‘You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.’ (Angela Davis)
Optimism is a political act so that is why we are asking you, our friends, comrades and organising networks to support this fundraiser as the majority of the world is silently watching the Genocide in Gaza unfold and the intensification of illegal Israeli apartheid increases all across Palestine.
In March 2023 we, Ricarda, Rodo, Matt, dan, Ruth as part of the wider ‘Solidarity is Our Weapon’ collective held our first ‘Solidarity is Our Weapon’ tour - a radical, anti-capitalist, queer solidarity delegation to Palestine. Alongside connecting with ‘The Freedom Theatre’, 'The Educational Bookshop', and many more, one of the most incredible groups we collaborated with were ‘ACLAÍ Palestine ’.
Picture from our ‘Art as resistance - Q+A and fundraiser for the Freedom Theatre in Jenin, Palestine’ at AI Berlin where we raised over $500 for The Freedom Theatre. Credit - @xeniagomes_
Established in 2020 by virtue of Irish-Palestinian solidarity, ACLAÍ Palestine is a volunteer run gym in the Aida Refugee Camp in the West Bank to help improve the overall standard of living in the camp, and go towards fighting the large incidence rate of diabetes, hypertension, and mental health issues that exist in the camp because of the cramped living conditions and occupation.
The overarching fundraising goal of ‘ACLAÍ Palestine’ is to raise €80,000 by the end of 2024. The aim of this campaign is to raise €5000 to serve as a boost of solidarity and love in these extra-trying times.
€5000 will help to
1. Pay the wages for coaches Athal, Haya, Mohammad, and Ali who is the boxing coach.
2. Buy vital gym equipment including dumbbells, treadmills and 1 or 2 specialist machines to work with more people who have disabilities.
3. Mobilisation costs to buy the building next door to Lajee and expand the space.
The Lajee Gym , ACLAÍ Palestine, was established in 2018, between Ainle O’Cairealla’in and Salah Ajarma, during Ainle’s visit from Ireland to Palestine. He saw an opportunity to educate and integrate physical training and athletics into everyday lives of the youth and residents of Palestine, as physical training and health are scarce. ACLAI is an Irish gym, founded by Ainle; ACLAI means “fit”, and so came the name ACLAI Palestine. The aim of the gym is to provide physical health for refugees in the Bethlehem camps.
How the Project Came About: Reflections from Ainle O’Cairealla’in
In 2018, I went to the West Bank on two occasions, where I ran the Palestine half marathon, and met with different groups and activists around the West Bank. It wasn't until I got home that the extent of what I had just seen hit me. I was depressed out of my head for weeks after the trip, because of the scale of oppression that the Palestinian people were living under. At that point I decided that I was going to go back, with the view to coming up with some sort of creative or productive plan that would help some of the people that I met while out there.
I went back in August, and spent most of my time at the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem. The Camp is home to over 5500 Palestinians living under severe Israeli occupation. It has been described as ‘the most teargassed place in the world’, with the Israeli army using the camp as a training ground for new troops and firing massive amounts of tear gas at the residents, including children. During my time at Aida, I spent quite a bit of time at the Lajee Centre, which is an independent grassroots cultural centre that works for the betterment of the residents of the Aida Camp. Part of the mission of the Lajee Centre is to improve the health of the residents of the camp, which suffers greatly under the constant strain of Israeli occupation and oppression. High blood pressure, diabetes, and mental health issues are among the most common illnesses in the camp, and we want to do something to help them. This was something that got me thinking, as I could see that I could possibly play a positive role in helping with the health levels in the camp.
What ACLAI Palestine have done so far -
Raised over €30,000 for the project to cover the cost of equipment, renovation of the allocated room at the Lajee Centre, and installation of the gym. Since then, the next stage has been to train coaches. Over the last 6 years at ACLAÍ, a training method has been tailored for people of all levels and abilities, and we are going to teach an adapted version of this method to the young people that come over that will be specific to the equipment and space that they have to work in at the camp. The installation of the gym has involved a sustainable and self sufficient health development program in place for the residents of the camp, that is beneficial to people of all ages at the camp.
