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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Jericho celebrates "10,000th" anniversary

From Al Arabiya:
The Palestinians on Sunday marked the 10,000th anniversary of the founding of Jericho, an oasis town in the West Bank that may be the world's oldest city.

The festivities included a special cabinet meeting chaired by prime minister Salam Fayyad that was to be followed by a 4.5 kilometer (2.8 mile) foot race, a military band and fireworks.

"This occasion is not only a celebration, but is part of a national project to complete the building and preparation of the Palestinian state," Fayyad said at the opening of the ceremony.

The date chosen for the anniversary -- 10/10/2010 -- was mostly symbolic.
AFP notes, however, that the planning for the event was a bust:

Jericho's 10,000th anniversary was intended to showcase the revival of the West Bank town: instead, it risks revealing how far they still have to go, say residents.

When the Palestinian Authority announced the celebrations in 2007 it was to herald the completion of new infrastructure projects and highlight the economic recovery of the ancient town after years of unrest following the 2000 uprising.

But the resulting low-key celebrations, as they enter their 11th millennium, have left even the town's mayor underwhelmed.

"I imagined that on Jericho's 10,000th anniversary we would have (US) President (Barack) Obama visit us, that we would have world leaders," Mayor Hassan Hussein said ahead of Sunday's ceremony.

Instead, the birthday for what may be the world's oldest city will be marked by a special Palestinian cabinet meeting, a military band, a 4.5-kilometre (2.8-mile) "marathon" and some fireworks.

And the one project everyone thought would be completed on time, a Russian-built museum, will not be ready for inauguration until Wednesday.

"It's going to look like a graduation ceremony," said the mayor.

[S]everal high-profile infrastructure projects that had been planned to coincide with the anniversary have not yet got off the ground.

Kamel Hemeid, the governor of Jericho and the Jordan valley, blamed this on Israeli restrictions and international donors who had not given enough aid to several projects, including a 50-million-dollar water treatment plant.

Local residents were sceptical of the government attempts to blame Israel, especially given a recent surge in tourism and the removal of the main Israeli checkpoint on the road from Jerusalem.

"The problem is not Israeli barriers," says Raed Daraghmeh, 38, the manager of a sprawling restaurant outside the 9,000 year-old ruins of Tel al-Sultan, which predate Egypt's pyramids by 4,000 years.

He blames the low-key celebration in part on a failure to involve the private sector, describing the planning as a "top-secret mission."

"I've been here, and for the past three years there has not been a single brochure to tell people that there will be an anniversary celebration."