Taking on the responsibility of Co-Moderator with John Cassel has made me acutely aware of a need to see what we are doing, first hand. So I traveled to Ramalleh, northeast of Jerusalem, and spent a week with Laurie and Estephan Salameh (and their three children) and experienced the special library activity for March - A Children's Festival!
Fida’a, our talented Seraj liaison to the libraries, and Laurie served as an excellent team to educate me on what we are accomplishing with this library project.
There are a number of reasons to hold a festival for children. First, it brings them to the library! We want children to grow up thinking of a library as a place to have fun, dream big, and enjoy books. It is simply a fact of life that the Occupation means there is not much fun in daily life.
Secondly, the festival activities are designed to spark imaginations and stimulate thought. The children, they told me, often do not have room in their villages to play outside.
The libraries are becoming community centers for children and their parents. Mothers often gather there during the day while the children are in school.
When we arrived at the Jiftlek Library in the Jordan Valley (just north of Jericho), I couldn't find it! It is our only library in Area C (where Israel is fully in charge). Any improvements or new construction require a permit (which are rarely given out). Unauthorized improvements are demolished.
This opening in a wall is the entrance.
I soon learned that the charm of the library was to be found inside a low nondescript structure.
This library is partially funded by gifts honoring our first Seraj US Board President, Jim Wall! There is a sign outside the building noting that gift.
Inside, about 30 children had just finished making bracelets and were ready for a break.
Rashid (a leader in the Jordan Valley Solidarity Group) led them outside to an area of lush green grasses (it IS the Jordan Valley, after all). He gave each child a book and they settled down to read.
One little girl wanted to be by herself—in the lush tall green grass!
This is my favorite picture from the trip.
Then the students trooped back inside where Alaa, our artist for the day, and Fida'a led them in a drawing project, asking them to express their dreams. The morning ended in a boisterous caterpillar train, led by Zainab, of the Women's Cooperative.
My response to the visit was very positive.
We, Seraj US and Seraj Palestine, are doing a good thing, my friends. Thank you for making it all possible. It was a privilege to be here. Thank you, Seraj Palestine, for your hospitality!
Pauline, for me and for our Board
Hold the Date for our 2018 Seraj Benefit Event.
Sunday afternoon, October 14, at Chateau Ritz in Niles, IL
See you there!
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