M.Sc Thesis

M.Sc StudentZaatry Haya
SubjectRevived Palestinian Urbanity in Haifa: City, Place, Culture
and Identity
DepartmentDepartment of Architecture and Town Planning
Supervisors PROFESSOR EMERITUS Rachel Kallus
DR. Ronnen Ben-Arie
Full Thesis text - in Hebrew Full thesis text - Hebrew Version


Since the year 2015, a unique urban phenomenon started taking place in the city of Haifa, particularly in its downtown area. There is a significant rise in the number of entertainment venues and spaces where Palestinian production occurs in all fields of arts, knowledge, and culture. Haifa’s downtown has become a cultural center for artistic creation, cultural production, entertainment and leisure, catering to the contemporary needs of the younger generations of Palestinians citizens of Israel.

This phenomenon comes as a result of many political, cultural, societal, and economic particularities of the city that are manifested in its physical form, mainly in lower Haifa and the German colony, and the boundaries of their expansion are noticeable topographically - from Haifa’s port to the Hadar district on the slopes of mount Carmel.

These entertainment venues and spaces are taking part in the shaping of a Palestinian local urban identity through processes of interpersonal exploration, community consolidation, and a multi-national dialogue; with the world at large, the Arab world in general and the Palestinian people in particular, but also with the Israeli public.

All of these places that operate differently, autonomously, and independently, venues that exist on their own, also collaborate and function jointly with cultural and artistic initiatives such as Haifa Independent Film Festival (HIFF), MahraJazz - Palestine Independent Jazz Festival, and KOOZ - Queer Film Festival; which are commonly hosted in these venues or co-produced with them. 

This research studies the development of the Palestinian independent cultural production in Haifa, tracing back to the beginning of its spatial and physical emergence and embodiment, up until the appearance of signs indicating the disintegration of its current form. It seeks to conceptualize the phenomenon of independent Palestinian culture as a current contemporary stage in Palestinian urbanity, in order to contribute to the expansion of knowledge about Palestinian urbanity in Israel. By investigating the characteristics of the revived Palestinian urbanity in Haifa's urban space, it seeks to formulate and expose new insights about the processes currently taking place in the Palestinian society in Israel, and its relations with the ‘city’ and the ‘state’.

The research is conducted using methodologies based on reflexive ethnography. It examines this urban phenomenon through the framework of four spheres: History, Urban Planning, Architecture and Society, focusing on four venues and three cultural events, which were the study cases for various cultural, business, and organizational models.

The research illustrates the Palestinian social and political commitment to cultural production. It illustrates the necessity of entrepreneurship in these fields, aiming to encourage the continued development of cultural productions and initiatives in the future. Its findings enable new insights about the processes currently taking place in Palestinian society in Israel, and the ever-changing relations of Palestinian society with the ‘city’ and the ‘state’. It draws light on one of many other attempts of this society to formulate and conceptualize identity in its various, social, cultural, and political levels, in a reality that often eliminates it.