This personal account, by the first director (1996––2005) of the Sakakini Center in Ramallah, describes the rewards and difficulties of establishing and running an NGO dedicated to culture and the arts in occupied Palestine. In the process of recounting the story of the center——its vision and objectives, multidisciplinary programming, funding constraints, its efforts to develop a diversified audience, and the impact of the second intifada——the author touches on a number of broader issues. These include the NGO scene in Palestine, international donor agendas, the inevitable intertwining of culture and politics, questions of identity and survival, and the challenge of finding ways to impart meaning to the arts in a situation of scarcity and siege.

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