Anas Aghbar sees a Palestine where life can be hard. But also, a Palestine where there are more opportunities than ever before to try and experience a wide variety of things.
With his hair tied in a neat bun, an easy smile playing on his mouth and a relaxed posture, Anas Aghbar exudes a silent confidence from his comfortable chair. It is the kind of confidence that can only be built up over time and comes with talent, praise and success. When explaining, he leans forward, the eyes light up and the hands are working overtime underlining the various points made.
30-year old Anas was born in Nablus, educated as an engineer in Jordan, and now works and live in Ramallah. Here he has set up shop and he has called the city home for the last six years. With him, he brought a clear idea of what he wants to achieve in his new home city. “I want to make people happy. That is my drive. I love to make people smile, and the thing I enjoy the most is walking around the park, watching how much fun people are having. That is why I’m working so hard.
The park he is referring to is Al Instiqlal Park, which is a large, public park, located in al-Bireh, a neighbouring city to Ramallah. Here Anas was made the General Manager two years ago and he has since worked to improve the park and turn it into a social gathering place for the city. He has gotten far, but, by his own admission, he hasn’t reached his goal yet. Concerts, exhibitions and performances of all kinds are some of the events that the park has hosted over the last two years. Among others, the local circus-school, which recently toured in Denmark, has performed in the park – and this is also the place in which acrobats, jugglers and the many other artists performed in September during the famous bi-annual Palestine Circus Festival.
The many initiatives have attracted more guests to the park than ever before which has increased the turnover from the small shops spread throughout the park five times. All of these facts are told by Anas, with clear proudness in his voice. However, the many events are not the main attraction of the park. Water, often a scarcity in Palestine, can be found in large quantities in the green park. A large artificial waterfall flanks the entrance, and in the middle of the park you can find a large spring. ” People are thirsting for water. We, as a people and a city, need water. And even though we are living close to the sea, we aren’t able to go there. So, when we gather that much water in one place, it becomes very popular. Just take a look at Ramallah. Their spring next to the municipality isn’t that big, but it still pulls in a lot of people every night. “
The construction of the spring in Ramallah brought a great deal of controversy with it, and while many people visit it every night, many of the locals think that it is a waste of water. Anas disagrees, and he sees it as a sound investment. “The park and the fountain work as a power source for the cities. They give people a place to hang out, where they can escape the daily routine and relax for a few hours. But it also gives them a place to meet. We need more of these places, not less.”
To Anas the rapid development in his park is a clear sign of a movement he has seen lately on the West Bank. Festivals are popping up left and right, and lots of private initiatives are being taken to create other events and experiences for the population. At the same time some of the municipalities are beginning to change their policies, becoming more active than ever before. As an example, Anas talks about the three municipalities – Ramallah, Beitunia and al-Bireh – that owns Instiqlal Park. “The municipalities are trying to give their people better services and more opportunities. They understand that we are trying to live our lives and they want to give us the opportunities and places to do that. Now I just hope that other municipalities will follow their lead.”
Besides the more active municipalities, Anas sees a great potential in the younger generations. Armed with social media, they have a greater knowledge about the world around them than the older generations had. Social media provides several platforms for young people to get their message out. Furthermore, they have the passion to use the opportunities that technology gives them. All of these things leave Anas confident thinking about the future. ”We Palestinians have a hard life. But we love to live. I have a feeling that people from the outside thinks that we have a bad life, an empty life, where nothing ever happens, but we are actually doing pretty well. Foreigners I meet, are always surprised about all the events and experiences, which you can have here. And I can see, and I’m sure, that things will only get better in the future.”