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Card game as tool of 'Sumud' during Christmas

Dec. 20, 2018 4:16 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 21, 2018 5:08 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Fragmentation has many faces in the area around the Sumud Story House, near checkpoint 300. Once the busiest highway in Bethlehem, the Hebron Road close to the checkpoint now leads to nowhere. It is empty except for taxis and vans transporting workers from and to the checkpoint. Everywhere are walls, close and distant. They radically separate the few Israelis traveling to the walled-in Rachel’s Tomb enclave, and the many Palestinians struggling to find their ways along various narrow roads in and out of Bethlehem. 

Where you have a chance from a hill point to look across the walls, you see parts of an area of some 700 hectare land situated between Bethlehem and Jerusalem that is owned by 182 Palestinian landowners. 

These owners from the larger Bethlehem region are practically unable to access their land due to the building of the Apartheid Wall. Next to this land, the women groups of the Sumud Story House come together for their regular awareness-raising and advocacy activities. They communicate sumud [steadfastness] values including a commitment to a just peace, not leaving the land, mutual care, and not submitting to closure and fragmentation. 

Sometimes they raise their voices next to the Wall, whether through choir singing, uttering prayers, guiding visitors, or telling stories. With their unbeatable spirit, they search for methods to educate an international audience visiting Bethlehem. An example are the large weather-resistant wall posters – the so-called "Wall Museum." The posters tell stories of sumud as lived by Palestinian women and youth.

Many visitors and locals notice those posters which communicate the reality of Palestinian life in long rows of simple, straightforward texts fixed on the Wall around Rachel's Tomb.

In testing out a new method during this Christmas season, the women come together to do a seemingly light activity: playing sumud card games. But even in these games they challenge the fragmentation of the environment. In one game the players collect permit cards granted by a dystopian state called "Permitland." Remember that there are over 100 different types of Israeli permits handed out to Palestinians that make it a privilege to visit one's own land or build or implement projects there.

One lady asks another one to have a look at the quartet "Permits to go to Holy Places in Jerusalem" and hand over one of the following cards: "blacklist," "frustration," "restrictions" or "patience." Under "Permits for Projects in Area C" are four cards titled "collaboration," "resources," "(title) deeds," and "frustration."

This card game is the launch of a campaign in 2019 to raise international awareness about the plight of the mentioned 182 landowners.

The women symbolically communicate how the Wall and occupational politics make people the object of a game of oppression and expropriation. In response to the game that occupation plays with people’s lives, the women at the Sumud Story House make a call for human exchanges or twinning arrangements between communities abroad and the northern Bethlehem community including the landowners. The initiative aims to educate and involve foreign audiences and communicate Palestinian voices, stories and rights.

In this spirit the women of the House say this December: "Celebrate Christmas, but don't forget today's Bethlehem!"

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