Latest News (47)

Thanks to Kwame Philips, Ben Possibly and Lajee Center’s Media Unit, 8 teenagers of Aida Camp had the opportunity to learn how to make a digital story. Nowadays, it is very important to use the technologies as a strenght. That’s why we decided to make a video course during 2 days.

We gave the topic’s choices to the teenagers. Directly, they chosen to talk about their lifes’ conditions. The video is nammed "Life in Palestine" to show all about their way of life. 

The new technologies allow to make the difference in our struggle against the Israelis army’s occupation. Childrens and teenagers are occupied people as all the Palestinians inhabitants. In this consequence, all of them want to resist occupying forces by any and all lawfull means.

Kwame Philips was managing the children from the beginning, to help to express themselves, to recording and filming the video. It was a challenge for them to get the self-confidence in front of the camera. We tried to give them creativity, inspiration to guide themselves to be self-sustaining.

Not in the same time, not in the same moment, but all the children of Aida get a story to share us about the attack from the Israelis army.

Between 12 and 17 yo, all from different origins villages, they have affected theirs daily days by bombs, arrests, rubbers bullets, tears gas or weapons. Days and nights, in their house, or just in playing soccer, Israeli achieve their freedom. In this video, teenagers accused this violence. 

In this short movie, we can see that the humans rights are not respected. The Palestinian community have no freedom to get the same rights than the others people all around the world. When a person is shot, they don’t not receive the same care.  They are monitored at any time by the watch tower and get the habit to see a member of their family to be arrested in front of their eyes. They are attacked in their private life all day long and also from the nights raids. Even them, they can be arrested because the Israelis army don’t do the difference between a child and an adult.

When you watch this video, you learn more about the life of a Palestinian’s refugee child. It was a double mission for us : to teach how to use a camera and to turn the weakness into strength. In this kind of situation, the camera is powerful.

In Palestine, no matter what the weapon of choice – whether voice, pen or camera – there is a price to be paid for its use. Without them – who are the future generation - if there is no struggle, no progress could come.

As well as, the self-determination of the teenagers is to never give up and don’t forget the hope of a freedom and independent country. This workshop allows to position themselves as critical thinkers and to step back from their situation.

Ben Possibly was coordinating all the workshop but precisely to learn how to edit the video the second day. He was very helpful to teach children computational thinking and programming skills in a fun and intuitive way.

In front and behind the camera, children were curious, were not ashamed to ask questions to learn more and glad to get more knowledges about manage a movie. It was their first time and they did very well! The result shows it. 

Afterwards, we screened the movie to all the Lajee's staff members and guest and all of them appreciated it. 

We would like to gratefully thank to John Cabot University Dept. of Communicaton who coordinated with us this project. 

For several years now, Lajee Center has been sending volunteers to participate to a Summer Camp in the West Bank, occupied Palestine.

If you want to be involved as a volunteer, this summer Camp is made for you!

You will be charmed by the Palestinians culture and people, with an in-depth experience and you will be involved in the improvement of the Palestinians life’s condition. During two weeks, many activities are purposed by our Organisation. The activities takes place in Aida Camp, in Bethlehem but you can also discover many places in the whole West Bank area. Also, we manage several accommodations according to the families, as guest houses for volunteers.

This year, we warmly invite everybody all around the world to join us from 23th of July to 5th of August. We are looking for anyone who wants to be in part of our missions. However, it doesn’t means that you need to have any particular abilities or skills to join us. Our priority is to give the opportunity to all the foreigners to discover a population and be involved with passion to ensure its success

.

If you want to live an amazing experience, travel around and discover Palestine with us, please applied and fill the field just below.

files/Summer_Camp_Application_2019.doc

 

Yesterday we at Lajee were graced by the presence of Alaa Abdul Karim from Dheishah Camp and Khaled Al-Azraq from Aida Camp, who were both political prisoners that spent 15 years and 30 years respectively in the Israeli Prison System. Kamen Sulieman from the Tameer Institute was also with us.

 

 

The former prisoners shared with us their own experiences of being in the prison and how difficult it is for political prisoners to meet their loved ones, convey any messages, to continue their education and even obtain materials to read. Nevertheless, they never stopped striving to continue studying and produce knowledge while they were in the prison.

