Latest News (47)
On Saturday, July 11, Lajee Center welcomed over 800 people to its football field as it was transformed to an amphitheater to remember the life of Salah Ajarma (11/11/1972-4/14/2021), a founder and the director of Lajee Center who passed away from complications from cancer. The crowd included everyone from the youngest children to Aida Camp elders, and people from Aida Camp, Dheisheh, Nablus, the Galilee, and beyond. Others tuned in to a livecast from around the world. Guests were greeted by a photography exhibition of Salah’s life and accomplishments and by pastries made by his widow Rasha Al-Azza.
As people settled down into the evening air, former Minister of Prisoners, Issa Qaraqe’ welcomed people and remembered his dear friend with poetry: “This is Salah Ajarma: His smile that crosses all the borders, his blazing kites, his body that was shattered between will, illness, and revolutionary breath. This is Lajee Center: a small place that is wide enough for all of our voices. This is Salah, our son, our brother, our comrade, and our remaining wishes.” Recalling the work that Salah still had ahead of him, he concluded, “We distribute his dreams to all of you.”
The Director of the Lajee Center Environment Unit, Shatha Al-Azza, spoke of how Salah remains present in Aida and beyond today: “The departed Salah Ajarma is in the streets, and the streets are part of Salah, in the rugged alleys and at the demonstrations. He is in the house of the prisoner and the house of the martyr; he is in Jerusalem at Bab Al-‘Amoud and in Sheikh Jarrah. He is on Mount Sbeh sparking resistance. Salah is in Manger Square keeping the tree alight.”
Lajee board member and former prisoner Khaled Al-Azraq delivered a message on behalf of Lajee Center: “Salah always said, ‘Lajee Center is not the walls. Lajee, we are the people, young and old, young women and young men.’ Yes, dearbrother, friend, and comrade. Lajee is not the walls, it is the people, it is the project of liberation, a spring of life, a step toward return to Ajur, Beit Natiff, Deir Aban, Ras Abu Ammar, Malha, and Beit Jibreen, and all of the villages and cities from which the Palestinians were expelled.” He continued speaking to his departed friend, “Our presence here today, the presence of this great crowd of loved ones and friends and partners is the best evidence of the success of your project and of your personal success.”
Then Lajee showed a film produced by Mohammad Al-Azza featuring remembrances from his mother, his friends, his sisters, his widow, and each of his four children. In the video, friends remembered his escapades during the first Intifada as a young man painting the Palestinian flag in public places to defy the army. They remembered his dedicated activism throughout his life. They spoke of his recent earning of a college degree and a Master’s degree in Law to serve his country in a new way. And they spoke of how they had always been sure Salah would be a lifelong friend. The film showed Salah’s struggles with the army over many years. It showed him joyfully carrying a birthday cake lit with sparklers and flying a Palestinian flag just last year near the sea.
As Nidal Al-Azza, director of Badil and a co-founder of Lajee Center, said in the video, “Salah was able to build a generation of young people. He did not just build the football fields and the garden and the walls. He built a whole generation in this camp and in the region in general.” This generation, he said, is able to contribute to society in so many ways. Indeed, the video included words from that younger generation, like Amani Asad who started in the Dabka dance troupe as a child and is now the president of Lajee’s Board of Directors. Another young woman, Haneen Al-‘Araj, spoke of the support Salah gave her at a critical time as she started college. Lajee Center staff remembered his leadership and care. Said his friend Samir Awais,“There were people who thought of him as a leader, the director of Lajee Center, a lawyer, a father, but I miss the child inside him. Salah was in the middle of the pain and suffering. He would give me a call and raise my spirit.” His widow, Rasha, spoke as though to Salah: “The loss is very difficult. It is enough that you left me the sweetest three daughters and a son. I see in each one of them a distinct part of you.” His children expressed their pride in being his daughters and son and how much they love him.
Then, Lajee’s music ensemble came on stage to perform music of Le Trio Joubran that gave people the chance to feel their grief together as the sun set and the sky turned a darker blue.
Colleagues and friends from other organizations like Badil, Yaffa Center in Balata, the Mennonite Central Committee, and Palestine News Network (PNN) remembered his dedication and vision. As Lubna Shomali of Badil recalled, “His humanity and kindness toward the people were so big. His heart was so big. We will feel his loss tremendously.” The director of Ibda’a Center in Dheisheh, Khalid Al Safi, said, “I consider Salah to be a clear answer to the question: how can someone serve the Palestinian people in a deep and rooted way.”
The Lajee Center Dabka troupe that has traveled so many times with Salah to so many different countries came together for a somber and spirited performance.
