The word “Ghirass” in Arabic means ‘young trees’.
Being a child in Palestine carries with it a complex and difficult history that the rest of the world only sees through the media and shocking images. The idea behind the Ghirass Cultural Center in Bethlehem came from Ms. Ibtisam Al-zoghayyer and an employee of the Bethlehem Arab Rehabilitation Association in 1990. Working at the grassroots level in a community-based program, Ms. Ibtisam Al-zoghayyer understood the urgent need to create a safe environment for children to learn and play.
In recent decades, children have become victims of the Israeli occupation and the political situation is becoming increasingly complex and difficult day by day, as many children have been killed in the streets and even in their homes and schools. These violent events have left psychological and physical scars on children. The deteriorating political situation under the Israeli occupation was one of the reasons for the establishment of the center, as the curfews, school closures, daily arrests, humiliation, and killings, alongside their exposure to potential confrontations with soldiers and life-threatening situations have severely affected the children
Another crucial reason for establishing the center was to provide parallel support to the Palestinian school curriculum, which focuses mainly on the academic aspect of childhood education. There was a strong need to enhance and support academic education with creative activities to develop the physical, social, cognitive, and emotional skills of children. These circumstances led a group of professionals, in cooperation with the Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation, to establish the Ghirass Cultural Center as a means of providing the children of Bethlehem with the opportunity to grow, learn and play in a safe environment.
In 1994 the center started with a small group of children from Bethlehem and the surrounding villages and refugee camps between the ages of 4-16. Since that time the center has grown and developed in all directions until it has become a safe oasis for all. Those in charge of the center worked with determination to continue to develop it and preserve its vision and mission even in the worst conditions so that for approaching three decades the center has been a place children can rely on to find safety to learn, play and develop into a promising Palestinian generation.
The Ghirass Cultural Center was founded to give the children of Bethlehem and the camps and surrounding villages a safe place where they can meet to learn, develop and practice their hobbies, play games and engage in activities. Crucially, it is a place they are able to grow in the light of justice and equality among all children regardless of gender, religion, social class, geographic location, or political color. The center opens its doors to children aged 4-16 years from eight in the morning until four in the afternoon, seven days a week. Children under 6 years old participate in the center accompanied by an escort.
The Ghirass Center is a branch of the Bethlehem Arab Society WWW.BASR.ORG, which is a non-profit organization and is considered one of the leading institutions in Palestine.