 

They both spoke about Waleed Daqah, also a political prisoner, whom they met in the prison. Waleed is serving a life sentence but while in prison, he accomplished writing and publishing a book titled ‘Secret of the Oil’.

 

The book speaks about freedom and heritage as well as describes the life of the prisoners and their longing to be free. This is the author’s first book catered to teenagers. He suffered a lot to write it, penning it little by little on slips of paper that he snuck to his wife during visits.

Through the process, Waleed faced a lot of obstacles as Israel tried many times to stop the book from being published. The Israeli Army placed him in solitary confinement after the book was successfully published by the Tameer Institution. currently he is working on the next two books of the series.

We thank Alaa and Khaled for sharing their stories with us and thank Waleed and all our prisoners for their continued struggle for the Palestinian cause.

Nancy and Hubert visit Aida Camp

Over the past week, we were honoured to share the company of Nancy and Hubert, two important supporters of Lajee Center and our programs.

Over the past 4 years, Nancy has been a big supporter of the Music Unit through the McMillan-Reba Stewart Foundation. Her generous support has enabled our children to keep practicing their craft and share their talent globally.

 

They paid us a visit to witness in person, the progress that our different units have made. They spent time with the Health Unit and the Environment Unit to learn more about their programs.

 

 

 

They accompanied Dr David and the Community Health Workers on their routine visits to their patients in Aida and Beit Jibrin camps as well as visited greenhouses in both camps with Shatha, the director of the Environment Unit.

 

 

 

While here, they also attended a screening of the film “Naila and the Intifada” which was followed by a discussion of the themes and topics raised. We discussed about the role and strength of women in the Palestinian community as well as the challenging and complicated way forward as a community for Palestine.

 

 

Their visit was concluded by a wonderful and joyous musical performance by the pioneering batch of music students the new ones as well. The new students have been coached by the pioneering batch of students and it was marvellous to witness how they had shared their skills with the younger children from all over Bethlehem.

 

 

 

 

 

After the performance, Nancy presented on the current situation regarding relations between the US and Israel. She also shed light on the growing support of Palestine among the American society through various campaigns and BDS movements.

 

 

We would like to express our utmost gratitude to both Hubert and Nancy for their continued support of Lajee Center and the Palestinian cause. We were thrilled to have them in our company here in Aida and hope to welcome them back soon.

Over the past few days, Aida has been filled with bright smiles and light-hearted laughter as the musicians from Zoo Posse and the clowns and circus group from Pallasos en Rebeldía paid us a visit as Festiclown – Circus Against Occupation made their tour around the West Bank.

On Friday, the 21st of September, Zoo Posse and the circus began their shenanigans in the streets in front of Lajee Center. The musicians trumpeted away while the clowns climbed up a huge metal structure, performing silly stunts, making the crowd roar with laughter.

Soon a crowd of young and old gathered and the whole entourage paraded through the camp towards the Alrowwad Cultural Arts Center. 

There, the young musicians of Alrowwad and Lajee showcased their musical skills before welcoming Zoo Posse to the stage.

Zoo Posse pumped up the crowd with their upbeat tunes while the clowns danced energetically with the audience. They created a hopeful and joyous atmosphere filled with contagious laughter and candid smiles.

The festivities carried on well till the sun went down. It was a lovely and heartening experience standing together with the Spanish performers in solidarity against the occupation.

 

On the morning of the 24th of September, Lajee Center and Festiclown visited Ecole des Frères in the city of Bethlehem. The school children were ecstatic and thrilled to have such fun visitors in the school. 

They could take part in creative arts as well as in some fun and games. 

The children also really enjoyed having their faces painted.

The circus performers ended the day with a bang, mesmerising the students with their acts.

That evening, Festiclown had its final performance in Bethlehem in the soccer pitch behind Lajee center. As the event was starting and our director, Salah Ajarma, was making an opening statement, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) shot a can of tear gas which narrowly missed the soccer pitch. Nevertheless, the clowns and the community of Aida were more motivated than ever to carry on with the festivities.

The children of Aida got to have their faces painted, played games, and danced around on that fun-filled evening.

Then jugglers, acrobats and clowns captivated the crowds with their circus tricks and performances.

One of the acrobats performed a piece whereby she broke down a replica of the apartheid wall. It was moving to know that they stood in camaraderie with us against the injustices and violations of human rights that we are facing.

