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At around 6:00 on the evening of Saturday, December 17, a large number of Israeli soldiers came down from their military base to the Lajee Center football (soccer) field and began harassing the young teenagers, aged 14-16, holding their practice there. They searched and threatened the players, hitting one and pushing Lajee Center’s athletics director,Hamada Al-Kurdi. When Lajee Center Media Director Mohammad Al-Azza tried to enter the football field in their defense, soldiers drew their weapons at him andbeat him. This was the second round of Israeli violence in Aida that day. Earlier that afternoon, at around 2:00 pm, Israeli soldiers in a jeep had entered the camp—which was at the time entirely calm—and started shooting tear gas and sound bombs at the houses in Aida.
Al-Azza commented that this attack on him and the general situation in Aida Refugee Camp demonstrated Palestinians’ need for international protection: “International organizations like the United Nations must get involved. It is dangerous for anyone to be in the streets after 5:00 pm.Anyone could be arrested or beaten. Someone could be shot for no reason.” He continued that Palestinian journalists in particular bear the brunt of Israeli violence. “We face constant attacks. It is not easy for anyone who is a journalist in Palestine—not for him or his family. They know that at any moment, a journalist can be killed, injured, or arrested.”
The Israeli army invades the camp on a daily basis. This causes problems for Lajee’s football players. Al-Kurdi explained that the soldiers generally enter the camp at the same time as these players practice, and the soldiers search and question these players. Soldiers threaten to lock the gate to the field and prevent them from playing. The football field is one of the most important community resources that Lajee Center offers.
When soldiers began their attack on the players on Saturday, Al-Azza came down from his office in Lajee to help. He started video recording the soldiers in the street with his phone. The soldiers prevented him from reaching the football field and pointed their loaded weapons at Al-Azza and another camp residentwho had come to help. When the officer in charge came out from the football field to the street, he demanded that Al-Azza turn over his phone. Al-Azza refused, and the soldier hit him on his head. Several of the soldiers threw him to the ground and attacked him. They beat him on his head, neck, back, and stomach with their hands and rifles. They also kicked him. The officer asked him for the passcode to the phone, and when Al-Azza refused to give it to him, they detained him and brought him up to the gate of the military base in the apartheid wall. There, the officer continued to beat him.
The officer seemed to be irritated that Al-Azza was determined to do his job. Al-Azza explained why he had come to the scene: “These youth are under our protection, and plus I am a journalist and I need to do my job.” The officer replied that Al-Azza was not working at the time, and Al-Azza replied, “I am always at work.”
Al-Azza was only released after the material on his phone was erased and after residents of the camp gathered to demand that the soldier let him go.
Members of Lajee center’s music unit this month have been practicing new pieces of music on different instruments including the Qanun, violin, rhythm (Drum instruments) and Oud. The children are practicing and learning musical theory so they can play and read musical notes.
With many hours of classes and training, the children got the chance to play music in front of a Glaswegian delegation who had visited the center. Each of the children played a different piece, and so they became more confident with their work and got the energy to keep learning.
Name: Ansam Al-Azzeh
Original town: Beit Jibreen, Hebron
This month, I learned new types of music, including Maqam Al-Hijaz, Maqam al-Ajam, Maqam Al-Bayyat, Maqam Al-Nahawand, Maqam Al-Kurd and others. I learned to play Fayrouz songs as well. In addition, I took musical theory lessons. The lessons were fun because my mentor was encouraging and made us learn through games from which I gained a lot of new information that I did not know before.
I'm currently taking two classes per week where we learn new pieces and read new notes, but sometimes we face difficulties with the Qanun instrument because it is old and not in good condition, so we asked Lajee to provide us with another one. In addition, sometimes I cannot get to the training sessions at the center because of the Israeli soldiers and teargas, but I always try to make it to the center half an hour before class so I guarantee being there.
Name: Raghad Al-Ajarma
Hometown: Ajjour, Hebron
Hometown: Ajjour, Hebron
I am training to play the Oud and have been in the Lajee musical unit for two years now. The past few months have been very beneficial, we got to travel and play for foreign audiences in Britain & Ireland for a month. I was very happy to be chosen to represent the Lajee musical unit; however, we wish to be able to play music as a team in and outside of Palestine. We also would like to thank the funders for their trust in us, and we hope that they can provide us with more support.
