Al Quds Underground Festival 2011

Third edition of Al Quds Underground! From 20 till 22 October in the Old City of Jerusalem. Dutch and Palestinian artists will perform living rooms and other private spaces.

The Al Quds Underground Festival is based on a unique concept that brings audience and artists to the most interesting locations of the historic Old Town of Jerusalem:

As a member of the audience, you are guided through the small alleys and stairs to several hidden places where you are welcomed by the residents and witness a short art performance, theatre play or piece of music.

It’s an intense and direct way to experience the Old City, to connect with its residents and to perceive the narratives and reflextions of artists on the “Jerusalem-behind-the-scenes”.

The aim is to diminish the distance between Westerners and Palestinians, and to stimulate culture in places that are suffering from conflict and political tension. Bursting straight through the blazing noise of fanatics, talking heads and political leaders, Al Quds Underground brings an intimate and personal sound from person to person, from heart to heart.

Intimate encounter with the inhabitants of Arab Jerusalem.

During last editions, more than 300 artistic performances at secret locations celebrated the beauty of diversity in this sacred town that is so much troubled by conflict and tension. This year we will be back with an exciting team of artists from The Netherlands and Palestine.

The artists will collaborate with local inhabitants, expressing their individual cultural richness behind doors that usually remain closed.


Initiator and artistic director Merlijn Twaalfhoven shares his daily experiences in his diary (THIS IS JUST IN DUTCH, SORRY)


About Al Quds Underground

Dutch and Palestinian artist create intimate shows of music, theatre, video and photography

It is rare to experience intimate concerts and theatre pieces in a private living room. The festival Al Quds Underground brings you to beautiful hidden locations and personal encounters with the cultural diversity of Arab Jerusalem.

From Holland, singers, theatre makers, actors, composers and other artists work together with Palestinian collegues. They create shows of 10 minutes. The audience is guided to visit 4 small shows and one big finale in one evening. In total about 150 performances will take place in the most unique locations.

By adopting this strategy, these artists create space for cultural expression that has been often denied to the many minority groups living in Jerusalem.

Through art, stories, films and video portraits, the festival intents to create the opportunity for outsiders to become acquainted with a city that normally remains hidden behind walls and doors.

Access to the festival is on invitation only. Through personal networks a local audience will be invited to go to each performance in small groups. The audience will get the chance to make real contact with the city and the people who live there. Behind every door lies hidden, unexpected treasure.

Each festival day closes with the "Finale", a public show in the beautiful open air space of the Centre of Jerusalem Studies in Souq al Qataneen.


Jerusalem is usually dominated by expectations that are larger than life, magnificent dreams and superhuman powers. By stressing the personal, the delicate and the ‘small’, the inhabitants and the artists get an opportunity to recreate their personal relation to their city. Feelings of vulnerability and oppression can make place for self conciousness, dignity and hope.

Al Quds Underground creates an intimate setting where personal confessions and little everyday things of life can be told. Not conflict and segregation, but contact and curiosity is our message. Visitors make real contact with the place and the character of the performance. For them, each performance is a little piece of the puzzle that is Jerusalem; small but very intense and clear.


Merlijn and his fellow artists organize almost 150 performances in small and private spaces, to bring the focus on personal, intimate stories. In this way they avoid politics or nationalism, but emphasize the human size and the direct contact between people with diverse cultural backgrounds.

The artists base their work on stories by the local inhabitants and the history of the places where the performances take place. The goal is to make the voices of the ordinary inhabitants of Jerusalem heard that are usually shouted down by politicians, journalists, ideologists and fanatics.

Links and Credits

Initiator and artistic direction: Merlijn Twaalfhoven

In partnership with:

Spafford: Physical and mental health for disadvantaged children of Jerusalem and the West Bank

Pyalara: Palestinian Youth Association for Leadership and Rights Activation

Community Action Centre

Other artistic organizations in Jerusalem:
Palestinian National Theatre El Hakawati (theatre, poetry and storytelling)
Sabreen for Artistic Development (music, rap, spoken word)
Al Ma’mal Foundation (visual arts and performance).

Some artists from Holland:

We are supported by:
Netherlands Fund for Performing Arts

A. M. Qattan Foundation


Universal declaration of human rights about culture:

Article 27. (1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.


December 2008

Since 2001, around ten Palestinian institutions in East-Jerusalem remain closed, whereas they were playing an essential role inside the Palestinian civil society, in the economical, social and cultural fields... (...)
the Israeli Authorities closed during the year 2008 some additional Palestinian institutions in East-Jerusalem, in particular the Culture Forum Organization in Sur Baher (...)
Even if some of them managed to continue their activities by moving their headquarters outside Jerusalem, the closure of these institutions had a very deep and negative impact on the Palestinian society in East-Jerusalem, particularly since public events organized by the Palestinian civil society in East-Jerusalem are regularly prohibited. Since Annapolis, the Israeli authorities have prohibited about thirty Palestinian events and gatherings in East Jerusalem. In particular, in March 2008, a meeting for the launching of the manifestation “Jerusalem, cultural capital of the Arab world 2009”, has been prohibited by the Israeli authorities. The targeting of mostly secular and moderate Palestinian institutions and activities in the city contributes to creating an institutional vacuum in East Jerusalem, leaving the room free to religious and radical forces. Moreover, the prolonged closure of the Palestinian institutions in East-Jerusalem prejudges the final result of the negotiations on the status of the city.

Read the full report

December 2005

Palestinians are, without exception, deeply alarmed about East Jerusalem. They fear that Israel will “get away with it”, under the cover of disengagement. Israeli actions also risk radicalising the hitherto relatively quiescent Palestinian population in East Jerusalem. Clear statements by the European Union and the Quartet that Jerusalem remains an issue for negotiation by the two sides, and that Israel should desist from all measures designed to pre-empt such negotiations, would be timely. We should also support Palestinian cultural, political and economic activities in East Jerusalem.

recommendations on an operational level:

Enhance EU assistance to Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem, including cultural activities and community empowerment.
Palestinian East Jerusalem has traditionally been the centre of political, commercial, religious and cultural activities for the West Bank, with Palestinians operating as one cohesive social and economic unit.

Fragment uit “de verdeelde hoofdstad”, artikel in de Volkskrant

het vervolg, 3 juni 2006 (pagina 25) door Alex Burghoorn

‘De Israëlische handelingen dreigen de tot nog toe relatief rustige Palestijnse bevolking in Oost-Jeruzalem te radicaliseren’, schreven de hoofden van de Europese diplomatieke vertegenwoordigingen bij de Palestijnse Autoriteit een half jaar geleden in een alarmerend getoonzette rapportage aan Brussel. ‘Verscheidene Israëlische maatregelen verkleinen de kans op het bereiken van een akkoord over de deling van Jeruzalem’ – en daarmee ook de kans op vrede tussen Israël en de Palestijnen.

De EU-ministers van Buitenlandse Zaken hebben in december weliswaar hun ‘ernstige bezorgdheid’ uitgesproken over de Israëlische activiteiten in en rondom Oost-Jeruzalem, maar tegelijk de rapportage in een bureaula gelegd ‘voor de volgende vergadering’.