Over 150 people attended the Lajee Centre performance in Edinburgh on the 15th of July on their scottish tour. Lajee, meaning refugee in Arabic, is a creative cultural space for the children of Aida camp in Bethlehem; a training ground for IDF soldiers that is home to 3150 refugees (UNRWA).The centre's tour brings 35 talented young people from the camp to Scotland and Ireland, showcasing Palestinian music and dance as well as film and photography.
Founder, Salah shared his story of what it means to be a refugee in your own country, and the very real everyday suffering of children growing up in Aida camp. He also spoke about the Lajee centre's decision to reject funds from the U.S government as long as they continue to provide military aid to Israel which is subsequently used against them.
One person who has been acutely effected by that violence, is Mohammad Al Azzeh, head of the media team in Lajee and a committed journalist who regularly covers clashes in the camp. In 2014, Mohammad almost lost an eye as a 'rubber bullet' (which is actually metal and potentially lethal) shattered the side of his face as he filmed clashes between young people from the camp and heavily armed soldiers who shot him at close range. He was then arrested and has been forced to attend a military court on a monthly basis ever since. Mohammad has made many short films about life in Aida camp his new film that was screened as part of the evening was very powerful as it follows the story of a young girl and how the occupation effects her life on a daily basis.
The film was followed by singer Hadeel who opened with the infamous 'Wein Ala Ramallah', accompanied by two Oud players. The centre enables them to learn how to play traditional instruments and they are hoping to grow this side of the organisation.
The penultimate event of the evening was the Dabke dance troupe who had the audience clapping and tapping along instantaneously. Split into two groups by age, they danced with smiling, proud faces in beautiful tatreez patterned clothes and keffiyehs which remarkably remained in place despite the vigorous nature of the dance! We were transported to Palestine in those hours.
The evening sadly came to an end however the work does not stop with the generous donations, this is only where it begins.
The centre runs largely via the support of individuals and the tour has been funded in the same way. The event was free but £950 was raised.
By Kimberley Davidson