The children wanted to join in on tearing the wall down.

Thank you Festiclown, Pallasos en Rebeldía, and Zoo Posse for visiting us! All the smiles and laughter they shared with us will always be greatly appreciated and we eagerly anticipate their return to Palestine and to Aida Camp again. Thank you for standing side by side in solidarity with us against the ongoing occupation.

On the 17th of September, Lajee Center in partnership with the Palestinian Ministry of Culture, the Cultural Advisory Council of Bethlehem and in collaboration with AIDON Lebanon Foundation (the Foundation of Returning, Lebenon) in Shatila camp, held a conference to commemorate the 36th anniversary of the 3-day massacre that occurred in Sabra and Shatila from the 16th to 18th of September, 1982.

Over those 3 days, Christian Lebanese militia known as the Phalanges, allied to the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), permeated into the Palestinian refugee camp, Shatila, and the adjoining neighbourhood, Sabra in Beirut, to the knowledge of the Israeli army. They began a genocide that caused outrage around the world. The Phalanges were ordered by the IOF to clear out Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) fighters from Sabra and Shatila, as part of the IOF manoeuvring into West Beirut. The IOF received reports of some of the Phalanges’ atrocities in Sabra and Shatila but failed to stop them.

 

 

The conference was led by the director of the Alternative Information Center, Nassar Ibrahim, and an independent lawyer for Human Rights, Ala’a Ganaim, as well as eyewitnesses to the massacre through video conference from Lebanon.

The musicians of Lajee Center opened the conference by playing the Palestinian National Anthem and other Palestinian national songs. Then the director of the center, Salah Ajarma, welcomed and addressed the audience. 

  

The director of the Cultural Ministry, Zuhair Tamizah, affirmed the need to revive such conferences commemorating the massacres that Palestinians have suffered, so as to educate and remind the younger generations of these atrocities and the need for justice for all Palestinians around the world.

The audience consisted of residents from Aida and Dheisheh camps. The Cultural Advisory Council was represented by the secretary, Hassan al-Lahham, while Colonel Adnan Al-Naif, represented the region's leader. Minister of prisoners, Issa Qaraqaa, and Khalid Al-Saifi, Director of Ebdaa Center were also present.

 

The meeting ended with a poem in the context of the event, written and delivered by the poet Mohammed Shehada, a refugee from Aida camp.

Today, 36 years later, there is still no precise figure for the total number of people killed in the massacre. Many of the victims were buried in mass graves by the Phalange and there has been no political will on the part of Lebanese authorities to investigate the matter. Between 700 - 3500 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians, mostly women, children, and the elderly, were murdered in one of the worst atrocities in modern Middle Eastern history.

For Palestinians in Palestine and the diaspora, the Sabra and Shatila massacre was, and still is, a traumatic historical event commemorated annually. During the conference, we heard live-testimonies of survivors who continue to live in Sabra and Shatila, struggling to make a living and are haunted by their memories of the slaughter. To this day, no one has faced justice for the crimes that took place.

For Palestinians, the Sabra and Shatila massacre serves as a powerful and catastrophic reminder of the vulnerable and precarious situation of millions of stateless Palestinians, and the dangers that they continue to face across the region, and around the world, especially now, in light of the US administration’s challenge of UNRWA’s definition of refugees.

Before the conference ended, it was discussed and noted that the history of the Palestinian people is full of injustices, atrocities and horrific massacres. Despite the density of the Palestinian calendar, the Sabra and Shatila massacres of 16-17 September 1982 will continue to be a disgrace on humanity and will always be remembered.

Yesterday, Lajee's Community Health Workers, musicians and international volunteers paid a visit to Beit Jala Hospital to spread some smiles and positivity to the children undergoing treatment there.

First, they went to the Huda Al Masri Children's Cancer Unit, where only 5 people were allowed into the ward at a time due to the high immune sensitivity of the children there. Al Huda cancer unit is the first and only public cancer department for children in Palestine. Our musicians played beautiful traditional palestinian songs to uplift their spirits. 

Children all the way from Gaza travel to Beit Jala Hospital to receive the necessary treatment. Sometimes, only the child is granted a permit to exit Gaza and come to Bethlehem for the treatment. This means that they come and have to cope with the cancer treatment without the support and comfort of their parents.

