Empowering Palestinian Villages One Library at a Time
Covid 19 Family Aid
We are thankful for YOU, our Seraj Donors, who contributed to aid Seraj families suffering under the pandemic! The US Seraj Board dedicated $5,000 and donors contributed an additional $5,000 during May & June. We distributed $10,000 to 50 of the neediest families in our circle of neighbors.
An update from Palestine:
In early May, we were a bit hopeful that COVID could be contained in Palestine, but we’ve unfortunately taken a turn for the worse. The number of cases has increased dramatically and is spreading rapidly across the country, as the death toll rises.
COVID-19 is not the only challenge we are facing in Palestine right now. As the political and economic situations continue to deteriorate at an unprecedented rate as the result of the Israeli intention to annex more land, people are struggling to secure their basic human needs. But above all, people are no longer able to find hope in the midst of all this darkness and uncertainty. Adding to the economic crisis, the largest employer in the country (the Palestinian government), is unable to pay the salaries of its staff for the third month in a row.
Seraj Covid Aid
Although we are not a humanitarian organization, we at Seraj felt it was our moral imperative as partners with our communities to support those in the direst situations in our communities. With your generous support, we were able to raise more than $10,000 within a few days! With this help, we were able to assist 50 families in ten communities, working with our partner organizations in each community to distribute the funds to the neediest families. All of them were without employment due to COVID-19 and most of them have families with more than five children.
This is why Seraj is unique in the way we work. We do not simply establish a library and leave. We build relationships with our communities, and we stay with them through the good and the difficult times. Our primary mission is to establish libraries, bring books and promote storytelling, but as true partners with both our communities here in Palestine and with our friends and supporters in the US, we are able to jump into action and support those families who are struggling to survive.
As this pandemic is reminding all of us around the globe, our lives are interconnected, what one of us does across the sea may affect others, either positively or negatively. We are learning that those blessed with certain kinds of privileges have great power to call for change. While our friends here in Palestine may be called to steadfastness, our friends in the US are called to stand for the poor and oppressed, the marginalized and those without voices to speak for themselves.
We are so proud of the way Seraj acted swiftly to connect the support to the communities. We are proud of our friends in the US for the continual call for action against injustice here in Palestine, and we are proud of our friends here in Palestine, who continue to live their lives in quiet dignity despite the daily challenges and humiliations. Let us remember we are all connected to one another in our lives, and those small acts of kindness you and your families do from your homes have big impacts on families here in Palestine. Thank you for your continued friendship and support, and may we all stay healthy and hopeful as we continue to fight this pandemic.
Joyce Cassel, a Seraj supporter, visited Jiftlek Librarylast fall. Joyce spent fall 2019 in East Jerusalem with the the World Council of Churches. In her work, she visited the Jordan Valley and dropped in on the Jiftlek library.
IN early December of 2019, I had the privilege to visit Jiftlek Library situated along Route 90 in the Jordan Valley. During the fall of 2019, I was volunteering with the World Council of Churches program Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel. My homebase was East Jerusalem but we had the opportunity to visit two of the other EAPPI sites. There are seven sites staffed by volunteers from around the world where EAPPI provides a protective presence for Palestinians and Israelis.
I was able to spend 3 days in the Jordan Valley, an amazingly beautiful agricultural area with rolling hills and expansive desert lands. On the second day, the team (folks from Norway, Germany, and Sweden) surprised me by asking if I wanted to visit the Seraj Library inJiftlek. Of course I jumped at the opportunity, and they made arrangements with their driver.
As we traveled Route 90 from Jericho, my soul refreshed with the beauty of the valley. Our driver pulled into what appeared to be a home. We were not sure if anyone was there because I did not have a phone number. So I went up and knocked on the door and a Palestinian woman answered. I attempted to explain why we internationals were stopping. When we finally crossed the language barrier (she spoke some English), she shared she was the director of the small library/community center and was thrilled to welcome us.
As we visited together, the director described to us the importance of the center. It is not at all flashy, but well organized and serves the needs of Jiftlek. She shared that after school, children frequent the center to do their homework, read, play games - a place of safety. There is also a used clothing section providing much needed warm clothing for the winter days.
The library has also become a craft center for the women of the community. The director teaches the woman jewelry making. I was able to purchase some beautiful pieces for a future silent auction. The director also teaches jewelry crafts to women in Bedouin communities.
Today Jiflek is one of the Palestinian communities currently caught up in Israel’s annexation plan. The library provides a life source for the people of Jiflek who live with the daily threat of of demolitions, arrests of family members. Members of the Jericho EAPPI team and I were welcomed with graciousness, pride and of course, tea and coffee…