Christmas and Palestinian Sumud

The Christmas tree has been lightened at Nativity Square in Bethlehem, a symbol of hope. Yet in 2021 the ongoing coronavirus crisis and the occupation had a deep, negative impact on the Bethlehem and Palestinian communities. The economy including tourism has been greatly affected, negatively. Public life is more than ever characterized by a lack of law and order, a surge in domestic violence, and a general atmosphere of hopelessness. Apartheid is a key term used by international human rights organizations to characterize the situation not just in the West Bank and Gaza but also that of Palestinians in Israel.

The Arab Educational Institute continues to work on sumud or steadfastness as a response to the challenges in daily life and Palestine. In one of the articles of this newsletter you can read more what the practice of sumud has involved over the course of AEI’s history. A major project is “Christian-Moslem Living Together” which continues at some 30 private and governmental schools in order to strengthen the cohesion of the community.

I also want to point to some AEI activities during the last half year that aim at strengthening people’s sumud, especially of women:

  • Palestinian youth and women following a series of workshops about how to deal with trauma
  • Building the capacities of 5 women’s organizations in Hebron downtown, with the support of UN Women, Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Funds, and the Women’s Activity Association in Hebron
  • Discussing a new draft Palestinian law to protect the family from violence, organized by the Bethlehem Governorate with the support of Women’s Legal Aid and Counseling (WCLAC)
  • Participation in an initiative of the Bethlehem Bible College to strengthen the leadership role of women in the church and community
  • Communicating the sumud of AEI’s staff and women’s group to the first visiting groups from Austria and Sweden
  • Participation in a dialogue about “women, peace and security in Palestine,” initiated by UN Women and the General Union of Palestinian Women
  • Sharing the launch of a local “Christian Encyclopedia.”

See AEI’s website under “news” for photos and details.

Due to a shortfall in funding, AEI’s staff of six has to significantly decrease its salaries and much work is presently done on a voluntary base. We would like to make a call to all sympathizers of AEI to donate in order to preserve the youth and women activities at the Sumud Story House. And we would like to thank Pax Christi Augsburg and the Friends of Young Bethlehem for their efforts to recruit donations in Germany and the Netherlands.

Donations can be given through the Friends of Young Bethlehem in the Netherlands:

Thank you very much for your support.

Happy Christmas!

Rania Murra