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.
The Community Health Workers (CHW) have continuously been working hard to meet their goals of spreading wellness and aiding camp residents to overcome barriers that they may face in maintaining their health.
In the month of May, the team of 6 CHWs continued meeting with social worker, Hamza Daghash, across 5 different meetings to enhance their professionalism and proficiencies while visiting and caring for patients. They also experienced an increase in the number of patients from 10 to 20 between the 20th to 30th of May. The CHWs consistently pay home visits to the patients with various doctors to monitor the health of these patients.
In addition, they attended intensive training in first aid conducted by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society across a duration of 2 weeks.
In the month of June, the team held many meetings with the project director, Nahsat, to discuss the direction of the CHW project. They also continued to attend 4 meetings with the social worker, Hamza and collaborated with Dr Davin, a psychologist to further enhance their capabilities in dealing with patients.
Between the 6th and the 19th of June they met with the patients along with various doctors such as Dr Mohammed Abu Srour and Dr David. They monitored the cases to evaluate if the health of the patients had experienced any improvement or not.
They also visited the Palestinian Red Crescent Society to meet and further collaborate with the team there.
Between the 24th and 25th of June they had meetings with their donor, 1For3 and a group of doctors from the US to discuss how the project was going and the achievements made so far.
On the 26th of June the community Health Workers along with international doctors visited and patients around the camps and gave them advice if needed be.
The following day, the health workers made a trip to Berzeit University where they spent two days with Rita Giacaman, a professor of public health at the Institute of Community and Public Health at Birzeit University in the West Bank. The Community Health Workers in Aida and the U.S team had a great workshop with Rita and her team on the history of the community health worker programs in Palestine, where the 1For3 team gave a workshop on the history of social medicine and community health work in the U.S, Latin America, and Haiti. Over 50 medical students from different universities in the West Bank joined us along with professionals from the field of health care.
The month of June primarily consisted with many meetings with different medical groups and collaborators to discuss what else was needed and how to expand the project further.
As for the month of July, on the 16th, the musicians, dabka dancers and community health workers visited the Elderly Center where they performed for them and did recreational activities together with the elderly. They also conducted some medical tests and checks for them before distributing flowers to them.
Between the 8th to the 26th the community health workers led the Children’s summer camps and educated them on basic hygiene, health awareness and common diseases.
They also continued to meet regularly with Hamza, the social worker and Dr Bram gave a lecture on Osteoporosis to the health workers.
It was also monitored and observed that the patients overall experienced improvements in their health.
As of August, there is a total of 60 patients in the care of the CHW. The CHW are paired up and are responsible over 20 patients in each pair. On the 8th, they conducted a workshop with a nutrition specialist and a specialist doctor to educate the patients on what sort of food and nutrition was ideal for them in their various health conditions.
On the 10th, they went with the international summer camp participants to different hospitals around Bethlehem – The Arab Association for Rehabilitation, Beit Jala Public Hospital, Caritas Baby Hospital as well as the elderly home, to introduce the internationals to the different health services in Bethlehem.
As for the month of September, the team have conducted a free eye clinic on the 3rd and 4th as well visited the children’s cancer ward and the paediatric ward in Beit Jala hospital on the 13 th of September.
They have also been attending many lectures and programmes conducted by Dr Henry as well as making house visits with him.
Any patients facing complications in their treatment are brought to the hospital upon detection by the CHWs.
The team hopes to continue to grow steadily under the guidance of their directors and coordinators as well as looks forward to the upcoming collaborations with other health professionals from Palestine and beyond.
The environment unit at Lajee Center along with the people of Aida Camp are so proud to present their first Recycled Art Exhibition including art made with recycled materials. Local people from Aida Camp and Bethlehem City, the families of participants, and the local media came together to celebrate this creative and inspiring work by a talented team of young teenagers and their teacher Shatha Al-Azzah.
The environment unit was founded two years ago with generous help from the WSSS team from Tufts University, 1for3.org, the Pontifical Mission, and recently Al-Awda: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, as well as many people who believe of our rights and freedom. For the past two years, the environment unit team has been working on water testing and quality in the camp, as well as helping families learn about agriculture and how to maintain rooftop gardens, and experimenting with lots of recycling materials to encourage the community, especially the young generation to become more and more aware of the environment locally and globally. Check our website for previous work and projects that the environment team did.
The goal of the exhibition and of the environment unit in general is to encourage our community, especially the young generation to think about the environment around them in new, different, and creative way, as well as to promote recycling of different forms of materials. As well as to create a space for our youth where they can challenge their abilities in creative and fun way that is completely new to them.
The exhibition includes mirrors, clocks, shelves, installations, tables, chairs, pots, candles, toys, and candles holders, all were made from materials that the students gathered from their homes and the camp. Not only that, the participants were inspired to publish their first magazine called “The Green Camp”written in English and Arabic, and includes articles from them about their work and projects in the environment unit.
It was a beautiful day for us at Lajee and in the camp seeing the youth happy of their achievement and their families very proud of them. This is due to their hard work and the generosity of our friends and partners in 1for3.org, WSSS, Al-Awda, and the Pontifical Mission. Keep supporting our work to keep the hope alive, and to empower our community until peace and justice are achieved.
“I was amazed by all the people who came to the exhibition… it’s a strong sign of the strength of the community here. I think what the children have mad with the recycled materials is really beautiful. It’s great that they will be able to use the skills they have learned at home and that there is a big push to raise ecological awareness.”
- Miguel Rodrigues, Madrid, Spain
“Shatha and the volunteers have created a wonderful exhibition here. It’s incredible what such a small group of youth with limited resources are able to do here. I think the ideas that they promote are incredibly important.Lajee Center really does a great job at supporting this kind of work.”
- AllaDajnam, Aida Camp
“We’ve made many things here at the environment unit and we are proud of ourselves. We have really learned a lot from participating in the project. Now we have a very strong connection to the environment.”
- Sarah, volunteer for the Environmental Unit
“I am very happy that the exhibition was a great success, the students have worked very hard over the past two months to create all the recycled products we have on display. I feel like we have managed to achieve a lot in the unit and I’m excited for us to continue our work. It was a wonderful moment seeing the smile on everyone’s faces here today. The best part for me was seeing how proud the parents were of their children and really believing in them, to me this was the greatest success of the day.”
- ShathaAlazza, director of the environment unit
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.
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.