Jerusalem24 – In Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem, in 1998, Alrowwad (Pioneers for Life) for Culture and arTs (ACTs) was born. The organization was founded on a philosophy of “beautiful resistance”, whereby culture, art, and education are great acts of resistance, and every act of resistance is an act of humanity.
“I believe every act of resistance against injustice, oppression, occupation, dictatorship, is a beautiful act of humanity,” Dr. Abdelfattah Abusrour, general manager of Alrowwad, tells Jerusalem24.
In order to build peace internationally, communities must build peace amongst each other, and inidivduals must build peace within themselves. Alrowwad seeks to rectify the damage done by marginalization of Palestinian communities by bringing communities close to each other, so they might enrich each other.
The organization’s paramount goals are saving lives, and inspiring hope in children and young people by offering them the possibility to express themselves in their own beautiful, creative ways.
Alrowwad also focuses its efforts on another segment of society whose potential, Dr. Abusrour, is usually neglected.
“I believe that women change the world, much more than men,” he asserts.
Alrowwad specifically targets mothers and women with programs for theatre, dance, song, music, photography – and facilitate these mothers’ attendance by simultaneously running programs for kindergarteners and schoolchildren.
And although Alrowwad runs programs on health, gender, media, arts, and education, there is one program that stands out as particularly crucial at this time of year.
Tekeyeh is a Turkish word that means comfort, or more specifically, a small place where food is stored, where people can feel comfortable and come and cook a meal.
Tekeyat Aida first opened in Aida refugee camp in March 2020, but has since expanded to reach different areas in the Bethlehem governorate.
“The idea of Tekeyat Aida started with cooking meals, packaging them and deliver it to homes,” explains Dr. Abusrour. “We are here to respond to the needs of our community and be with them when there are emergencies.”
When Covid–19 first hit Bethlehem in March 2020 (the city was the first to record cases of Covid-19 via Greek tourists, and was soon on full lockdown), residents were unfamiliar with this type of emergency and tried to help each other as best they could. This is when Tekeyat Aida was launched, preparing food and aid packages which contained hand sanitizers, masks, and gloves, and distributing them to anyone in need.
Dr. Abusrour highlights the importance of helping people with dignity: “No one waits in line for their meal, each person awaits at their own home with respect. Humanitarian programs that show people in need waiting in line in misery and pity is more humiliating than the occupation itself.”
This is Tekeyat Aida’s fourth year running, and the number of beneficiaries keeps increasing. In 2020, Tekeyat Aida cooked around 11,500 meals, a number which nearly doubled to 20,000 meals by 2022.
And Dr. Abusrour assures us that despite so many extra meals being prepared, only the very tastiest food remains on offer, because the program was created to respond to the needs of the community it works in and the people it identifies with.
“For us we didn’t change in terms of our priority, quality of food we are offering, and the quality of spices that we use,” he says, “because it’s important to [offer] people [food] that I and anybody would eat.”
Listen to the full interview on Vibes.