The Lajee Dabka Troupe in the months of September and October carried out a number of performances in several Palestinian cities in order to express the Palestinian reality through art and folklore, and to show the Palestinian identity through culture and heritage.
40 dancers between the ages of 10 and 25 performed shows in several cities throughout the two months; The first of them was titled "Nater" (Waiting), which was choreographed by the troupe trainer, Sameh Shaheen. The group performed the show during the Bet Lahem Live Festival on 22 Sept 2017, which was attended by hundreds of Palestinians from all over Palestine.
The second show was held in Beit Jala on 25/9/2017 at the International Festival for Children in Palestine. The message of the show meant to show support for children's rights in the world, and specifically in Palestine. Following the festival, the Dabka members introduced some Dabka moves to the children in a joyous atmosphere.
For the third time in a row, the group also participated in the 10th Heritage Festival organized by the Centre for Popular Arts sat the Mahmoud Darwish Palace in Ramallah on 7 Oct 2017. The group performed the "Nater" show alongside six other Palestinian Dabka groups as a means of expressing the Palestinian identity and existence and its human heritage to emphasize the role of culture and art in the light of the Palestinian reality.
The "Nater" show is one of the most distinctive shows made by Lajee center over the past years, since it is based on conveying the message of Palestinian children and youth in an artistic and aesthetic way that contributes to building their future visions and aspirations.
Clowns in Rebellion, a group of 40 artists from Spain, Brazil Chili, held the International Festival for Children in different Palestinian cities for five days, starting 20 September, where they engaged with local children and held different performances to spread the joy and happiness among them.
The festival was organized by Lajee Center in partnership with Playground for Palestine organization, which has already contributed to making children happy and providing them with parks to play under a heavy occupation that strangles their homes and neighborhoods.
The group performed in Hebron city, Deheisha camp, and in Lajee Center, Aida camp on Friday.
About 300-350 ppeople attended the day, which started 10 AM and lasted until midnight.
The audience included children, parents, and elders, who were very happy to attend the festival.
The group divided children into groups, where painters held workshops with ten children and painted graffiti on the walls of the camp. They held a show and circus and acrobatic games, including rope walking and giant bubbles, face paint.
The group is due to perform today, Saturday, inAl-Yasmin Society and Kobar village inRamallah, and in the village of Asira Al-Shamaliyya in Nablus the next day with the same activities that bring a smile to the faces of children.
Lajee center also agreed with the members of Rivas municipality in Spain on more cultural programmes during the coming years.
Since its establishment in 2009, the Lajee Media Unit has been sincerely invested in producing creative arts and media projects that improve the creative skills of Palestinian generations, whilst also creating international tools of advocacy and resistance through international exposure.
The unit has been strongly present on many platforms online and offline. It has produced dozens of films and reports, published photography books, lead training courses and workshops, held photo exhibitions in and outside of Palestine, and won international prestigious awards.
Lajee has recently produced the film titled Take my Pictures for me, which is being screened in international festivals including the Palestine Film Festival in Boston 2017, and in Washington D.C.
The film elaborates the situation of a Palestinian refugee creator, Mohammad Alazza, and his friend Amahl Bishara, who has access to the 1948 lands with her Israeli passport which was imposed on her with the start of the occupation.
When Mohammad, a West Banker and holder of a Palestinian ID, wants to film in Palestinian 1948 villages, he cannot go and film there. When faced by this problem, he tells Amahl: “Why don’t you take the pictures for me?”
Therefore, it represents the reality of movement restrictions which limits creators’ work and vision. It talks about expression, mobility, Palestinian collectivity, and the limits of what one friend can do for another.
The unit also produced films and reports about the Palestinian struggle throughout the years. One short film titled What will you do when you go back to your village?, which directs the question to Palestinian refugees of all ages that fled different Palestinian villages. Some of the interviewees have witnessed the Nakba and some of them are second and third generations of refugees who still suffer from the consequences of the catastrophe which their ancestors have gone through.
The unit also produced eight films in 2017, including Time Bomb and Identity, which talk about identity papers and the crises that follows being a stateless refugee.
