Seraj Libraries

2017 Report to Pilgrims of Ibillin from the Seraj Library Project

Many thanks to Laurie Millner Salameh for sharing these stories!

Q1. How did you use the grant your group received from Pilgrims of Ibillin in 2016? Are there any stories you could share about how that gift helped?

Young Seraj Library Leaders

Seraj Library Project had an amazing 2016. We are growing our capacity by leaps and bounds. At the beginning of the year, we started a scholarship program, funded by friends in the US, for university students in the villages and camps where we work. The students on the scholarship must maintain a good GPA and volunteer a minimum of ten hours a week at their local Seraj library. This new group of volunteers has been incredibly active and has brought new energy into our libraries.

The gift from Pilgrims of Ibillin was used to fund many activities at each of our libraries. The first was “Layali Ramadaniyeh”, or “Ramadan Nights”, which was a cultural evening at six of our libraries after the Iftar, or the breaking of the fast during Ramadan. We partnered with the Goethe Institut to bring together the people of the communities with their own musicians, story-tellers, poets and dancers. This is a tradition from long ago but has since been forgotten. The communities responded very positively to this and are hoping we can do it again this year.

Stories under the olive trees

We also held an activity to celebrate the olive harvest, which was called “Stories under the olive trees.” Each of the volunteers in the libraries took children to a local home to help pick olives. In the refugee camps, where they do not have land, we provided the community with olive trees to plant in planters made of tires. This was followed by a breakfast and local story tellers and community leaders reading stories to the children. We also hope to do this event again next year.

And finally, with the generous support of Pilgrims if Ibillin, we held two winter camps, one in Deir Ammar refugee camp for junior high aged children and one in the village of Kufor Ni’ameh for elementary school aged children. The activities included arts and crafts, storytelling, hiking, team building exercises, and sports. These activities are in addition to our regular library activities, which include tutoring, trainings, community meetings, arts and crafts, storytelling, drama and reading games. We are thankful to have partnered with Pilgrims of Ibillin to bring these activities to rural Palestinian communities and refugee camps.

Q2. What will our 2017 grant enable you to do? Who will be served, and what difference will it make for them?

We would like to continue the same activities we have started with your support and build on them. We would like to conduct a training for our volunteers on puppeteering, and old art in Palestine that is nearly forgotten. Not only would the library volunteers learn to make the puppets and perform with them, they would learn to create a special theater for them, called a “surprise theater”, that is unique to Palestine. The volunteers would then be able to work with the children in their communities, where dramatic play is needed.

We would also like to grow our spring Children’s Festival, which focuses on ages 3-5. This was the first festival in Palestine to focus on this early age group and it was very successful. We would like to see it grow next year.

Q3. What else is happening for you this year? Anything we can help you celebrate, or concerns you would like us to know about? New projects in development? New challenges developing as you face the many obstacles you have to deal with?

We will officially open our 8th library in the Jordan Valley community of Jiftlek this spring (though we have been conducting activities at the site for the past year). This is a very impoverished community who suffer from the severe restrictions of the occupation on a daily basis, including no access to their land, the inability to build homes or schools and no water. This library is truly a beautiful and safe space for the children to come and dream of a better world.

Q4. If you have a current newsletter, a recent report on your activities, or any photos of people or activities, please share those.

All of our newsletters can be found on our website,, and included here are a few pictures from our activities. We also produced a short video on our work which can be found here:

Granted:  $3000 toward the continuing development of West Bank libraries in 2017



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Executive Director:

The Rev. Joan Deming
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