The last words of the night were from Salah’s oldest daughter, Raghd, who spoke as though to her father: “I don’t know what to say or where to begin. I know that you are now in a place that is better than this impossible world, full of tragedies, disasters, oppression, and injustice…You are always in our hearts, and I want to take advantage of this moment to say do not worry, father. We are strong because of your memory, and because of the good life you lived. We feel your spirit around us, protecting us.” Going home into the night, attendees recalled memories with Salah and saw all around them parts of his legacy.
Staff members arriving on Thursday morning, 5th December 2019, at the Lajee Center found the door of the Media Unit broken and equipment and hard disks has been taken away. The lock of the door was bust open in a brute way and cameras and a digital video recorder were stolen.
Beside the loss of equipment of high value, as well on monetary side and for the practical work and documentation, the loss of data and files on the stolen hard disks hits the center hard. Some of the data can be restored from the backup-system, but not all files and records are saved.
In the early morning around 3am Israeli soldiers were seen in the camp and around the center. Lajee center was already invaded by Israeli forces more than three times in the past and computers and media equipment were confiscated before. In contrary to the recent one the previous attacks were conducted during daytime.
The work of the center in documenting and publishing the ongoing violation of Palestinian rights and the impacts of the occupation therefore remains a very important task.
Worldwide, October is considered as the month of awareness of breast cancer. According to the Ministry of health breath cancer is considered as the second most common cause of death after cardiovascular diseases In Palestine and globally. Amongst the different type of cancer, breast cancer is the most deadly one for women.
These facts already gave good reasons for the community health workers to focus on this topic.
Furthermore breast cancer in particular has some cultural aspects. In some villages for example the husband would ask for divorce when he knew his wife is having cancer. Also some people may cancel the marriage with a daughter of a woman with breast cancer. These cultural aspects also become a barrier for women in Palestine, preventing them from going to specialized clinic for further investigation like mammography or ultrasound or even biopsy.
Therefore the community health workers realized that there is a need for rising awareness of breast cancers and also to equip women with practical skills and information. Besides lectures about the risks of getting breast cancer and medical information women were taught how to do self-examinations at home, in order to discover a potential breast cancer at an early stage.
Self-examinations can be seen as the first step of taking a decision to fight against breast cancer. But is it also important to understand the plan of treatment and the therapy. Providing this information can destroy the wall of fear of asking for help and enable women to start the fight for their health.
Dr Gadeer Salhab, the manager of breast cancer unit at Beit Jala Hospital and her assistant were giving the lecture to the participants in a practical and understandable way by using an artificial model.
Our community health workers showed a strong spirit and worked together in organizing this event. Many of them have personal story of relatives with breast cancer, which makes them even more interested to fight hand in hand against breast cancer. We also chose this slogan as a logo for our T-shirts.
Dr Naief Kasabra, a famous oncologist in our area also played an important role in training of our community health workers and educating them by using stories from his experience with patients with breast cancer through. He offered a couple of lectures during this month.
Over the last months, lajee’s health team continued accustoming over 100 chronically ill patients in the camp. With the visits in the houses they contribute not only to the physical wellbeing of the camps inhabitants, the weekly visits and the conversations contribute as well to the psychological wellbeing.
Apart from that, the health team invested in further education of their team members such as the community with lectures and interviews. In a discussion round with Dr. Bram the team set up a plan for the projects future plan. Mr. Ardash reported about his experience with health projects in other countries, which gave the team an opportunity to contrast their own experience such as successes and struggles.
To strengthen the team’s abilities, it could realize several workshops. From team building measures to workshops about psychiatry and psychological traumas there was a wide variety.
For the patients, the recreational health day was one of the highlights. First, they could listen to a lecture about appropriate food for people who suffer from diabetes and about measurements to implement in daily life for people with hypertension and Diabetes. The theoretical knowledge turned real with a healthy lunch including rice, salad, chicken and fruits. Afterwards there was the possibility for physical activity such as swimming and dancing. The day was closed with relaxing activities such as massages, sauna and hair cutting so the participants could end the day in enclosing wellness.
Facing all these activities, the health team takes no time to rest now, but keeps working on and is already planning the next events. We are looking forward to the next months and a wide support to community’s health!
For our summer and during one month, we have choosen - Eleonora and Safa, to volunteer at Lajee Center.
Our first engagement was for the Summer Camp 2019. It started on Wednesday 17th of July and took place in the Lajee Center. The Center has a football field, a playground, a library, a rooftop and several work rooms where different activities took place.
The day started at 8:30 am in the football field where the children were used to sing the national anthem and other summer camp’s songs. During the day the children are divided into different groups according to their age and they do various activities (painting sessions, English lessons, dance classes and some sport). The activities ended at 1 pm after a lunch break all together, of course not without some dehiya dance!
We had also some trips outside the camp. The first one took place in the Water Land in Jericho, where children had fun swimming and diving into the water. The children also enjoyed a day hiking in Al Makhrour thanks to which they could admire the beauty of the Palestinian landscape. We had also a day in Caritas park in Bethlehem and for the last day we went to Mukhmas Funland in Ramallah.