Next, the volunteers and musicians also visited the pediatric ward of the hospital.

Some volunteers painted the faces of the children, others dressed up as clowns and performed some circus tricks in the hopes of making the children laugh.

Finally, the Community Health Workers distributed snacks and gifts to the children before they left the hospital.

While it is a simple and small gesture, the Community Health Workers hope that their visit gave the children, support and a little boost of energy and motivation to keep strong in thier recovery. The manager of the children's ward, Dr Mohammed Najajreh urged the Community Health Unit of Lajee to return to the hospital soon to carry out more activities with the children as he found it very beneficial. As a community, Lajee hopes to carry out more of such activities to make life a little easier, and joyful for others. 

From the 23rd of July till the 9th of August, Lajee held its final children's summer camp of the year - the Al-Quds Lana Summer Camp courtesy of MCC. Around 170 children from Aida camp, Alazzeh camp, Dheisheh Camp, Adoha city and Beit Sahour, Beit Jala city took part in the camp. It was a great opportunity for the children to socialise with one another and learn from each other throughout the duration of the camp. 

The camp was both an educational and recreational one. The children took part in a library program where they were taught to read, write and present in order to improve their competencies in the English language. These workshops were conducted by volunteers in partnership with trained professional educators and a Palestinian theatre group “Tantoura”.

They also had discussions of Palestinian Issues and went on educational field trips to the environment center in Beit Jala, and a hike in Battir village.

One of the volunteers of the summer camp shared: “I graduated Media and Press studies from Al-Quds University. I volunteered during the Lajee Summer Camp and taught the children culture and media. I want to teach children that the camera is a good and constructive weapon to document the situation in Palestine. I also gave the children many classes on the Palestinian issues. I feel that while I gave these classes, it was useful and important for the children to know about the Palestinian struggle and their rights, in order for them to feel connected to one another, the history, the land, and each other.”

In addition, the children had talks with the Community Health Workers Unit of Lajee, who taught them personal and dental hygiene, first aid and how to test for and monitor diabetes and hypertension.

A member of the Unit said that “in the summer camp I gave clinical courses and health education to the children. I taught them about blood pressure, diabetes testing, dental care, personal hygiene as well as first aid courses. I think it was important for the children to be aware of how they could look after themselves and their communities better. The children were very excited and keen to learn about health and medical practices. I look forward to expanding the role of the community health workers in the future summer camps.”

The children also had many fun games and activities with both local and international volunteers. They played sports, sang and danced, made handicrafts and went on a recreational field trip to a water park as well. 

It was a great summer camp where the children were able to learn and discuss important issues with others from different social backgrounds as well as have fun during their summer holidays. Many thanks to MCC for funding the summer camp for the children for the second year. The program continues to grow and impact more children yearly and we can only hope that it continues to do so in future.

A month ago, Lajee Center concluded its 18th annual International Summer Work Camp – a two-week programme, where participants work on the ground to support Aida Camp’s community in developing the only free, recreational space in the Camp as well as attend lectures and meetings with leading Palestinians in the fields of media, education, health, politics and social work.

This year, the participants represented eleven different countries – Britain, New Zealand, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Cyprus, France, Germany and Singapore.

For most of the participants, it was their first time being in the West Bank and the camp served as an important means for them to learn about and witness first-hand, the ongoing occupation in Palestine. 

As some of them expressed, “just coming here, being in this place, seeing watch towers and an 8-meter-tall apartheid wall along the playground where families gather and play, witnessing the inhumane conditions and systems the Palestinians are subjected to daily such as at checkpoint 300, is an experience that no amount of words, reports or videos can encompass. You have to be here to truly comprehend the reality of the situation.”

The participants also had the pleasure of visiting numerous civil society organisations, attending lectures on the restrictions of expression, the critical water situation, prisoner's lives in Israeli jails, and the struggles of women under occupation. These lectures were enhanced through the screening and subsequent discussions of documentary films made by members of Lajee.

They also learned how to cook traditional Palestinian dishes from the families in Aida, learn basic Arabic, visited cultural and historical museums and meet with people in different refugee camps, villages and towns around the West Bank.

