PalFest 2011 Opens Today

The grown-up participants are yet to cross the Allenby Bridge, but PalFest has already begun for its youngest festival-goers.

For the first time this year, PalFest kicks off with a one-day children’s festival at the Lajee Centre.

PalFest producer Omar Robert Hamilton said that, “The [children’s] day is going to revolve around having different stations: a storytelling station, a puppeteering station and a painting station.” He added that the day will end as children finish the messages they’ve been working on, “tie them to helium balloons and release them over the [separation] wall.”

The opening-night event for adults is “Speaking with Many Voices: Writing for a Globalized Audience,” and features Bidisha, Najwan Darwish, Mohamed Hanif, Richard Price, and Gary Younge. The festival is set to run through April 20.

The festival has been criticized in past years for its English-language focus, although organizers said that efforts are being made to translate excerpts of visiting authors’ works into Arabic.

Events are free and open to all members of the public.

For PalFest updates on Twitter, follow @PalFest, @garyyounge, @muiz, and @murat_y_gokmen. The “official” hashtag is #PalFest11, and photos should be available on Flickr.

My favorite quote about Allenby Bridge, from poet Mourid Barghouti’s I Saw Ramallah:

I would have thanked you, bridge, if you had been on another planet, at a spot the old Mercedes could not reach in thirty minutes. I would have thanked you had you been made by volcanoes and their thick, orange terror. But you were made by miserable carpenters, who held their nails in the corners of their mouths, and their cigarettes behind their ears.

Terrible news from Gaza today:

The International Solidarity Movement confirms the death of author/activist Vittorio Arrigoni.