By Anees Bargouthi
RAMALLAH, Palestine (AA) - The first Palestinian Museum opened on Wednesday in the town of Birzeit near the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Construction of the museum, which bears the shape of a ship, was funded by Palestinian donors and overseen by several Palestinian NGOs.
The museum’s main aim is to preserve Palestinian culture and heritage, according to project organizers.
It is also intended to provide development and humanitarian assistance to Palestinian residents of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Jerusalem, the blockaded Gaza Strip and the "1948 lands" (now in the state of Israel), along with Palestinian refugees now living in Lebanon.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the museum would "enshrine the memory of the Palestinian people" and serve as a reminder to future generations that they had been living on the land since time immemorial.
"The Palestinians never left this land," Abbas said at the museum’s opening ceremony on Wednesday.
"This museum will tell the entire world that we will not leave; that we will stay here and build our state of Palestine," he asserted.
"Palestinian heritage," Abbas added, "cannot be forgotten or ignored."
Museum Director Mahmoud al-Huwari, for his part, told Anadolu Agency that that the idea of establishing a Palestinian Museum had been under discussion since 1997.
"The museum was funded and built by Palestinians at a cost of $28 million," he said.
"It was built in the shape of ship because it is meant to represent a bridge between the Palestinians and the world," he added.
According to al-Huwari, only the first phase of the museum project has been completed.
"We now have around 12,000 images in the audiovisual archives and we hope to collect another 1,000 over the next five years," he said.
Omar al-Qattan, museum team director, stressed that the "world-class" museum was also environmentally friendly.
"We worked very hard to present our history in a way that honors Palestinian culture, sacrifice and steadfastness," al-Qattan told Anadolu Agency.
"Along with being a place for Palestinian history and culture, the museum has also been built to serve as a platform for dialogue," he said.