Terra Santa - Federica Sasso - The project of the entrepreneur Bashar Al Masri is to create a new, western-style city in Palestine. A secular space for the middle class, which looks to the future without excluding religion.

When Bashar Al Masri chose the hill on which to build Rawabi, one of his criteria was that "in the past no prophet had stopped here." "I did not want the risk of erecting sanctuaries or having problems with spiritual guides of any creed," says the billionaire builder who dreamed of the first modern city of Palestine .

Since 2010 he has been committed to building it: high and white buildings built in local stone equipped with solar panels and fiber optics, winding streets lined with flower beds and playgrounds. An unreal panorama compared to typical Palestinian cities. Al Masri wants Rawabi (also advertised with a dedicated website - ed) offering services and beauty, a place where citizens are organized in the first ever residents' committee in Palestine, and that has the potential to become one of the most advanced regions of the region.


Bashar Al Masri was born in Nablus, but he studied in America, got a passport with stars and stripes and made a lot of money with real estate projects abroad. "His city" reflects this synthesis of the West and the Middle East and is designed for the Palestinian middle class, the one that does not make news, but can afford the $ 125,000 apartments, wants to enroll their children in a school where they teach English , go to concerts or water parks.

The Israeli occupation has created problems (access to water, control of the only road leading to Rawabi), and Al Masri has been accused from within Palestinian society for using Israeli materials or subcontractors ("I dare to find only one Palestinian who does not buy something from Israel, "he replies).

The obstacles are many, and the realization of all the 23 residential districts of the project is an open bet. For now only three neighborhoods are finished, but Rawabi is coming to life. Last year the first 250 "pioneers" moved to the recently completed apartments, and Al Masri said that three thousand people live in the city today. Walking through the streets you can hear a lot of silence, every now and then glimpses can be glimpsed and some flowers sprout from some balconies. It's all quiet, maybe still too much. But the boys playing football in a pitch are happy to have come here from East Jerusalem or other West Bank centers. The school in English is about to start the second school year and in May it inaugurated the Q Center , the largest shopping center in Palestine, thus baptized in honor of the qatarioti financiers. Lacoste, Ferrari, Timberland, Nautica, and much, much more. For the first time the Palestinians will be able to buy the most important western brands without having to go abroad or wait for permits to reach Tel Aviv. And the boutiques are designed exactly like European or American ones. On a morning in August the shops are practically empty, but the sales are 50 percent.

Above the mall was born the tech-hub , a flagship that aspires to become the nerve center of high-tech Palestinian, and the project provides that next to the residential area is born an industrial area. Al Masri has thought of everything because his project has a positive impact on the national economy. "I firmly believe that the State of Palestine is underway, and one of the fundamental pillars of a state is a strong economy," he explains. "I've always been looking for a way to boost the Palestinian economy, and this project has allowed us to create jobs right away as well as improving Palestinian housing standards." The construction of the city for now has brought three thousand new jobs, but perhaps most important is that many employees of Massar International Al Masri are young, including many graduates in engineering and architecture who hold positions of responsibility.

Gender equality, cutting-edge services. Bashar Al Masri believes that Rawabi should reflect the coming Palestine, and this also applies from the point of view of tolerance towards all. Rawabi is building the largest mosque in Palestine - second only to Al Aqsa. But the entrepreneur wants 10 percent of the inhabitants to be Christians, and the Orthodox Church, of which the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilus III, has blessed the first stone is also under construction. In mid-August, the Samaritan community of Nablus honored Al Masri for his work, which, by creating opportunities for young people, helps stability and peace. After the blessing by a priest in the ancient Samaritan Hebrew, the Palestinian-American entrepreneur reaffirmed that Rawabi does not belong to any particular religious group, but must be home to all, and he is committed to building a synagogue for the Samaritans if they want to settle here. "This - he says - is a secular city, like the Palestinian state, which must be independent, secular and democratic".


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