The field visit to Al-Walajah Village allowed the participants to observe for themselves the systems put in place to restrict the rights of Palestinians to their own farms and property. They saw houses that had been demolished by the Israeli forces due to the fact that they had been built or renovated without a building permit (which has to be issued by Israel but never is) and rebuild repeatedly through collective efforts of the entire village. They also saw the ways in which settlements were strategically built to eventually cordon off Palestinian towns from one another.

The tour in Hebron also enlightened the participants on the conditions of which Palestinians there had to live, through security checkpoints in and out of the Old city, surrounded by extremist Israeli settlers who, in certain areas, live above them on the second storey and throw rocks, acid, urine and dirty water onto the Palestinians below. There are around 4900 soldiers deployed to protect roughly 500 settlers in the Old city of Hebron. The participants also saw that there were streets exclusively meant for settlers and also others exclusively for Palestinians. An interesting observation was how the areas meant for settlers were mostly empty ghost towns, symbolically exerting Israeli presence in the area. It was also strange to learn that the Ibrahimi mosque was split into two, a Muslim and a Jewish section after a massacre that happened in the mosque whereby an American-Israeli soldier, Baruch Goldstein, opened fire on the Muslims in the mosque who had gathered for the morning prayer. The attack left 29 people dead, some as young as 12 years old and another 125 wounded.

However the participants also had the pleasure of experiencing the immense natural beauty of Palestine. They managed to unwind through camping in Mar Saba desert with the youth of Lajee as well as visited Battir village to watch the sunset together towards the final days of the Summer Work Camp.

All in all, the participants “found the 2018 summer camp to be an eye opening and amazing educational experience. We learnt so much through listening to people’s powerful personal accounts, attending thought-provoking lectures, visiting villages and cities and seeing first-hand what life is like for the Palestinians. This international camp programme was really well structured and skilfully organized. It made it possible for us to attend seminars and meet with people we otherwise may not have been able to if we had come individually.”

Another participant expressed that “sometimes it was difficult to digest and process the stories we were hearing, especially now that I can put a name and a face to the stories”. This opinion was shared by other participants as well, but while it was difficult to process the horrific stories heard, the personal accounts allowed the participants to get to know these storytellers on a personal level as well as strengthened their motivation to spread the message of the Palestinian struggle. 

Also importantly, the participants were impressed by the presentation of facts and figures as well as balanced opinions throughout the duration of the camp. They were not fed with propaganda, as some participants admitted that they were afraid of experiencing.  

The participants also expressed immense gratitude for the hospitality and care characteristic of Palestinians that they had experienced. They expressed that they felt extremely welcomed, supported and well taken care of by everyone they met throughout the duration of the summer camp. They hoped that in any way possible, they could have impacted the community the way the community in Aida had impacted them.

A participant reflected on the volunteer work that the team did, cleaning the roof and gardens of Lajee. “It was nice to get a chance to do a little volunteer work and make a small contribution to the really positive and successful youth and community work done at the Lajee Centre.”

All the participants left feeling hopeful to return to Palestine and to Aida again, to visit the friends they have met here through Lajee. They also left feeling a strong sense of purpose, to contribute to the Palestinian struggle by sharing their experiences with others in the international community.

They entire team of participants would like to thank everyone whom they have met during their experience in the summer camp especially Mohammad Alazza for planning and coordinating the camp, Salah, and Zayd who coordinated the activites during the summer camp as well as took care of the participants daily, Shifa and Samer who cooked the daily meals, Nidal and Amahl for the enlightening lessons, and the rest of the Lajee team for an amazing experience.

 

Free Eyeglass Clinic Day

Earlier this week, around 250 residents in Aida recieved free eye tests and glasses courtesy of Global Vision 2020 and MCC.

Men, women and children above the age of 12 were eligible for the tests. It was a great iniitative that benefitted the community, especially the elderly who have issues seeing things at a distance and have challenges while reading.

The free eye tests gave residents of Aida the opportunity to identify any issues they had with seeing and therefore also the opportunity to start addressing the issue. It also aided families that otherwise would not have been able to afford eye glasses. For instance, there was a mother who discovered that all three of her daughters needed eye glasses.

The initiative to provide free glasses was really useful in this case. At the end of it all, approximately 300 eyeglasses were given out to the community.

We would like to thank MCC and Global Vision 2020 for coming to Aida with this initiative and we look forward to many more such collaborations in the future.

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