The Summer Camp officially ended on the 4th of August with the final show. With the volunteers help the children prepared different performances such as dance, theater, gymnastic, reading poems and singing. Their parents and relatives enjoyed the evening!
During the entire Summer Camp, the children enjoyed the time with their friends and they were always involved in the activities both the creative ones and the physical ones. They also helped cleaning the camp in order to make it a beautiful place to live in. They learned group work and they were also able to listen to the volunteers and learn from them.
This Summer Camp gave the children the possibility to express themselves and learn while having fun with the others.
I’m an Italian student from Turin and I came to Lajee center thanks to an international organization called FFIPP. The aim of this organization is to make young people be aware of the situation in Palestine, getting in touch Palestinians, listening to their stories and their experiences of their everyday life.
In Lajee Center I was charged of taking photos of the activities during the Summer Camp for the children and posting them on their Facebook page.
Since I don’t speak Arabic, it has been a bit difficult to interact with the children, especially with the youngest ones. At the same time, I think I’ve learned another way to communicate with them, which is not verbal, but it’s made of smiles. The kids helped me learning a bit of Arabic, and I hope that I thought them a bit of English too.
I’m grateful for the time spent here thanks also to the volunteers who welcomed me and made me feel as part of their community. Singing and dancing with them and with the children was the greatest time here, because I could get in touch directly with the Palestinian culture while having fun with these fantastic people.
My name is Safaa and I am part of the educational program in Palestine called FFIPP. As a Moroccan girl living in Paris I had the chance to be part of the Summer Camp organized by the Lajee Center. This was a unique opportunity where I learned so much from the kids and the volunteers we worked with. Working with the kids in Aida Camp has taught me a lot and allowed me to question myself. Each child was special in his way of thinking, of taking care of the others, of helping and playing.
This experience was more than a random internship but I really felt connected to those children, and felt as a member of their family. Also the activities that are proposed by the Center are really various and they helped me improve my skills as I had to adapt to each different situation. The people working in Lajee Center were so kind with me and helped me feel like I was one of them. We shared a lot of good memories together and they were always trying to help me. This summer camp also helped me improve my speaking Arabic and I learned a lot of new words that are used especially in the area. We had also the chance to share some moments with the International people as we spent the night in the desert together, preparing food and singing.
Finally, I really want to thank all the people working in Lajee Center for their kindness and patience, all the kids for the love they gave us and everyone who helped us make this internship one of the best experience in my life. I really hope that I will come back again. Thank you for everything.
Every year, Unison has provided immense practical support and solidarity to Lajee Center’s art and cultural tours around the UK and Ireland. These tours have provided an invaluable opportunity for Aida Camp’s young people and Lajee Center members to showcase their work and share their stories of life under occupation and the reality of the situation in Palestine with international audiences. This partnership between Unison and Lajee Center spans different projects and activities and has grown and developed over the years. From 2016-18, Unison invited Lajee Center to participate in an international football tournament in Belfast with other international and local football teams. For the past three years, Unison branches have fundraised towards Lajee Center’s art and cultural tours and hosted events and collaborative activities in Belfast and other cities throughout the tours, extending Lajee Center’s reach to diverse audiences. Most recently, Unison hosted an event as part of the Nakba 71 tour during July 2019. Mohammed Alazza, Lajee Center’s Media and Art Unit Coordinator, was invited to present his work and discuss the challenges he faces as a photographer and film-maker in Palestine. The event was in Liverpool and took place during the same week as Unison’s national conference, which enabled more members from different branches to attend and learn about Palestine.
Looking to the future, Unison would like to provide practical support towards Lajee Center’s community health team. The idea of this partnership came from Unison’s Royal Hospital branch in Belfast. As a starting point, Unison added the community health project to its list of projects it fundraises for during an annual fundraising walk in Belfast, which took place on 10th August this year. As well as Lajee Center’s health project and the cultural advocacy tours, Unison fundraise for other projects in Gaza. Lajee Center has also invited a delegation of Unison members to visit Palestine in April 2020 with the intention of discussing the future partnership. The delegation will visit Aida Camp, learn about the wider situation in Palestine and discuss collaborative approaches on working together with the community health team and other projects.
Unison’s partnership with Lajee Center provides ongoing support in terms of funding, awareness raising and collaborative working and learning. This in turn enables Lajee Center to continue to provide sustainable outreach services within Aida Camp and share the situation of Palestine on an international platform. The partnership has opened up new possibilities for Lajee Center in terms of international networks and increased the capacity of our projects in Palestine. Unison’s pro-active, committed support is testament to the strength of international solidarity and we look forward to a future of establishing more collaborative projects and activities.
