These are exciting days at Seraj. As Laurie reports, the new storytelling center in Kufor Aqab is opening for business, much to the delight of the local children.The new cultural center in Birzeitis in the works. And Laurie, and her team, are planning what promises to be one of the most amazing tours of the West Bank and our libraries that one can imagine.
Here in the U.S., we are having some fun, too. In a kind of post-Covid giddiness, we are planning both a picnic this summerwhen Laurie and Estephan come to visit, and a live and in-person benefitthis coming November, complete with lively entertainment. And, as a bonus, St Luke’s Church hosted an hour-long event, Palestine in Song and Story,that played to an astonishingly large and receptive crowd. (Event Youtube Link)
In this issue, you will find profiles of three great people who make the work of Seraj possible. Ra’id Malikis one of the Seraj board members in Palestine. Loai Najjarsingle handedly funded a new maths/computing library that will be part of the new Birzeit complex. And,Al Beattyis a steadfast friend of Seraj here in Illinois.
So, read on and enjoy.
Yours in light,
Galen Burghardt,newly elected Seraj US Board Chair
The Seraj Palestine Tour
October 16-26, 2022
You are invited to join this unique people to people event.
Just announced: Some generous Seraj donors have made scholarship funds available for this trip. You are invited to join their ambitious project to allow some persons important to Seraj make this trip. It will be a way to participate even if you choose not to travel yourself. Donate here. Note "travel scholarships" in the comment box.
Meet Ra'id Malki
A member of the recently formed Palestinian Seraj Board.
By Laurie Salameh, Palestinian Director
Ra’id and I met over a cup of coffeein the Al-Tireh area of Ramallah. We spent the first hour of our meeting discussing the impending high school graduation of his youngest daughter, Laila, who would finish from the prestigious Quaker Ramallah Friends School. He reminisced over the challenges she faced as both a top student and the top equestrian competitor in the country, his voice quivering with both immense pride and the loss all parents must experience when their children are launched into the world. He ruminated that he wasn’t alone in these feelings of pride and loss, echoing Kahlil Gibran’s famous words that our children are not our children, they are the sons and daughters of life itself. Wise words, after which I made a note to remind myself as my children grow up and find their ways in the world.
So tell me a little bit about yourself… where did you grow up? Where is your family from?
I was born in Bethlehem, actually,I was born and grew up there, when it was under Jordanian rule. My family were forced out of our family home in 1948 in Jerusalem. When I was six years old, the war began and the bombardment was intense in the hills around us. We escaped as a family for a few days to my grandfather’s house in the Old City of Bethlehem. I remember my father repeating over and over, “Even if we are attacked, we won’t leave or give up our family home.” I remember hearing the sounds of the Israeli army entering, their loud speakers insisting that people leave. Those that left ended up being forcefully relocated to Jordan, leaving behind the only homes and the only life they knew. We stayed. I never forget these things even though I was only a small child...
Don't miss Laurie's personal note about her relationship with Estephan, and the remarkable connection to Ri'ad's grandmother pictured in a 1927 National Geographic.
MeetLoai Aref Ali Najjar,
donor for our new math and computer library in the Birzeit Cultural Center by Rima Najjar Kapitan, niece
Laoi Najjar with his nephew, Rima Kapitan's son.
Loai Najjarwas born in Amman, Jordan soon after his family was exiled from Lifta, Palestine, a village in what is now West Jerusalem.
When he was a young boy, an employee of Loai’s father gave him small wires and a light bulb. He was so fascinated by the way these could be used to make electricity that he took them to bed that night and lay under the covers connecting the wires to make the light bulb turn on and then separating them to turn it off. It was clear early on that he was a born engineer.
He went on to study electrical engineering in college and later computer engineering in northern California. Thanks to a lot of Denny’s coffee and hard work, Loai eventually became a computer engineer. He quickly established himself in the field of computer engineering, and contributed several important innovations in the early stages of hardware engineering.
In the late 1980s, Loai and a small group of engineers co-founded a company called Helios, which became one of the only companies specializing in making servo-writers. They sold it in the 1990s and since then, Loai provided computer and electronic engineering consulting for companies around the world, working on projects ranging from designing optical fiber to designing a heart monitor device and a portable patch for an ECG Heart Monitor to designing a programmable makeup machine for L’Oreal.
Loai has donated to Palestinian institutions like Inaash al Usra (a West Bank organization focusing on women’s empowerment and economic development), Palestine Aid Society, and Birzeit University. He has always been interested in education and learning for Palestinians, as that has been the path for many out of refugee camps and poverty. His philanthropy in the US is focused on environmental and animal rights issues.
Loai has three bossy older sisters, one of whom told him about Seraj and suggested he get involved. He fell in love with the organization’s mission, and is now working with Seraj to fund a computer and math library in Birzeit, Palestine and offer scholarships. A member of the Palestinian diaspora, Loai is still very much connected to Palestine, and wants to make sure kids in Palestine have the opportunity, like he did, to explore the amazing world of electronics and math.
Meet Alvin Beatty
Enthusiastic Seraj supporter from Evanston, IL.
by Galen Burghardt, Seraj Board Chair
Al Beatty (left) with Galen Burghardt, Seraj Board Chair
Al Beatty is a retired banker with a deep and abiding interest in the cause of Palestine. His interest in the Middle East and the Palestinian cause goes back to 1964, when he and Mary Morton, a close friend, visited her parents in Beirut where they had moved several years earlier after her father retired from private practice in Milwaukee and accepted a position at the American University Hospital. They traveled throughout Lebanon on day trips and were entertained by local people with typically warm Mideast hospitality. Their eyes were opened to the injustice imposed on the people of Palestine when the state of Israel was declared and the peaceful co-existence of Mid-eastern Christians, Muslims and Jews was shattered. Later, living in Ashland, Oregon after retiring, he learned that his dentist was the uncle of Rachel Corrie, a young activist who in March 2003 was killed by an Israel Defense Force bulldozer while trying to prevent the destruction of a Palestinian home.
When he moved to Westminster Place in Evanston, in 2010, he found himself dwelling among supporters of Seraj. One was a member of an Oak Park/River Forest congregation which was home to several Seraj supporters. Another was our own B.J. Wagner,whose books occupy a place of honor on the shelves of the Westminster Place library. Soon thereafter he and Mary attended the Seraj annual benefit held that year at Westminster Place.
It is a great honor for us to have Al as a member of our advisory council. He has been a true friend of Seraj and has been tireless in bringing his friends into the fold. When I asked him why he supports Seraj, he replied “I am heartened by all that Seraj has accomplished to date in bringing libraries to Palestinian communities and consider it a pleasure and privilege to support these endeavors. I will continue to make gifts of stock periodically and have revised my estate plans to include a bequest, which I hope, when the time comes, might make possible one or two additional libraries.”
Join the Seraj Tour
October 16-26, 2022
Join us on our first ever Seraj Library Project trip to Palestine!See Palestine from the inside, experience life in Palestine, make genuine connections with people from the communities you have been supporting and hearing about for years.
This is a unique opportunity to visit Palestine, hosted by people you know and trust.Join us.
As a member of the Seraj community, you are helping to support the establishment of new Children's Libraries and Seraj Programs at our various sites. We give thanks for all the People Of Seraj, especially YOU.