“Palestinian Children Are Generous Too”
When Laila Albina turned 7 years old last November, she got a small pencil decorated with bubbles, “…but it got ruined really fast,” she said, “and a special marker set.” No books or toys. No art kits or board games. But instead of feeling sad, Laila remembers feeling really happy.
“I already have a bunch of toys upstairs,” Laila explained. “So I asked my friends to give me money instead of presents. Then I could give the money to someone who doesn’t have nice things. In my heart, I feel people should help each other.”
As she told her story, she rummaged through a drawer to find the annual report of Rawdat El Zuhur. She opened to the list of donors and pointed proudly to her name, alongside prominent Jerusalemite families and big philanthropic organizations.
“I got the idea of asking for money instead of gifts from my friend, Sari. He did the same thing for his birthday. When my mom picked me up at his party, I told her that I want to do that too.”
Her mother, Silvia, supported her decision, but found it hard to explain the idea to other mothers. “Some parents were confused when they got Laila’s party invitation asking for charitable contributions instead of gifts. They didn’t feel it was right for such a small girl not to get birthday presents, but I explained that it was Laila’s idea and it was what she wanted.”
“The children were really very generous,” Silvia continued. “We collected 954 shekels. The 4 shekels (about one US dollar) came from a girl who took it from her piggy bank to add to the 100 shekels her mother was giving.”
“I think I might do it again,” said Laila, whose mom is promoting the idea at the Friends School in Ramallah where Laila studies. “Or maybe I’ll get presents next year and collect money the year after, and then presents after that, and then money.”
Katrina Nahhas studies with Sari at the Frere School in Jerusalem. She was also invited to Sari’s birthday party. She came home and told her mom that when she turned 9, she would be asking her guests to bring contributions, not gifts, to her party. “I thought she was joking,” her mother, Natasha, admitted. “But it’s a really nice way to help someone with almost no effort, so I encouraged her.”
Katrina got a few gifts. She gave the gifts, plus the 1250 shekels she collected, to a girl her age in the Old City of Jerusalem. “Our religion teaches us to help people who don’t have enough. I like to help,” said Katrina. “I might do it again when I turn 10.”
Sari Tarazi, the boy who started it all, acts like giving is the most normal thing in the world. “My mom had the idea and I thought it sounded good.”
“I didn’t want to push Sari,” said his mom, Ranya Baramki. “I just offered the idea and he immediately agreed. After that it was no big deal.”
Ranya explained, “I had heard about a girl in the Old City who needed some help. We gave the money Sari collected at his birthday party to her. The girl’s father couldn’t believe it. It seemed to mean a lot to him that someone cared about his daughter and was doing something nice for her.”
Sari has corresponded a few times with the girl, but they’ve never met. Sari seems to think his act of selflessness, which has since triggered others, is really no big deal.