Palestinian activist explores methods, impact of youth activism in Lydda

Fida Shehada, an activist and a Lydda council member who founded and co-founded a number of youth movements in the city, gave a lecture at Birzeit University on the importance of those movements in unifying the Palestinian community in the 1948-occupied territories and countering the constant attempts at Judaization of the city, on Saturday, November 24, 2018. 

Youth activism in Lydda, said Shehada, first began under the umbrella of the Palestinian political parties. In recent times, however, as those parties began losing influence, youth activism transformed into non-partisan action that utilized community initiatives to preserve the Palestinian culture and reinforce Palestinian existence in the occupied territories. 

Shehada gave a brief overview of two youth movements she founded: Step and Sabbar, two movements that focus on the Palestinian identity and its connection to the land. 

While facing numerous obstacles and challenges exacerbated by the aggressiveness of the Israeli authorities, the movements were successful in bringing the Palestinian community closer and creating a tight-knit group of youthful men and women who promote Palestinian identity, Shehada commented. 

The movements, she noted, not only focus on political activism but also highlight and offer solutions to social issues that affect the Palestinian community in the 1948-occupied territories. 

Another movement Shehada mentioned was the Building Foundations Association for development of housing for Palestinian youth, which focused on rebuilding the homes that are torn apart by the Israeli authorities under the pretense of the lack a building permit - a permit which the Israeli authorities seldom grant. 

“It is a daily struggle for land,” Shehada said. “They always destroy homes, and we always build them - brick by brick.” 

To preserve the homes and the Palestinian archaeological heritage of Lydda, Shehada and other founded the Balad Cafe, a regular get-together where Palestinian youth meet in a historic or archaeological site in Lydda in an attempt to preserve the Palestinian heritage of the city and counter the Judaization attempts of the Israeli authorities.  

This lecture is part of the sixth Cities Exhibition, “Lydda - A Garden Disremembered,” hosted at the Birzeit University Museum and organized together with the A. M. Qattan Foundation under the Fourth Qalandia International. The exhibition examines the controversies and analogies dealing with the imported British colonial planning paradigm and what that paradigm entails from post-industrial spatial forms and ethos. 

“Lydda - A Garden Disremembered” includes, in addition to the showcased works of art, a tour through Lydda, discussions on Qattan’s Solidarity manifesto, and lectures which deal with the industrial impact of Lydda refugees and discuss the book “In the Land of My Birth: a Palestinian Boyhood,” by Reja-e Busailah.