One of the most distinguished all-time films produced by the unit are: We Have A Dream, which narrates the reality of living in Aida camp from the perspective of a child volunteer at the center, and Everyday Nakba, which talks about water shortage in the camp.
The videos are all published on Channels of the center on different social media websites:
The unit has published five photography books with both English and Arabic descriptions. The most recent book was titled Palestine: The Reality and Hopes - 2016/2017
In addition, a new photography course for children aged 12-13 years is due to take place next month. At the end of the course, children will hold a photo exhibition, with the theme of Resistance and Struggles inside Aida camp.
Other photography books include Our Eyes (first published in 2008, republished later in 2008 and 2010); Dreams of Home (first published in 2008, republished later in 2008 and 2010); Flying Home (first published in 2009, republished in 2010), and The Power of Culture- published in 2013.
The photographs published in the books were also displayed in national and international photography exhibitions over the years. International platforms include USA, Canada, Belgium, Spain, France, Ireland, Scotland, England, and more, where audiences showed so much love and support.
Lajee center media unit continuously documents daily life in Aida camp, including arrests, attacks, invasions, and other occurrings due to occupation. It is also responsible for updating reports about the ongoing activities and projects of the center's different units.
The media unit wouldn’t have been able to achieve this success without the generous support of funders and donors. Special thanks to the Hoping Foundation, 1for3 organization, Che Scholarship in Belfast, Ireland, local donors, and finally, the main factor: the bright, creative children who contributed to and took part in producing such artwork, books and films.
Video about media unit
Any heritage is always the proof of the people's belonging to their homeland, since it carries the history, art, culture and feelings of those people for years and years, and passes them down from one generation to another.
However, the group keeps performing beautiful art and represents cultural identity to prove that Palestinians will always belong to their land and will never give up the home or identity.
Last week, Lajee Center revived the annual Palestinian Land Day with 300 Palestinian and internationals of all ages, through a hike in confiscation threatened areas, to stress on the steadfastness in the Palestinian land and belonging to it.
Every year on 31 March, Palestinians revive the Palestinian land day, in memory of a march that took place on March 30, 1976, against an Israeli decision to expropriate 2,000 hectares of land around the Arab villages of Araba and Sakhnin as a part of a plan to "Judaise the Galilee".
In the march, six Palestinians were martyred.
The hike was launched from Battir village, southwest of Jerusalem, and is located in area C of the West Bank, which falls under Israeli military and civil administration. The village has been subjected to ongoing confiscation attempts for illegal settlement expansion for the neighboring settlements.
The hike included a competition where the participants answered questions about the history of Palestine.
The participants hiked towards the Al-Makhrour area, about six kilometers from Battir village.
It’s Friday morning, and at Lajee Center we start to hear sweet voices coming up from the stairs of the building. In the next moment, the center is filled with about fifteen excited children arriving for storytelling. After fumbling through the many titles in the library, the group reaches a consensus: today, from a pop-up book, they chose to hear the adventures of Snow White. The children, who are from 6 to 10 years old, pay close attention to the story read by Flávia, one of the volunteers at the center. With the support of the organization’s library coordinator, Kifah, who translates the details of the fable into Arabic, the children listen to the fairy tale in English, trying to repeat and memorize some of the words. The ones familiar with the story also help with the interpretation, taking advantage of the moment to pour to their friends all the words they’ve already learned. In a tale about an evil witch who sends out a woodsman to kill an innocent lady and even tries to perform the stunt herself, the children’s favorite part is, of course, when Prince Charming saves Snow White. After the storytelling, the children play games at the Library or the Computer Lab, where they continue talking about what they have learned.
Storytelling is one of the richest activities to the young minds. Reading for children is a very important development activity, and has long lasting positive effects. It helps them improve their creativity, inspires their imagination, encourages their passion for education and creates a connection among the children of the camp, strengthening the bonds of the community. This pleasant moment shared by the kids at Lajee Center is an opportunity to share important messages and for them to learn about good qualities, such as hope, honesty, courage and strength, by means of an entertaining and fun activity. They can project their troubles into the story and learn new ways to solve them. Storytelling can also impact the children’s lives by making them more attentive, willing to listen and understand, which helps them in the learning process of different subjects in school. Once they discuss the stories they’ve learned, they become more communicative, which shows them that their voices can be heard. They become more aware about their individuality, and more conscious about themselves. Through this safe environment offered by Lajee Center, they can experience their childhood with a healthy learning stimulus.
