Empowering Palestinian Villages, One Library at a Time
News from Seraj Library Project
Empowering Communities in Palestine,
One Library at a Time
At-Home with Seraj
1. An update from Palestine, Seraj in a "pandemic pause."
2. Palestinian comfort food, by Mai Khader Kakish, US Board member.
3. An appeal for funds to provide Covid 19 relief for Seraj families.
A letter from Estephan & Laurie Salameh, our Seraj Library Co-Founders, on how Seraj Library Project is faring in these days of Pandemic.
Life under a different kind of lockdown - Clouds over Palestine
We hope you and your families are all staying safe and healthy during this almost surreal global pandemic. This pandemic is testing our ability to survive as a human race and teaching us to adapt to a new, more restrictive, life. But it’s also giving us opportunities to test our resilience as individuals and communities, and forcing us to focus on simpler things in our lives.
For Palestinians, this means a return to social solidarity that hasn’t been felt in thirty years. Despite social isolation, people are reporting feeling more connected to their communities and more supported by their government.
It also means shifting focus to simpler things. Things that were present in every Palestinian’s life and home just a generation ago. Taking care of ancestral lands, planting trees and creating vegetable gardens, baking bread at home and learning grandmothers’ nearly lost recipes and family stories.
For a country that continues to struggle under occupation and has no control over its own borders, the way Palestine has dealt with COVID is admirable. As of this writing, there have been 517 cases and 2 COVID-related deaths. The government took an immediate decision to shut the country down, which significantly slowed the spread of the virus. The sad irony is that Palestinians are a people used to curfew and lockdowns, so find themselves able to quickly adapt to the restrictions on movement and normal life. This experience just might be giving people around the world a small taste of what everyday life is like in Palestine!
But this crisis has left people without jobs, without access to their livelihoods and lands. We have seen this in our Seraj communities, which are already particularly vulnerable, where people are struggling to the point they are begging for money and food to support their families. As true partners with our communities, we feel it is our moral imperative to do a small part in supporting these people. Although this is a bit outside of our mission, the survival and well-being of people, particularly our Seraj families and friends, must come first in a time of emergency. This is a small but necessary contribution to support the neediest families in our communities.
As always, Estephan and I are so very thankful for your support to both Seraj libraries and to the Palestinian people. We hope that in our next update to you we will have exciting news to share on our two new projects, the National Storytelling Center and National Music Library, as restrictions under lockdown begin to ease and life, which surely will have changed, begins to look familiar again.
Warmly, from Palestine,
Laurie and Estephan
Palestinian Comfort Food, for our Troubled Days
Red Lentil Soup (Shorabah Adas) - Serves 8
3 tablespoon olive oil
1 large sweet potato peeled and diced (optional)
1 large carrot, diced
2 large celery stalks diced (optional)
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic
16 oz red lentils. (Rinse and drain)
8 cups water or low-sodium vegetable
or chicken broth (if too thick add more)
1 bay leaf
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp coriander
1 tsp turmeric
Pinch of chili flakes (optional)
Salt and pepper
3 tbs of olive oil
In Palestine this soup is eaten with:
Lemon wedges (squeeze on top of the soup)
A sprinkle of sumac
Drizzle of good olive oil
A dollop of Greek yogurt
In a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Sweat the onions then add all the veggies. stir to combine, add spices and salt. Sauté for 5-7 minutes to get some caramelization.
Add the washed lentils, water or broth, and bay leaf . Bring up to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and let it simmer, until the lentils begin to fall apart and they become creamy all on their own. add more water if needed the lentils will thicken as they cook about 20-30 minutes. Discard the bay leaf.
Serve in bowls with the optional garnishes of radishes, green onion, cilantro leaves, lemon wedges, crispy pita chips and a squeeze of Lemon juice.
Recipe courtesy of Mai Kakish, Seraj US board member
The world is on fire with COVID 19. We can each feel the flames in our own homes & neighborhoods. Joyce & I have tried to offer some support locally: our immediate neighbor is on the front lines at RUSH hospital and we have honored Susie, as a block hero.
But how do we make a helpful contribution to the bigger, global, picture?
Now, the Seraj Library Project presents one answer. Seraj in Palestine has been approached by many "Seraj village" families with requests for help. Help with food, help with life's essentials. In response, Laurie and Estephan have asked the Seraj/U.S. board if we could provide them with $10,000 that they could use, through Seraj's community partners, to help alleviate some of this suffering.
In response, at yesterday's board meeting, members of the U.S. Board committed $5,000 of their own contributions for this purpose and resolved to send out an appeal for an additional $5,000. This newsletter is that appeal. Time is of the essence. And whatever we receive, we will send immediately.
This effort would be in addition to the on-going Seraj cultural library programs for children who are at home from school.
The United Nations Secretary-General said on 23 March 2020 “We must come to the aid of the ultra-vulnerable – millions upon millions of people who are least able to protect themselves. This is a matter of basic human solidarity. It is also crucial for combating the virus. This is the moment to step up for the vulnerable.” UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
I hope you will be able to make a donation to Seraj, designated to our COVID aid Fund, in the next few days. Click here to contribute. I invite you to join me in providing direct, immediate assistance to Palestinian families in need. Luckily, Seraj Library Project has on-going local relationships and connections which position us well for this effort. The aid will be channeled through our partner community organizations (each library was created as a partnership with a local, community based group).
As you may know, there are many groups whose primary mission is to provide direct financial support to Palestinians. If you want to do more, we are glad to suggest two possibilities:
American Friends Service Committee - a focus on senior citizens in Gaza www.afsc.org American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. www.afedj.org
Both of these organizations are active in the West Bank and in Gaza, and both do wonderful work.
With much appreciation, on behalf of the US Seraj Board & the families and children of Seraj.