The annual Sumud Festival takes place near the Wall in North-Bethlehem and involves dabkeh, choir singing, theatre, rap, poetry and storytelling. AEI often cooperates with other organizations to increase local participation.

 

Sumud and Freedom, June 5-6, 2017

“Sumud and Freedom” was the slogan of AEI’s Monday June 5 Sumud Festival in commemoration of 50 years of occupation. A few hundred people, including the mayor of Bethlehem and a visitor group of Pax Christi Germany, participated in a program that extended into the Tuesday when a community Iftar [Ramadan evening meal to break the fast] was held in the same place.

 

The Palestinian concept of sumud, literally steadfastness or perseverance, emphasizes the connection with the land, the people, the traditional culture. A children’s program by ‘Inad Theatre from Beit Jala featured hilarious conversations between a grandfather and his grandchild who among other things learned about the healthy effects of eating fresh fruits from land now largely stolen. The women of the Bethlehem Sumud Choir showcased the heritage in their songs and traditional red-embroidered dresses. How to rhythmically connect to the land was shown by a youth dabkeh [traditional dance] troupe from the village of Wadi Fouqeen near Bethlehem. The call for freedom was loudly heard in the swinging music of Bethlehem singer George Thalgieh and AEI’s youth music group Sawa [together], the last singing the Human Rights Song, “The world should be a fair place, where we can all live in peace…”

Twenty international artists or groups of artists contributed to a rotating digital exhibit displayed on a screen behind the stage. They expressed visions of occupation and freedom. The artists drew abstract forms of shrinking space, brought out the fate of Gaza in sensitive drawings, painted the soul of the Palestinian people, sung the poetry of a bird on top of the Wall looking both sides, presented the terrible conditions of refugee camps in Greece (one automatically thought of Palestinian refugee camps), sung a Biblically inspired peace message.

Dutch painter Marlies Verda was present at the occasion and told how she, as a visual artist, had been looking for the human faces of her ancestors who perished during the Second World War in Europe, and whom she doesn’t know. In a series of self-portraits she recreated those faces yet in a way that all were invited to project their own names and faces and humanity in them: “it may be me, it may be you.” Human connection is key.

 

AEI would like thank:

The crowdfunders in Germany and those who organized them, including Johanna and Ida in Germany and the Friends of Young Bethlehem in the Netherlands.

The contributions of international artists: Christine Bader (Germany), Klaus Fezer (Germany), Forschungsgruppe Kunst (Germany), Sibylle Hofter (Germany), Roger Iredale (England), Ada Krowinkel (Netherlands), Mélina Mauberret (France), Lidy Meier (Netherlands), Christa Niestrath (Germany), Armin W. Nimra-Ruckerbauer (Austria), Gangolf Peitz (Germany), Anke Pfaundler-Spiegel (Austria, Germany), Carla Rus (Netherlands), Gudrun Ryssel (Germany), Elena Sofia Stranges (Italy), Unamore (Netherlands), Marlies Verda (Netherlands), Peace Choir, Oisterwijk ca (Netherlands), Thijs Verster (Netherlands), Willem k Vreeswijk (Netherlands).

 

Volunteer Ida:

 

It was the first time that AEI tried to crowd-fund that way in Germany. When the funding started I had a lot to do, especially sending out mails asking people to spread the link of the page. But with much help from Pax Christi sections in Germany, we succeeded to spread the page. We came very close to reach our funding goal before the deadline, but in the end we needed a little help from the Friends of Young Bethlehem, the Dutch crowd funding partner, to encourage more people to give at the end and reach the targeted amount. After the deadline we even collected more and finally reached 8000€. I am very happy how it worked out and proud that we got so much support and could also spread the word about the work of AEI.