The Seraj Library Project
The Seraj Library Project, helping West Bank Palestinian villages create children’s libraries, became part of St. Luke’s international outreach sometime in 2009. But the seed for this mission was planted earlier, in a Lenten study group of nearly 25 parishioners in 2007. It grew from a careful examination of the origins and history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a recognition of the destructive impact on both people of an occupation that had continued for 40 years.
Adopted as a parish project in 2009, St. Luke’s goal was to provide financial support for a library in Taybeh in partnership with a Latin Catholic Church contributing space and volunteers to oversee the library. Parishioners were very generous and the Taybeh Seraj library was completed and opened in 2011. It was the first to include a necessary component of all modern libraries, computers. The Taybeh library was Seraj’s fourth. As of February 2019 there are ten libraries.
Seraj (meaning “light” in Arabic) is about books and reading and playing, but it has become far more than that. The libraries have become community centers, safe places for children when there is violence, generators of music, dance, poetry, story-telling programs which attract Palestinians of all ages. They are generators of hope, a commodity in short supply in Palestine.
St. Luke parishioners continue to support Seraj with their time, money and attendance at Seraj’s annual fall benefit. We continue the tradition of study. During Lent of 2018, several of us gathered to study and discuss Zionism Unsettled and to hear presentations from Jews, Arabs, and Christians about their experiences of Israel and Palestine. In addition, St Luke’s and its parishioners contribute to Seraj, most recently toward the creation of a Palestine National Storytelling Center on the West Bank in honor of our own Cotton Fite. And we support Seraj’s BJ Wagner Fellows program, which helps to defray the costs of college tuition for young people who volunteer in the libraries.