Lajee Center Cultural Tour in Ireland
Lajee Center recently concluded a ten-day cultural tour in Ireland. The tour included a number of Palestinian folks dance performances, music and photo exhibitions, as well as meetings and events intended to educate people about life in Palestine.
The tour included visits to the Irish cities of Dublin, Galway, Newbridge, Cork. In addition to traditional songs and dances, Lajee presented a photo exhibition called “Aida Camp from the Kids’ Eyes” which showcased daily life in the camp from the perspective of the Center’s youth. In addition, the youth held performances in the Irish streets – attracting passerby and producing a remarkable interaction with the Palestinian youth wearing keffiyehs and carrying Palestinian banners.
The team met Irish President Michael D. Higgins, who warmly welcomed the participants and expressed his happiness with the presence of the Palestinian delegation, stressing the importance of strengthening relationships between the two countries through artistic and cultural exchange.
Lajee’s director Mohammad al-Azza stressed the importance of cultural exchanges in highlighting the Palestinian situation and continuing the strong tradition of solidarity between Ireland and Palestine. Al-Azza added that performing in Ireland gave the 22 young Palestinian participants the the opportunity both to present the beauty of Palestinian culture as well as their suffering under Israeli occupation. For 17 of the youth, the trip to Ireland was their first experience traveling outside of Palestine.
In his opening speeches, al-Azza honored the memory of Lajee’s founding director Salah Ajarma, who was a longtime friend to many supporters in Ireland.
Also participating in the tour was the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Lajee Center, Khaled al-Azraq. Al-Azraq shared with the Irish audiences about the reality of Palestinian families and prisoners, including his own experience of 28 years as a political prisoner. Al-Azraq met with many freed Irish prisoners, highlighting the experience of solidarity between Palestinian and Irish people.
Aya Darwish, one of Lajee Center’s Community Health Workers, participated in the tour as a chaperone for the youth. She spoke to audiences about the work of the Center’s Health and Women’s units, and in particular about the role these units play in supporting women in the camps. The tour was Darwish’s first experience traveling outside of Palestine and she particularly enjoyed the opportunity to meet women from the Palestinian and Arab diaspora, who were deeply moved by the cultural performances. Darwish saw the value of the cultural tours in educating international groups about the experience of life in Palestine.
Lajee’s presentations in performance halls as well as in the streets were met with eager support from many large audiences throughout the country. Lajee’s first cultural tour to Ireland was with the dabke troup in 2014. In addition to trips to Ireland, Lajee has welcomed many Irish supporters to Palestine.
Cultural tours are an important platform for Palestinian youth to share their daily reality. It is also meaningful for Palestinians to learn from Irish people about their own experience with occupation, their resistance, and their culture. Al-Azza wishes to thank all of the organizations whose support made this trip possible for the youth of Lajee Center.