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AEI’s Summer School of Communication and Sumud Festival 2011

Contributed by Arab Educational Institute on 21.04.2011:

SUMMER SCHOOL OF COMMUNICATION 2011: The Living Stones SpeakAEI-Open Windows, BethlehemSummaryObjective and target groups AEI’s summer school “The Living Stones Speak” encourages 70 Palestinian youth across different age groups (6-25 years) and 30 women – Moslems and Christians – in the Bethlehem area to learn about their culture through journeys, stories, popular arts and media.Venue AEI-Open Windows Youth House near the Church of Nativity, Bethlehem, Palestinian Occupied Territories.Duration and period 20 days in the period June 20 – July 15, 2011. The kids program (6-12 years) will run from 20 June to July 5, and the older youth and women’s program from July 1 to July 15.Applicant The Arab Educational Institute (AEI-Open Windows) is a community organization operative in the Bethlehem, Hebron and Ramallah regions of the West Bank. It is affiliated to the peace movement Pax Christi International. For further information, see www.aeicenter.org.BackgroundThe summer school of communication aims to encourage Palestinian youth and women to actively learn about the narratives of their environment and inter-religious culture.Palestinian tradition has a rich cultural identity: the oral traditions, the religious culture, the folklore stories and proverbs, the traditional songs, the ways how the material culture of Palestine (the stones) as well as the lives of the people (sometimes called “the living stones”) speak. Many of these sources have an inter-religious, Moslem-Christian nature.The participants will be asked to explore and trace back the “storylines” and “song lines” within their own homes, cultures and environments, to search for the memories and histories of the families and places which they know best but which they are challenged to look at as if for the first time. The participating youth and women will be asked to look for the stories behind the precious human and physical stones of Palestine.The Moslem and Christian religious culture will be especially considered as it has had a formative influence on the Bethlehem area. Since many years AEI’s Living in the Holy Land project: Respecting Differences pays attention to the religious culture of Palestine as it appears in the daily life of Moslems and Christians.We will take the participants on discovery journeys in the Bethlehem area to meet both Christians and Moslems and uncover the stories of the land, homes and houses –including places recently made desolate by the Separation Wall. These activities will show the stories of the inner strength and dignity of people who speak through their lives of sumud or steadfastness. We will visit and portray people who stay in touch with their inner voice and vocation and can therefore be a source of inpiration for young people looking for their own sources of motivation and identity.The summer school will thus encourage Palestinian women, youth and educators to look for inspirational stories within their own culture and environment. This will done so by an active learning approach in which the participants on the one hand search for the stories in their home and environment, and on the other hand develop and communicate them using traditional and modern artistic expressions.Aim and objectivesAs its central aim, the summer school will enhance the motivation and skills of Palestinian youth and women to learn about the stories of their cultural identity including the Moslem-Christian living together characteristic for the Palestinian community.With this aim in mind, the school has the following concrete objectives: Strengthening the knowledge and pride of Palestinians about their own cultural identity and home, and about the diversity of and interaction between cultural and religious identities in the Holy Land. Developing knowledge and skills among young Palestinians to communicate the Palestinian identity to others. Raising awareness about new attractive methods of learning in the community. Strengthening Moslem-Christian living together in Palestine.Participants– 70 Palestinian youth of different age ranges: 6-12, 12-17, 18-25 – 30 Palestinian womenThe participants are Moslems and Christians from the larger Bethlehem area.ActivitiesTotal number of activity hours: 150 hours.1. Walks and visits (for all) in Bethlehem and countryside (30 hours) Walk-and-film/photography  Walk-and-talk2. Workshops (about 120 hours)Except for some staff and local teachers, the workshops will be given by local and international volunteers with a background in various kinds of communication and arts. Local (Arabic speaking) facilitators-translators will support the trainers with any help needed. The workshops will have an informal character: they are not courses but are intended to create spheres of activity with a good deal of fun and improvisation. The summer school is a break from the formal educational programs offered in institutional education during the academic year. Choir singing (10 hours), for some 20 women and children. Focus on collecting (inter-)religious songs of the Palestinian land. In cooperation with a cultural organization (Musicians without Borders or the Edward Said Conservatory of Music). Songs will be prepared for a future Christmas CD from Bethlehem, reflecting the religious heritage of the area.  Handicrafts for children – Angela Blackwell, a British volunteer school teacher, helps AEI staff and volunteers in an ongoing ten-day program for the kids groups (6-12 years). Creative writing on Palestine (in English) (10 hours). Doing interviews with Palestinians who have a rich and inspirational life history, writing a brief story or blog. Communicating the inter-religious heritage of Palestine (10 hours) Trainer: Fuad Giacaman, director of AEI, with AEI volunteer Giulia Sola. Walks along local places holy to Islam and Christianity, discussing how to show the Palestinian religious culture to visitors and tourists. • Conversation in the English language (25 hours). Charles Fritz and Jo Prosko, two reverends from the US with additional skills in giving English to foreigners, will give English conversation courses using examples from the Palestinian context. Palestinian youth will be encouraged to talk about their cutural identity in English. This course will be given also in the weeks after the summer school. Video making on the Bethlehem environment by Eva, a Dutch volunteer, and Fady Abu Akleh, AEI’s media staff. Participation by 2 groups of 6 youth, each 5 hours. Learning basic video skills: how to make a script board, do interviewing, using the camera. Presentation skills and the making of a powerpoint by Anouk, a Dutch volunteer. For 8 older youth and women, 5 hours. Aim is to foster confidence in telling one’s life story in but also to learn practical skills such as how to start a presentation, and to take into account what is interesting to listeners. Anthropology: The culture game, by Anouk and Giulia Sola. Two 2-hour workshops for 6-10 older youth and women. By playing a culture game, participants will feel how it is to plunge into another culture. As a result, the participants will be better able to think about their own culture, reflect and communicate. They will also learn how culture influences one’s worldview. Social theatre, two 8-hour workshops by Anouk is for 5-10 older youth. Social theatre is theatre that learns you to deal with conflicts. The play is about a conflict situation in Palestine. When the situation is really difficult, the public is invited to change it even though it cannot change the oppressor. A group of older youth will be trained in social theatre skills. The youth will learn how to communicate in conflicts. Although it is not easy to change a situation, the workshop will teach how to be stronger together with more people: a practical exercise in non-violent resistance. Dabkeh (Palestinian dance) (15 hours), exploring the rhythms of the land, with the Artas Heritage Center.Schedule Workshops for the women’s group in the morning.  Walks in the morning.  Workshops for the youth and children in the afternoon.Conclusion summer school: Sumud Festival “Hear the Stones Singing”The products, performances and skills developed during the summer school will be shown at AEI’s third Sumud Festival on July 15. This festival is a one day event in which performances and workshops will be held next to the Wall at Rachel’s Tomb in northern Bethlehem. The Wall has a deeply negative impact on the human rights situation in Palestine. In Bethlehem, hundreds of Palestinians live in a degrading and desolate environment near the Bethlehem-Jerusalem terminal and the Wall surrounding Rachel’s Tomb. Showing the Palestinian cultural identity is a sign of hope in such an environment.Titled “Hear the stones singing,” the festival will present a variety of community songs and stories, and will support the sumud or steadfastness of the citizens in those areas. It will help to encourage interest in Arts among Palestinian youth and women. Local artists and arts trainers are invited to contribute to the Festival.

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