Aida Camp which covers a small area of 0.71 square kilometers is home to more than 5000 Palestinian refugees. As Aida’s population continues to grow, the physical size of the camp remains constant and it is now enclosed on two sides by the Israeli Apartheid Wall. Aida’s residents face many problems today including regular invasions by the Israeli occupation forces, severe water shortages, overcrowding, and lack of green open spaces. Therefore, since its establishment in 2001, Lajee Center has worked towards safeguarding the lives and rights of Palestinian refugees including those related to the environment.
From 2012, Lajee Center has started working on various environmental projects and worked towards establishing a specialized unit within the center that works exclusively on environmental rights including water issues, agriculture and developing gardens and green spaces for Aida Camp's residents. The environment project at Lajee Center was established to help preserve the ties to the land and retrieve Palestinian historical connections to agriculture, while at the same time increasing Palestinians' control over their food sources, especially organic vegetables. So far Lajee Center has been able to successfully build more than eight rooftop gardens in the camp in addition to the first park and playground for the camp's residents.
Between October 2015 and February 2016, Lajee Environment Unit was successfully able to build four new rooftop gardens in Aida Camp. The new rooftop gardens will help four large families from Aida Camp sustain their livelihoods and health through independent food production. The new rooftop gardens were built thanks to fruitful partnership with 'Al-Awda: the Palestine Right to Return Coalition'. Each family of those targeted by the project was provided with plants, soil, trees, flowers, seeds, fertilizers, and containers to create the rooftop gardens. Young volunteers and local youths, who have been an integral part of the Environment Unit at Lajee Center since the beginning, helped the families plant the seeds and trees.
Lara Jawabreh, 17 years old, from the town of Doha and a member of Lajee's Environment Unit said about the new rooftop gardens: “I am happy that I helped in planting new rooftop gardens for several families in Aida Camp… These new gardens will provide people with organic fruit and vegetables and give them green space to enjoy. Together with other project participants, we went to four families and helped them plant mint, onions, lettuce, radishes, and sage. In a few weeks we will plant small trees and more seeds in the gardens."
Salim, a resident of Aida Camp and one of the beneficiaries of the project, had this to say about his new rooftop garden: "I never thought I could actually have a nice place on the roof of my house where I can grow vegetables and fruits. The children and youth from Lajee Center came to my house and helped plant the garden for the first time. I also want to add more trees and vegetables to what I received through the project. I used to grow herbs such as mint and sage in pots on the windows of my house but never vegetables and fruits. I want to have real trees such as orange and lemon trees on the roof of my house…"
Lajee Center's environment unit and staff would like to thank project volunteers for their passionate participation in the project, camp's residents for their trust and collaboration, and 'Al-Awda: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition' for their generous support. We hope that in 2016 we will be able to build new gardens to help more families in Aida Refugee Camp and safeguard the environmental rights of its citizens.
Today, October 5th, Aida Refugee camp lost another of its children to Israel’s occupation. Today, Abd al-Raham Shadi; a child of just 13 years, and a Palestinian refugee, was shot and killed by an Israeli sniper in Aida Refugee Camp, Bethlehem. Abd al-Raham was shot as he stood beneath the flag of the United Nations, a meter from the UNRWA office at the entrance of Aida Camp. Abd al-Raham is the seventh child of Aida Camp to have been killed by Israeli occupying forces since its encirclement by the illegal Annexation Wall in 2005. Many others have received non-fatal gunshot wounds whilst, in the same time period, more than 80 children of Aida Camp have been arrested by the Israeli military, typically during violent night-time home invasions.
Abd al-Raham was shot and killed whilst returning home after a day at school. He was taken to the hospital still wearing his backpack. Targeted by an Israeli sniper, he was shot in the chest with live ammunition whilst standing among a group of children in front of UNRWA office. The distance between the office and the Israeli military base from which Abd al-Raham was targeted is in excess of 100 meters. As such, there can be no reasonable contention that Abd al-Raham posed any form of threat to Israeli soldiers, and his death represents the latest tragedy in an endless record of unlawful Palestinian bloodshed at the hands of the Israeli occupying power.
