How did AEI start?

AEI started in 1986 as a group of teachers giving additional lessons to secondary school students in the Bethlehem area. In 2000 AEI became a Palestinian NGO, part of the Pax Christi movement.

What are AEI’s target groups?

AEI has in-house Palestinian youth and women groups as well as a family group. The women come together at the Sumud Story House, the youth (from 12 years on) in the Youth Media House, both in Bethlehem. AEI’s main project, Citizenship and Diversity: Christian-Moslem Living Together, is conducted at 30 schools in the Bethlehem and Ramallah regions, involves 90 teachers and headmasters, and annually some 800-1000 students (14-17 years).

What are AEI’s local and international affiliations?

AEI is member of the international peace movement Pax Christi, the National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine, Tawasol (women’s empowerment centres in Palestine), and UNOY (United Network of Young Peacebuilders).

Who are AEI’s funders?

AEI’s main funders are development aid NGOs in Germany, the Netherlands and UK. However, AEI also benefits from the presence of support organizations in Europe and from crowdfunding actions.

What is AEI’s long term vision?

The active and public participation of Palestinians in a free, democratic, and pluralistic Palestine in which civic rights including women’s rights and the rights of religious communities are respected.

What is AEI’s day-to-day mission?

AEI supports Palestinian youth, women and educators in building community and voicing their cultural identity and rights. The organization’s work is rooted in the values of peace, justice, sumud or perseverance, nonviolence, and inter-cultural and inter-religious respect.

How does AEI support Palestinian youth, women and educators?

AEI organizes group work and meetings at the Youth Media House and Sumud Story House and is also engaged in various projects. Examples are choir-singing, advocacy activities near and against the Separation Wall, work on women’s rights, inter-religious (Moslem-Christian) classes at schools, journeys to discover Palestine, teacher training, and training women in how to build up a home-based business in tourism.

Is it possible to volunteer at AEI?

AEI has both local and international volunteers and student-interns. Bethlehem University students regularly conduct their internship at AEI. Pax Christi Stuttgart annually screens and sends a young volunteer. Whether AEI is the right place for a volunteer or intern is decided in a meeting, correspondence or skype exchange based on a CV and introductory letter. AEI cannot contribute financially to an international volunteer’s stay in Bethlehem.

What are AEI’s achievements?

We feel that we have especially achieved in awareness-raising and skills training among Palestinian youth and women so that they are better able to raise their voice and tell their human stories across walls. An important success of our work is the strengthening of Moslem-Christian relations within Palestinian society in the central West Bank, especially at schools. AEI’s Citizenship and Diversity project has run for almost 20 years and involves 30 West Bank schools. Annually 800-1000 students actively participate in the project.

AEI has been a bridgebuilder between women and authority bearers in Palestinian society. It has effectively worked making relations between Palestinian women and youth across different sections of the society in the West Bank, such as city, countryside and camps. Many of the stories documented by AEI are on display on 270 large weather-resistent posters attached to the Wall, and seen by many visitors of Bethlehem, the so-called Wall Museum. Since years, AEI hosts a women’s choir, the Bethlehem Sumud Choir, and recently also a youth music group, Sawa (Together). The Sumud Story House has conducted many creative advocacy actions vis-a-vis the Wall in north Bethlehem and Palestine in general, including an annual Sumud Festival. AEI issues a publication series, Culture and Palestine, with some 25 publications, mainly in English.

Who are members of AEI?

AEI’s youth, women and family groups have a membership structure. Any Palestinian, from whatever background, above 12 years can become a member of AEI. Members are asked to come regularly together and contribute voluntarily to the objectives and activities of the organization.

Is AEI a political organization?

No, AEI is an educational organization. However, especially due to the context of occupation, all activities of AEI are affected by politics. Especially through our membership of the local coalition of Palestinian Christian organizations and Pax Christi, we bring out or support political or human rights-related statements and participate in nonviolent advocacy actions.

What does sumud mean?

Literally, sumud means steadfastness. AEI works with the concept of sumud because of the educational value of staying in touch with the Palestinian land and community and the value of sumud as a ‘third choice’: refusing to resign to occupation or to become part of a vicious cycle of violence. In our view, sumud is something close to the ‘soul’ of the Palestinian people.

Is AEI a Christian organization?

AEI calls itself a church-affiliated organization. We however count among our members and board both Moslem and Christian Palestinians.

Can AEI host visitors and visiting groups?

Yes, AEI can organize cultural tourism programs in the West Bank including an itinerary of one or more day(s) and home stays at Palestinian families. Presently we train 20 women to work in the field of cultural tourism.

Is AEI interested in international exchanges?

Due to AEI’s focus on developing voices and communicating stories, we are interested in international exchanges with youth, women, schools and educators.

How can we support AEI?

There are different ways to support us. Financial help is much appreciated. For international donators, please make use of the bank account of the Friends of Young Bethlehem, based in the Netherlands: http://www.fofyb.org/engfofyb/index.html

It is also possible to support by coming as a volunteer, for weeks or months.

At the end of the year and during the Christmas season, we always welcome wishes and prayers as an expression of moral support.

How can we be kept updated about AEI’s activities?

Please follow AEI’s website, www.aeicenter.org, and AEI’s Facebook page: Arab Educational Institute (Open Windows). Contact aei@p-ol.com for receiving a newsletter issued 3-4 times a year.

How can I become a member of AEI?

You may join AEI’s youth and women groups in their weekly activities. When you are a member of a group, you will be automatically a member of AEI. Please contact aei@p-ol.com or call 02-2744030 / 02-2746595 for information about the schedules of the groups.