BUILDx: Meet the Rising Social Entrepreneurs in Jerusalem

“We’ve been dreaming about being in Jerusalem for the longest time.” 


This was our third event outside of Ramallah, and part of our endeavor to expand social entrepreneurship beyond Ramallah and the ecosystem’s centricity. And if anything, BUILDx in Jerusalem emphasized people’s appetite for events similar to this one; the packed hall at The Palestinian Art Court, our host, was proof of that. At the event, we were joined by two social entrepreneurs from the Jerusalem area, Alaa’ Qaq from Khazaaen, and Ashraf Bakri from Hantourism


Here’s the event summary:


Preserving documents that would otherwise be lost 


Our first speaker, Alaa’, talked about Khazaaen, a voluntary independent association, based in Jerusalem. Khazaaen is a societal archive, which studies, documents, and archives collective social experiences. It’s the first Palestinian organization to archive ephemera materials - these include anything from wedding invitations, to restaurant menus, to stamps, postcards, bus tickets, fliers, you name it. 


Khazaaen is, as Alaa’ describes it, a product of society. The archive relies on input from individuals and the community. The work of Khazaaen is important because it protects valuable information about society, daily life, and culture that traditional archives don’t. We may think a festival flier or a wedding invitation isn’t important now, but it may become so in 10 years. Khazaaen receives personal and social stories, all of which form the collective Palestinian societal narrative. They’re stories that you wouldn't find anywhere else, and it’s information that would be lost if it weren’t for this archive.


In the future, Khazaaen may become especially important for students and historians, and can be used as primary resources for research. One thing’s for sure, it’s aiding the preservation of the collective history of our people. 


“Khazaen is from the people, and it wouldn’t exist without the people”



Social tourism, preserving the authentic Palestinian narrative 


Our second speaker, Ashraf Bakri from Hantourism, talked us through his journey in the tourism sector and industry. Ashraf’s early interactions with independent tourists in Palestine helped him better understand how these tourists view our country, culture, and history. 


Hantourism is a Palestinian community tourism booking platform which caters to environmental, social, and alternative tourism. Ashraf believes that tourism is one of the most important sectors in Palestine, which not only significantly contributes to the Palestinian economy, but which also contributes to shaping an authentic Palestinian narrative. 


Hantourism works with a variety of local tour guides, working collaboratively. The initiative aims to provide valuable tours given by local tour guides, giving tourists a great local experience, and local guides the opportunity to tell the stories, heritage, and traditions of their towns and cities. 

Hantour, in Arabic, is a horse or donkey-drawn carriage - still common among local farmers in Palestine. 


What makes Hantourism innovative? So many things!

Hantourism attempts to solve several problems in the sector. They’ve identified several gaps after studying consumer behavior in the market. 

Here’s what they’re doing differently:

  • Hantourism works to better distribute profit and wealth among tour guides in different towns and cities. The Hebron tour has a guide from Hebron, same with Jericho, Bethlehem, Ramallah, etc. 

  • They’re providing transportation options that Tripadvisor and Airbnb will never offer for this market. The Palestinian market is not only small, it’s also very challenging. And who better knows transportation hacks that your local guides?

  • Narrative. Often times with bigger tourism companies, a common, often inaccurate narrative is provided. But with local guides and local tours, you get information that’s as close to the local reality as can be. This helps Hantourism escape the shadow in a lot of tourism organizations, including Palestinian ones.


Hantourism hopes to achieve sustainability in resources, and to scale their work. They’ve taken on multiple local partners in different cities in Palestine to achieve this. They built the platform with a social-focus, and with the purpose of organizing the tourism sector in Palestine. 



Collaboration is important in this space


We’re very happy with how we left the event, and it only strengthened our belief that spaces like this are important for social entrepreneurs. 


Our partnership with Grassroots Al Quds further highlighted the importance of collaboration between different entities in the ecosystem. Special appreciation for them for helping us put this together. And it won’t be out-last event in Jerusalem, that’s for sure! 


Check out the live video here to watch the full event.