Israel’s use of lethal weaponry against Palestinian civilians in so-called ‘crowd control’ scenarios inside the occupied Palestinian territory is well-established, and was addressed by the Independent Commission of Inquiry on Gaza 2014, which stated its concern at “the regular resort by [Israeli forces] to live ammunition, including in situations where there is no direct or imminent threat to [Israeli forces] or other individuals. The use of live bullets inevitably raises the likelihood of death or serious injury.” In this light, tragedies such as the killing of Abd al-Raham cannot be seen as exceptions, but rather as the natural and intended result of discriminatory Israeli policy. This policy – and the killing of Palestinian children - will continue for as long as accountability for such crimes is absent.
We, the residents and organizations of Aida Refugee Camp, condemn in the strongest possible terms both the unlawful killing of Abd al-Raham, and the regular and systematic incursions and attacks on the camp by Israeli military forces which serve no purpose other than to provoke a refugee community which is already subjected to a wide range of gross abuses of fundamental human rights on a daily basis. Accordingly, we, the the residents and organizations of Aida Refugee Camp, call upon:
- The Palestinian Authority/Palestinian Liberation Organization to investigate the unlawful killing of Abd al-Raham, and to submit his case to the International Criminal Court;
The international community to fulfill its commitment toward Palestinian people, particularly in affording refugees the full protection to which they are entitled.
During August 2015, nine youth from Lajee Center in Aida Refugee Camp participated in the annual Anti-Racism World Cup in Belfast, Ireland. The tour was funded and in collaboration with the Green Brigade, a left wing Celtic supporters group who bring noise and politics into the stadiums. Lajee Center’s youth group were delighted to be invited and participate in the activities, however, they experienced many difficulties in the lead up to the tournament, particularly with visa delays and travelling across borders. Despite the initial challenges, all nine participants travelled to Ireland and took part in the whole competition and had the opportunity to learn about the struggle in Belfast and Ireland from the people.
The Anti-Racism World Cup is an annual educational, cultural and social event, taking place in Belfast. This year was the 9th competition hosted by the West Belfast Community of Lenadoon and the 8th year at Donegal Celtic FC. The tournament is for 7 a side soccer teams from across Ireland to play International visiting teams from Europe and beyond. The ethos of the tournament and associated events are Anti-Fascist, Anti-Racist and Anti-Imperialist.
Lajee Center’s youth greatly enjoyed the activities and the tournament, proudly reaching the semi-finals. The group visited many different places in Belfast, learning about the political situation of the city and the historical conflict, and meeting different political figures. It was a privilege for the group to meet with Irish former political prisoners, who explained in their own words the situation in Ireland currently and the kind of struggle people in the occupied north are still experiencing. The group also had the opportunity to tour the city and see for themselves the history of Belfast, particularly the walls of the city, the stories of military, armed presence on the streets, the history of hunger strikers, the mass incarceration of freedom fighters and the many Irish martyrs. The stories of the continual injustices historically weighed upon the people of the north of Ireland struck a chord with the whole group, as they could relate to the harsh violences of colonial occupation and military oppression.
This tour was very important for Lajee Center and our youth. The majority of the group have never had the opportunity to leave Palestine before: this tour not only allowed the youth to visit a new country and see new places, but to share in the history of another people, learn about their specific struggle against colonial occupation, and create long-lasting friendships and memories. Lajee Center is determined to continue working hard with our friends in Ireland, Scotland and all over the world, especially in activities that promote equality and publicly stand against racism, fascism and imperalism. Lajee Center believes in working collectively, with the unity of people on the ground in global solidarity, in order to break down our isolation and continue strengthening our struggle against racism and colonialism. We would like to share a sincere thank you to all of the amazing people and friends in the Green Brigade who made this tour happen, and everyone who supported our participation in the Anti-Racism World Cup tournament. Lajee hopes that in the future we can work together again, fighting against racism, facism and imperialism, from Palestine, Ireland and beyond.