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Café Palestine Colonia in Cologne

Suraya Hoffmann

Why Café Palestine in Cologne? I was born to Palestinian parents who lived in the Galilee, raised in Jerusalem, and have lived in Germany since 1969. For more than 20 years, I have worked actively with a German-Palestinian women’s association. In Palestine, we have carried out various women’s projects; in Germany, our work has focused mainly on political events. When discussions showed that my fellow German citizens tend to know relatively little about Palestine, two friends Michael Keller, the late Annelise Butterweck and I tried to find ways to make up for this deficit. The idea of Café Palestine Colonia emerged from these considerations, and it opened in May 2012.When people talk about Palestine, they focus mainly on its tragic fate. The fact that Palestine also enjoys a high level of culture – with literature, painting, music, and much more – is hardly known to the German public. Café Palestine aims to bring this aspect to the fore. On the one hand, it highlights the situation in Palestine itself; on the other hand, it raises awareness of Palestinian art and culture in Germany, especially in the Cologne area. Of course, the political situation is not ignored.
The exhibition Art and Journalism was a side event of the Palestine Film Festival in Cologne in November 2022.

Our offer is diverse and includes lectures, readings, Arabic-German book fairs, art exhibitions, presentations on the Nakba, film screenings, concerts, and theater performances. We have recently featured the exhibitions Bethlehem Reborn and Thoub (Palestinian Identity Yesterday and Today). In this way, we inform German society about the rich culture of Palestine. We frequently present personal stories as well, which tends to result in lively conversations that repeatedly have led to an exchange about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This conflict has been on people’s minds for a long time, but they find little space or opportunity to discuss it elsewhere.

Images of the opening ceremony of the Palestinian Thoub exhibition, April 2023.

Events take place at least once a month, mostly in the space we are renting. But we also use other venues in Cologne, such as cinemas, theaters, and church and community rooms, particularly when we invite guests from Palestine or abroad. We frequently cooperate with other clubs and organizations and rely on a team of volunteers for logistics. But Café Palestine Colonia is not an association; it is just a group of men and women who share an interest in Palestine. Our audience consists mostly of Germans from all levels of education but also, to a lesser extent, Palestinians.

Our funding is primarily covered by donations and by the proceeds of the Palestinian handicrafts, art, and foodstuff that we sell, all of which are very well received by our visitors. The money that we don’t need to maintain the café is used for projects in Lebanon. For example, we have provided support over the past five years to a Palestinian child who lives in Shatila Refugee Camp.

The Bethlehem Reborn exhibition, held in collaboration with Köln Bethlehem Association, opened in December 2021.

We advertise our activities on social media, through our mailing list, and on our homepage, where we also provide information about past events. Visit us on Facebook at Cafe Palestine Colonia.

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