Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Flying Home Created by the Children of Lajee
with Rich Wiles
A Book Review By Jim Miles
ccun.org, September 7, 2009
Kite flying activities go well beyond the physical phenomenon of
wind blown materials flying tethered to their earth bound launchers.
It is an activity including local knowledge of winds and landscapes,
knowledge of how to physically shape the kite in order to have it fly.
It is an activity that challenges the artistic creativity of the kite maker,
a challenge to make the kite not only fly-worthy, but also decorative, and
through that decoration, to make a statement from and about the flyer and
kite maker. The statements can be several at a time, from simply being
“I am the best kite maker and designer” through the many nuances of
challenging others to fly higher, or as in several Middle East regions, to
challenge others in manipulating their kites to cut others down - the kite
runners then chasing down the now freed kites.
And that is the
ultimate statement from kites, a message of freedom. More
specifically, the tension towards freedom, as the kite pulls with the
promised freedom of the wind, the promise of freedom to fly above it all, to
have the freedom of the birds, to be free to come and go wherever one is
able to move. It is about the dreams of freedom, freedom lost to
be regained. It is the physical metaphor through which the human
spirit expresses its desire to be unbound from the earth, to be free of its
trials and tribulations, the freedom from worries and cares of everyday life
that for many occupy every moment of their existence.
Lajee Center - Aida Refugee Camp - West Bank
These images - the freedom of the birds, the freedom of the kite,
the desire to be able to go home, that is expressed in Lajee Center’s latest
production from its children, Flying Home. While it is a children’s
story, it is also an adult story. For the children, it is a well
expressed and well photographed story of a kite and its return home, just as
the boy and his grandfather wish they could have their freedom. For
the adults, for those that care about the children of the world, it provides
the same message, ungarnished by the usual rhetoric of politics and beliefs.
It is the basic yearning for human freedom, for a homeland, for a return to
a homeland denied, all simply expressed through the metaphor of birds,
kites, and wind.
The creators of the book express this desire
in different terms on the back cover. One wishes to become a doctor
“as I want all children to have a future.” They talk of land, space
and freedom, but not only for themselves but for others, that the “children
in the rest of the world can learn what this book means and understand our
live in Palestine, and they can learn how to love their land.”
Given the chance and the openness for discussion, Flying Home can serve as a
strong method to develop the message of freedom and homeland. It is a
message that not only can serve the needs of expression of students, but is
fully capable of opening dialogue and discussion among adults beyond their
own inculcated views of the world, to be able to return to a more
progressive world view beyond the often narrowed perceptions that develop
with growing up.
The expression of
freedom, the simple freedom of being able to go to a beach, test the wind
and fly a kite attained a particular significance for the people of Gaza
this past summer. In attempting to break the Guinness world record for
group kite flying, the children and families of Gaza gathered on the beaches
of Gaza and under regulated observation made the challenge to the record.
This attempt, as reported in Palestine Chronicle earlier, also
carries the same dreams and aspirations of those of Lajee Center in
Bethlehem. As reported by al-Jazeerah, this attempt allows the children
under siege to “believe that despite the odds they face on a daily basis,
they can be the best at whatever they want.” As with the message from
Flying Home, their remains the broader message, the metaphor of freedom
denied, freedom to be gained.
As of this writing, I checked with the
Guinness World Record website and they have yet to post this record as
adjudicated by the International Red Cross. While much could be
read into this, it could be a simple matter of time lapse between
verification and posting. But could it also be the denial of even the
metaphor, the denial of freedom, the denial of even the dream of freedom?
That message would at least be consistent with the expectations of the
occupying forces that deny the physical freedom but find it impossible to
quell the desire for peace, for a homeland, for the freedom to fly a kite
and just play with the wind.
Ultimately, the dream of
freedom cannot be denied. It will be passed on from generation to
generation, from grandfather to grandson, fostered by the childhood
innocence of flying kites.