By supporting this project, you are extending the hand of friendship and solidarity to the people of the West Bank, and in particular the people who have been living under extremely difficult conditions in the Aida Camp for years. Please take the time to donate to this worthy cause, and share the details of the project on social media so we can make this dream a reality.
This fundraiser and collaboration also serves to strengthen international movements. Our collective member Dan Glass is one of the founding members of Bender Defenders, a queer and trans martial arts community empowerment movement in London teaching martial arts to queer and trans people and running self defence classes. Follow @bender_defenders_ for more.
“Locally, Bender Defenders exists to connect queer and trans people through sport – something many of us have felt excluded from in mainstream spaces. Globally, as intersectional feminists we reach out in solidarity to all oppressed people, reject colonial pink-washing strategies and stand wholeheartedly with the Palestine liberation movement. We look forward to deepening our relationship with ACLAÍ Palestine.” Luca and Caroline, Bender Defenders lead coach and co-directors.
Support Lajee Center
Lajee Center was established in Aida Refugee Camp in April 2000 by a group of 11 young people from the Camp who wanted to serve the community. 'Lajee’ means ‘refugee’ in Arabic. Lajee is a community-based grassroots creative cultural center that works with new generations of Palestinians as they continue their ongoing struggle for justice and rights for Palestine and all Palestinians. The center began as a dream for its creators who worked intensively and with true Palestinian ‘sumoud’ (steadfastness) in order to make that dream become a reality. Lajee organizes cultural, social, and artistic activities, with the aim to develop social and rights-based awareness in refugee youth and women although our work is not exclusive to refugees; our projects and activities are open to all Palestinians in the Bethlehem area. Local and international organisational partnerships have been built which assist the center in conducting its activities. These include a network of active centers in Palestinian refugee camps that was established through Lajee’s ‘OUR VOICE’ project who are working collectively and creatively towards joint goals of freedom and justice. Organisations include BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society, the Refugee Service Affairs Committee, and several other Palestinian organizations and NGOs.
Once a year Lajee hosts ‘The International Summer camp’ to connect international visitors with the community of the Aida Refugee Camp and Palestinian society at large by providing the opportunity to grow, learn, and collaborate in solidarity with the Palestinian people in a personal way.
‘Come visit Palestine, learn about the culture and politics of the country, and build long-lasting friendships with the people of Palestine and abroad!’ Lajee Center
Get involved with ‘Solidarity is Our Weapon - Palestine - here’s how and what we are doing next.
As a volunteer collective of grassroots activists engaging in direct action and bridge-building between activist and progressive communities from Germany, North Africa, Spain and the UK our aim is to strategically escalate the international progressive struggle - building more collective power, capacity, and leverage along the way. Our networks include: Stop The Arms Fair network , Palestine Solidarity Campaign , In Place of War , Big Ride for Palestine , Internationalist Queer Pride Berlin , Training for Transformation
1. Supporting Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) – exposing The current institutions who profit from the occupation.
2. Exploring pinkwashing, greenwashing and developing artistic interventions that focus on climate justice, food justice, LGBTQIA+ freedom.
3. Sharing tactics on art as a tool for protest and music as a tool for freedom.
Our collective meets regularly to support our Palestinian partner organisations to build their international audiences and to organise our 2024 delegation in October 2024. If you would like to be part of the collective please get in contact / @solidarity.is.our.weapon / www.solidarityisourweaponcom.wordpress.com
If you would like a screening of 'Censoring Palestine - the weaponisation of anti-semitism' a film presented by one of the 'Solidarity is Our Weapon' collective members Dan Glass, please get in contact on @danglassmincer. The origins of the film are inspired by the work here 'Holocaust survivors grandchildren call for action over inherited trauma.'