behalf of their respective cities. McHugh, formerly as Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, had sponsored the annual celebration for many years. Before him, the late Jim McEntee had championed Palestinian Cultural Day in Santa Clara County. This year, two newly elected county supervisors, Dave Cortese and George Shirakawa, joined together to continue the 9-year-old tradition of celebrating Palestinian Cultural Day.
County Supervisor Dave Cortese opened the program with the raising of the American and Palestinian flags in Jim McEntee Plaza at the Santa Clara County Government Center in San José.
Palestinian Cultural Day in Santa Clara County marks the 61st anniversary of the Palestinian Day of Catastrophe (Yom al-Nakbah), when 750,000 Palestinians were forced from the homes by war that resulted in the establishment of the State of Israel. According to the United Nations High Commissioners for Refugees (UNHCR), there were over 4.5 million internally and externally displaced Palestinian refugees and their descendants in the Occupied Territories and neighboring Arab countries as of 2005. This does not include the involuntary Palestinian Diaspora in the Arabian Gulf states, Europe, North America, and the rest of the world.
Moving into the Isaac Newton Senter Auditorium, the overflow crowd of some 250 people listened to Samir Laymoun introduce the cultural portion of Palestinian Cultural Day. The program included Palestinian songs by fifth grade students, readings of Palestinian poetry, and a lively performance of the debkah, Palestinian folk dance, by fourth grade students.
Faten Hijazi presented her perspective on her Palestinian heritage, and how she will uphold it in the face of adversity in her ancestral homeland.
Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi of San Francisco State University, who has dedicated much of her life to Palestinian self-determination and the rights of Palestinian women, delivered the keynote speech. She opened by recounting the humiliation to which she is subjected upon arriving at Ben Gurion International Airport in the land of her birth. She went on to describe the amazing resilience of the Palestinian people under occupation, including in Nablus where she was born.
The program was followed by a reception with a sampling of felafel, hummus, and bakhlava.
Asked why he has been organizing Palestinian Cultural Day for nine consecutive years, Samir Laymoun explained, “To promote understanding of Palestinian culture and heritage to the general community, and to give the Palestinian-American community an opportunity to celebrate and be proud of their heritage.”
Related articles: http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2007/05/21/18419279.php, http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2007/11/26/18463594.php, http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/05/22/18500806.php
Palestinian and American flags flying above the Santa Clara County Government Center on May 15, 2009.
Fourth grade students performing debkah, Palestinian folk dance.
County Supervisors Dave Cortese and George Shirakawa present a Proclamation of Palestinian Cultural Day to Samir Laymoun.
Anthony Spitaleri, Mayor of Sunnyvale, presents a Proclamation of Palestinian Cultural Day to Samir Laymoun.
Pete McHugh, Vice Mayor of Milpitas, presents a Proclamation of Palestinian Cultural Day to Samir Laymoun.
Fifth grade students singing a Palestinian song.
Faten Hijazi speaking about her Palestinian heritage.
Dr. Abdulhadi speaking about Palestinian cultural resilience in the face of occupation.
Shamsia Rasheed reciting a Palestinian poem.
Chireen Hammad reciting a Palestinian poem.
Samir Laymoun addresses an overflow crowd in the Isaac Newton Senter Auditorium in San José.