At the moment, I can perfectly play the songs:
Sahar Al-Layali- Fayrouz
Wein ‘A Ramallah- Traditional Palestinian music
Sheddu El-Hemmeh- Marcel Khalifeh
Nassam Alayna Al-Hawa - Fayrouz
In each song, I was introduced to a new musical rhythm. The free of charge music classes at Lajee are an opportunity for any talented child to learn the global language of music, a project that we need to grow and expand.
Name: Batool Hammad
I have been learning music at Lajee for a year and a half now. I play the violin, practice at home and have two hours of classes at the center every week. We played individually and as a band in front of international audiences who visited Lajee and were kind enough to gift me a new violin instead of the old one that I had.
Name: Shahd Oweiss
I joined the musical unit when they were on the second semester, and even though the band had already started learning songs that are not easy to play, our mentor was very encouraging and helped me play every day until I mastered the pieces. Now I can control the notes and play very well.
I can also read notes after taking theory classes; I enjoy reading notes even when the street outside the center is filled with teargas. We would be learning music inside and playing games.
Lately, I played for an audience from Glasgow and it was very enjoyable.
Name: Mustafa Hammad
I have been playing the Tabla for two years and learning new rhythms. Lately we have been mixing between the Tabla and Tambourine, and I play along with the Oud or Qanun. I played during several ceremonies including mother's day celebration and I would like to expand my knowledge.
Name: Waad Al-Dibs
Grade: 13 yrs
Hometown: Bait Nattif, Hebron
I can say that I am still in the moderate level in music but I want to i would like to become better at it.
Hometown: Beit Jibreen
Aida refugee camp is the second biggest camp in Bethlehem city. Located at the northern entrance of the city, it is separated from Jerusalem by the Israeli wall, and next to it is an Israeli military camp and tower in which soldiers are stationed 24/7.
The attacks on the camp have become “normalized” since they happen so frequently. In addition, homes in the camp are continually raided and its children and youths are arrested, some more than once.
For the past three months, Israeli arrests of the youths have shown a sharp rise, especially after the start of the latest “uprising” which began about a year ago, on October 1st, since the clashes with soldiers in Bethlehem were at Rachel’s Tomb site, right outside of the camp.
On 21 Sept, some 20 Israeli soldiers broke into the camp, while snipers spread at the rooftops of houses in the camp. After that, soldiers surrounded a house in an attempt to arrest a 15-year-old teen but then arrested two others, taking them to a military point in Bethlehem. Clashes broke out in the camp following the break-in and the arrest where youths threw stones and soldiers responded with live ammunition.
Dozens of Palestinian children have been arrested in such raids, and the camp was completely shut for hours by military jeeps, preventing people from entering or leaving it.
For long now, Israeli forces have targeted Palestinian homes with toxic teargas, causing danger to their lives.
This is the usual sequence of events that takes place leading to arrests, clashes or injuries that might be light or lethal.
Recently, Israeli forces have been carrying more intense attacks on the Aida camp, directly targeting the Lajee cultural center, staff and members.
Located in Aida refugee camp next to the Israeli wall and a military camp where soldiers are stationed 24/7, Lajee sits at the “contact point” in Aida, where clashes happen on a regular basis, an almost daily.
These are two of the most recent attacks on the center:
On Monday afternoon, 19 Sept 2016, an Israeli military jeep descended from the military point that is located at the northern entrance of Aida, 100 meters above the center, and a second jeep parked at the opposite side, surrounding the area of the center. Soldiers then began throwing teargas and shooting rubber-coated metal bullets in the camp, causing clashes with the youth and children, causing partial damage to a window and a door of the center.
Following that, the soldiers directly targeted the building of Lajee with teargas grenades and rubber bullets while the children were inside of it. However, they managed to escape from the center without any injuries.
On Tuesday evening, 20 Sept 2016, the Israeli attacks on Lajee have escalated. During clashes in the camp, the soldiers deliberately opened the gate of the center, threw teargas grenades inside the building and then closed the gate, trapping the children inside of it inhaling toxic teargas.
In addition, on the same day an Israeli military jeep stood in the middle of the main road of the camp, and prevented its residents from leaving it, while it was still throwing teargas.
Israeli Forces continuously break into the Aida camp and have broken into the center dozens of times, arrested staff, causing panic to the children and staff. These attacks are ongoing and keep growing to become more threatening to the lives of children and staff of Lajee.
On September 10, an Israeli soldier opened fire at a CCTV camera outside of the center while they were throwing gas at the entrance of the camp.
On September 1, Israeli soldiers broke into the center to arrest children, under the claims that they were throwing stones on the soldiers. However, none of the children were taken after the intervention of the director of the center and an international psychiatrist.