Executive Summary

The Promoting dialogue and cultural Understanding of our Shared Heritage (PUSH) project, is a tri-lateral project aiming to identify, develop and promote greater understanding of the region's shared cultural and natural heritage. The project partners the Jordanian Society for Sustainable Development, Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design and Al Quds University.

The project held its Regional Tour and Symposium November 21-23, 2007 in Jerusalem.  The event kicked off with a full day tour of four sites of shared heritage with participants from each of the partner countries as well as numerous international guests. The subsequent two days brought together academics, professionals and community members to review and discuss the PUSH project's thematic analysis of the region's common heritage Our Shared Heritage: An Anthology of the Region's Shared Natural and Cultural Heritage which was released concurrently with the symposium. Additional sessions were held to evaluate the project's challenges and accomplishments over its first year and plan upcoming activities.

The Regional Symposium began with a full day tour of four sites of shared regional heritage including: Belvoir, a twelfth century Crusader Castle overlooking the Jordan River Valley; Gesher, the Three Bridges site encompassing a Roman Bridge, an Ottoman Bridge and a British Mandate Bridge which served as the historic crossing point over the Jordan River; Nebi Musa, a shrine to Moses, one of the many prophets revered by all three of the Abrahamic traditions; and Wadi Kelt; the location of numerous heritage sites including the St. George Monastery, Herod’s winter palaces, and historic caves. The tour was attended by approximately 50 Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian and international guests. The tour proved to be a unique and moving experience for many of the guests. Traveling together throughout the day and visiting sites together created a great synergy between the team members and the guests. Moreover, the jointly-led tours at each of the sites proved to be a successful method for promoting greater understanding of the region's shared heritage – a model which the project will expand upon in the second year of the project with its tour guide training program.
The subsequent day kicked off the academic symposium. The symposium was attended by the three PUSH teams including students, faculty and administrative representatives from Al Quds University, Bezalel Academy of Art and Design and the Jordan Society for Sustainable Development (JSSD), in addition to the PUSH Peer Reviewers, a panel of visiting international guests and peer reviewers and various invited regional stakeholders totaling approximately 80 guests. Upon arrival the guests received copies of Our Shared Heritage: An Anthology of the Region's Shared Natural and Cultural Heritage in addition to other supplementary materials.
The day began with opening statements from Dr. Yusuf Natsheh who introduced the three PUSH partner institutions, reviewed the project's timeline and mission statement and revisited the PUSH project's first year accomplishments. Then international renown expert Dr. Saleh Lamei, Director of the Centre for Conservation and Preservation of Islamic Architectural Heritage in Cairo presented a comparison review of cultural heritage perseveration efforts in several Arab cities and discussed PUSH's work in Our Shared Heritage. Subsequently, Dr. Muna Hendieh from the Department of
Environmental Science, Jordan University of Science & Technology reviewed PUSH's anthology of sites of shared regional natural heritage. Following lunch, a panel of invited guests including Mr. John Kjaer, Head of Delegation for the EU in the West Bank and Gaza, Mr. Gianmatteo Arena, Head of Operations for the EU in Israel, Ms. Fabienne Bessone, Head of Sector for the EU in the West Bank and Gaza, Dr. Hasan Dweik, Executive Vice President at Al Quds University, Dr. Ya'arah Bar-On, Vice President of Bezalel Academy and Mr. Munqeth Mehyar, Vice President of JSSD welcomed the PUSH guests and discussed PUSH successful first year and the importance of the project in promoting greater regional understanding. In the final session, Dr. Simon Goldhill from King's College, University of Cambridge presented his review of PUSH's work related to Coexisting Traditions and Cultural Itineraries. PUSH Project staff then presented the sites of shared heritage that PUSH intends to work on for the second year of the project. At each of the sites PUSH will conduct cross border community tours, produce site manuals, brochures and billboards for use at each of the sites. Finally, PUSH guests were asked to complete an evaluation of the project and the publication. In the evening PUSH guests participated in festive group dinner in a nearby Jerusalem restaurant overlooking the Old City.
During the final day of the symposium PUSH guests and team members broke into tri-lateral focus groups to plan upcoming activities and discuss financial management issues.