Wow, lots happening & much to report with Seraj just now! Our April/May Updates require two editions. #1 (this newsletter) - is all about our Young Children's Festival, and our newest Board appointments. In a few days we will share #2: the exciting Grand Openings of our two new libraries: Tubasand Abu Falah. Watch for it. Read and enjoy!
Young Children's Festival - 2019
Laurie Salameh, Director, Seraj Palestine
Seraj celebrated it's fourth annual Young Children's Festival - 2019, a highly anticipated event that brings together local artists and small children. The theme this year was "Little Creatures," and each artist was given a story about a small creature and asked to create a performance and an interactive activity for the young children.
We began the event in the village of Kufor Ni'ameh, where the artist Alaa told a story about dreams as living creatures. The children watched as he used a drop in ink to turn cups of water blue which they used to paint their own dreams to make them come alive.
From there we traveled to the Aida refugee campnext to Bethlehem, where two young musicians, Mira and Jalal, proposed the idea that music notes are living creatures. The children sang and danced all morning with the music notes, flying to different lands and meeting different people.
Our next stop was the village of Taybeh where the ballerina Marmar introduced the children to a little imaginary dancer named Ayoush... the children danced with their new imaginary friend on the hilltops of their village.
In our new library in Tubas the children were treated to a performance by Sunduq Al-Ajab, a well-known and beloved storyteller in Palestine. He delighted the children with stories about ants and other insects living in the grass among us.
We traveled from there to our other new library in the village of Abu Falah, where the well-known children's book illustrator Lubna read one of her own stories to the children and helped them to create their own illustrations to accompany the story.
From there we visited the neighboring village of Al-Mizra Al-Sharqiyyeh, where our very own Fida'a performed a story about a little spider who was hungry because his web kept breaking and he couldn't catch food. With some encouragement from his mother he finally succeeded! The children created spider masks and acted out the story with Fida'a.
We celebrated the end of the festival in the village of Burham, where the artist Yara created an outdoor activity for the children. They looked around their world and listened to all the little creatures around them to see what they had to say.
The communities look forward with anticipation each year to the Young Children's Festival which is very important in encouraging imagination in children while connecting them with stories. It also encourages young artists to create something beautiful and meaningful for a younger audience. As with most of our activities, they are simple but meaningful.
(Each month, the various Seraj libraries have opportunity to participate in a cultural program organized by Laurie Salameh, Director & Fedaá Ayata, Program Coordinator. The Young Children’s festival is the April offering).
Meet our two newest Board Members
The US Seraj Board has invited two new members who will add great strength to our collective body.
Diane Fite joins us as Board Secretary.
Diane Fite's history with Seraj has paralleled the work of her husband Cotton, former co-chair who died in 2017. It was through her husband and his work with Seraj that she began to learn about the Palestinian people and their challenges in Israel-Palestine and to develop connections and friendships both in Palestine and in the Palestinian community here in Chicago. She has been a committee member for the silent auction for some years, helping to gather items, set up and host at the Annual Seraj Fundraiser. Over the years, she has also been involved in various projects highlighting either the Palestinian experience or the work of Seraj. Last year she and board member, Galen Burghardt, led a lively six-week Lenten study group at St. Luke's Church Evanston, bringing in guest speakers and using the book, Zionism Unsettled as a study guide.
Diane has visited Palestine twice, once on a dual-dialogue tour sponsored by Hands of Peace and later on a second tour called Abraham's Children led by board members Pauline Coffman and Paul Parker. On each trip she was able to spend time in conversation with a wide spectrum of community leaders, both Palestinian and Israeli, throughout Israel-Palestine. She was also able meet up with Seraj founders, Laurie and Estephan Salameh, and visit a few of the libraries to see first-hand what wonderful things their vision had inspired.
Diane is retired and lives in Glenview, IL. She grew up in Des Moines, Iowa and was trained as a graphic designer. After finishing a design communication degree at the University of Illinois at Chicago, she was hired to work in the children's textbook division at Harper and Row in Evanston. After a few years she left the firm to open her own graphic design and production business offering graphic design services not only to publishers of children's textbooks but other publishers and not-for-profit organizations for more than 17 years. In the early 2000's her hobby of landscape design led to the opportunity to design and install a memorial garden for a church in Evanston. This in turn led to the decision to leave graphics behind in favor of landscape design which she pursued until her retirement. She now spends her time learning how to paint what she sees in watercolors.
Nasser Nabhanbrings a new perspective to the Board - the view from Northwest Indiana.
Nasser is a Palestinian-American who lives in Michigan City, IN. His job, with the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership at National Louis University (NLU) has him traveling all around greater Chicagoland. He has a bachelor’s degree in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures from Indiana University, a master’s degree in early childhood education from Dominican University, and is currently a doctoral student at NLU in the Curriculum, Advocacy and Policy program.
While growing up in Indiana, Nasser knows Palestine first hand. Nasser travels regularly to Palestine where he has family. In addition, he interned at Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem and taught at the Ramallah Friends School.
Nasser will bring his professional early childhood experience to the Board, as well as his connections to the Palestinian community in Chicago and the West Bank. We welcome his addition to our governance efforts.
Invite Seraj to make a presentation at your church, club, association...or, to a group of neighbors or friends in your home. We can talk about our libraries and programs, and share stories from the Occupation. We hope you will enjoy sharing our work with your friends.