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The initiative to establish a story house in the Rachel’s Tomb area is based on the need to giave Palestinian women a greater voice in their society as well as towards an international audience barely informed about the important societal role of Palestinian women. For a successful project this voice should be grounded in the women’s own motivation and daily life circumstances. To make this possible, the initiative is based upon the perceived need of many Palestinian women, as observed in AEI’s own women’s group, to bring out their real-life and cultural (custom-based) stories which are often left unheard in Palestinian society and outside Palestine. Considering the rather desperate climate among the people in the Palestinian Occupied Territories, the initiative will focus on stories with a spirit of hope, peace and sumud (steadfastness, persistence) – all key terms in AEI’s present work. To create an inviting environment for the women’s participation, we will focus on the social process of collecting, telling, listening, discussing and creatively expressing stories in interactive contexts.  
 

There are many other initiatives in the Occupied Palestinian Territories to develop and enhance the cultural identity outside those of the AEI but such initiatives are almost always without the involvement of grassroots groups like AEI’s women’s (and parents) groups, and rarely focus on women’s voices. While Palestinian organizations here sometimes use narratives in development and peace work, a narrative methodology is not yet strongly developed, and the present initiative may contribute to a greater place of stories in the understanding and communication of Palestine. 
 

The added value of “Bethlehem” is the presence of both Moslems and Christians in a city rich in heritage, religious values and culture. The city is also these years more and more visited by international pilgrims and groups, and the Story House could fulfil a need of those groups to meet local Bethlehemites, including Christians. 
 

Within AEI’s work, the Story House – which will be combined with the Sumud House already opened in the Rachel’s Tomb area – will complement our new cultural tourism program which brings out the cultural identity of Bethlehem and Palestine through creative performances in front of local and international visitors. 
 

We are fortunate that the well-organized visit of AEI’s women’s group to Enschede and Utrecht, made possible by the women’s ecumenical support group in Enschede, and financially supported by KerkinActie, gave further impetus to the idea of the Story House and creates possibilities for future exchanges.

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