The International Summer Work Camp is a programme annually organized by Lajee Centre to give internationals the opportunity to learn about Palestinian culture, the struggle for human rights and life under occupation. During the two week camp participants are submerged in Palestinian culture by way of food, music, dance, history, films, politics, field trips, volunteer work and interaction with the community of the Aida camp.
The programme helps to broaden participants’ knowledge of various and diverse fields, such as history, education, health, culture and politics among others. Activities include lectures from Palestinian activists, visits to other organizations, museums, film screenings, trips in different cities and camps in the West Bank, spending time with families, volunteers and staff of Lajee Centre.
Being part of the camp gives the opportunity to get in contact with Palestinians, their stories, their experiences in order to be able to get a better picture of life in Palestine, learning with and from Palestinians about the occupation they suffer. This goal encompasses with the willingness of outreaching as many people as possible that Lajee Centre offers with this camp. The programme boosts and encourages internationals to think critically thanks to first-hand reality witnessed on the ground, drifting apart from mainstream /western media that the world is mainly exposed to.
During the two weeks the participants join a varied amount of activities leading them to fulfil the aim of the International Summer Camp. There are different areas that we could talk about when referring to the programme, focusing in culture, education, politics, etc.
To mention some, this year, the 19th international summer work camp, started with a presentation of Lajee Centre and Aida Camp as the main base for the group.
The Lajee Centre’s staff and volunteers organized diverse activities for camp participants. These activities included Arabic lessons, Dabke dance lessons, practical work in the centre, leisure time with staff, volunteers and community members in addition to educational lectures given by various units of the center. This helped to create a connection with the people that host and make this programme possible and introduce the internationals to the context of life under occupation in the West Bank.
To enumerate a few of the leisure activities mentioned above, the internationals had the opportunity to spend time with families and cook with them Palestinian traditional food. They also organized activities for the kids of the Summer Camp that Lajee hosts every year, or they spent a night camping in the desert with the staff and volunteers of the centre, what brought them the possibility to enjoy getting closer to each other and to the astonishing nature around them.
In addition to the time spent observing and learning in Aida there were visits to both the Deheshe Refugee Camp in Bethlehem and the Balata Camp in Nablus allowing participants to observe similarities and differences in daily life. Day trips to Ramallah and Hebron offered further exposure to art, history and culture where the internationals met locals who guided them through the historical, political and economical context of the cities. The day trips included visits to museums, cultural centres, factories, resource centres and organisations working in the field of justice, human rights, media, among others. These activities allow the participants, not just to learn about the work that locals are doing but also how everyone of them is resisting the Israeli occupation.
Other teaching methods used were film screenings and lectures by different speakers, who were both sharing their work and experiences dealing with topics such as prisoner`s lives, reintegration of children after incarceration, the reality and limitations of journalists/film makers in Palestine, etc.
The programme is arranged in a way that anyone, no matter their understanding or previous knowledge about Palestine can get the most out of this hand on learning experience.
To conclude the two week camp experience the participants shared feedback, considerations and ideas. Some mentioned the possibility to add activities related to healthcare in Palestine, suggestions were: visits to hospitals, clinics, disability centres.
After the introduction to the situation in Palestine, all the participants shared their will to get involved in activities, actions or projects in the long term. One of the ideas to help aid in this goal is to create a platform where participants and staff from Lajee could discuss, propose and follow up on the different ideas.
Overall, every participant expressed their enthusiasm and gratefulness towards everyone who took part in the organisation of the camp, making this programme possible.
The variety of the activities and content were very much appreciated. The knowledge gained during the 2 weeks and the manner in which participants were obtaining that knowledge from the Palestinian people made the experience an authentically powerful and tangible one, much greater than anything someone could ever read about or study.
Common appreciation by the participants was the time spent with the Aida community across the generational spectrum and always feeling welcomed, supported, and appreciated as scholars, volunteers and new members of the large, loving family of the Aida Refugee Camp.
We are so excited to have kicked off the first of our three summer camps and so far it has been so much fun!
From water fights to musical statues, we haven’t stopped laughing and it is great to see the kids enjoying themselves so much. The summer camp is held annually and is a chance for kids from Aida Camp, Al Azza Camp and nearby towns and villages to get together, play in the sunshine and learn more about their Palestinian culture.
Every day begins with the national anthem, to which all the kids sing along...it is great to see such national pride and the Palestinian flag being waved high every morning! After this we divide up into smaller groups and there are a wide range of activities on offer; from waterfights and pottery painting, to music chairs, lessons about Arafat and drawings showing what life is like in Aida camp. As well as the activities there are a range of trips planned for the next week giving the kids the chance to go swimming in Batir, tour around Ramallah and visit nearby parks.
The summer camp is an incredible way to bring together the young generation of Palestinian’s and give them an opportunity to learn about their culture and history and to have a great time together playing in the sun.