At the end of my first week working with Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture, Hazami invited my coworker Musa and I to attend a fundraiser for a group called Playgrounds For Palestine. The name is rather self-explanatory – the mission of the organization is to raise money for playgrounds to be manufactured and built, using all local labor, across Palestine. The focus is to allow children overseas the right to their childhood and to recognize the importance of “play” in the development of their young minds. It is a great cause to support, and there were quite a few entertainers there to donate their time to create an enjoyable evening for the guests.
The event started with a silent auction before and during dinner. The food was delicious and enjoyed by all! Fair trade Palestinian Olive Oil was for sale, with the proceeds also benefiting Playgrounds For Palestine. The Faris El-Layl Dabke Troupe kept the crowd moving and clapping. It was great seeing everyone take part in the traditional dance as the finale to their routine.
Comedienne Maysoon Zayid did an impromptu bit that helped keep the mood of the evening light. Zayid had spontaneously offered to perform if enough audience members became “sustainer donors” for Playgrounds for Palestine, and she kept her promise.
The night’s headliner was spoken word poet Remi Kanazi. He gave an emotional performance of his writings that opened my eyes to things I really had not known before. Obviously, I always knew that there was a lot of tension between Israel and Palestine, but I am a little embarrassed to say that I didn’t have a better understanding of what these struggles really mean for the people who live there. I have a hard time putting all of the pieces together and making sense out of it all. But hearing a Palestinian American talk about how his grandmother was forced out of her home and not allowed to return, among other things, really drove the point home in a whole new way for me. It was a pretty unforgettable experience.
All in all, it a really great night that I was happy to be a part of. And enough money was raised that night to build ten more playgrounds in Palestine over the next ten months!