14.11.2015 – On Saturday afternoon, a group of 30 children from Aida Refugee Camp and neighboring areas gathered under the shade of olive trees at the garden of Lajee Center to participate in the activities of "Daddy Read to Me" Campaign.
The Campaign aims to encourage parents’ involvement in their children's reading development and was launched in 2009 by the Tamer Institute for Community Education. For the past six years Lajee Center has been an active member in the campaign through library activities that aim at encouraging reading and creative writing among young refugees. This year, the "Daddy Read for Me" activities took place aroundthe olive harvest so we invited our children to listen to a story while collecting the olives of the garden of Lajee Center. Samir Oways, an active member of the family of Lajee Center, attended the event with his two children, Ihab (age 11) and Ahmad (age 8).
Samir volunteered to tell the children a traditional Palestinian story that his father used to tell him as a child that highlights the importance of olive groves and the symbolism of olive trees for Palestinians. The children sat in a circle listening to the story and asked questions about the stories Samir read and how he participated in harvesting the olives as a child.
Samir told the children that before the construction of the Israeli Apartheid Wall, he used to go with his father to collect olives from the open land next to the camp which had hundreds of olive trees.
At the time, people of Aida Camp would take their children, some homemade food, small wooden ladders and leave their houses early in the morning to participate in harvesting olives which would takes days of hard work and fun.
Since the construction of the Israeli Apartheid Wall around Aida Camp began, however, all the people of Aida were deprived from that land. The children attending the "Daddy Read to Me" event grew up in the shadow of the Wall instead of enjoying the shade and oil of the olive groves.
In 2012,Lajee Center was finally able to purchase the only available land near Aida Refugee Camp to insure some of the rights of our children, including the right to a safe place to play.
Since then we have worked collectively to turn the land into a beautiful playground and garden for the children and people of Aida Camp. The Garden of Lajee Center has eight olive trees, which since 2012, have been harvested by the children of Aida Camp.
Therefore, at the end of the storytelling session, Samir asked the children to join the staff of Lajee Center in harvesting the olive trees of the garden. The children seemed exited as they collected the olives from the trees and some kids climbed the wooden ladders to collect the green and black olives.
Their excitement and laughter, however, were mixed with sneezing and coughing caused by the smell of teargas that the Israeli Occupation Forces had sprayed the previous day.
In Aida Camp the season of harvesting olives started around a month ago, however we could not harvest the few olive trees we have at the garden of Lajee Center because the camp itself has been invaded by the Israeli Occupation Army on a daily basis. Commenting on the "Daddy Read to Me" event, Kifah Ajarma, coordinator of the library activities, said, "The children seem very happy to be able to play at the garden again.
We had to organize all library activities in the center for about a month now as the Israeli Army invades the camp every day…" She added, "How I wish Abed Al-Rahman was with us today.
He used to attend library activities especially when we arranged them under the olive trees of Lajee's garden." 12-year-old Abed Al-Rahman, was killed in Aida Camp by the Israeli Army last month on his way back from school.
Kifah also commented, "Every year hundreds of children participate in the "Daddy Read to Me" workshops at Lajee Center. This year most of the children from the camp and neighboring areas could not come regularly to the center because the playground, the center, as well as the refugee camp, were targeted by the Israeli Occupation Army."She added, "Small children with their school bags running through clouds of teargas come to Lajee Center to read and learn.
Although we insure that the kids are protected to the best extent we can, it is hard to control the traumatic effects and fear that our children have to live through every day…" Recently the Israeli Army has warned the residents of Aida Camp, "We will gas you until you die. The children, the youth, and the old people, all of you..." We, however, will continue to exist, and to resist the oppression of the colonizers and continue to raise our young generations to be educated, strong and able to overcome the difficulties of living under occupation until one day when they will be the leaders of a free Palestine.