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Reclaiming Lost Palestinian Dreams Through Role-Play

Laura Alajma is spreading live-action role-playing throughout the Palestinian territories and the broader Arab world.

When Laura Alajma was a little girl, the games she played evolved with the world around her. Before the Second Intifada in 2000, she and her friends role-played, pretending to be doctors, mothers and fathers in a children’s game known in the Palestinian territories as “Bait Byout,” or House of Houses. But then the Intifada started. Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers woke up young Laura in bed with rifles pointed at her face. In 2002, at the start of the Siege of Jenin, she woke again to Israeli gunfire blasting through the bedroom window inches above her head. While visiting the decimated refugee camp after the siege, men shouted at her to be careful of dead bodies below her.

Traumatized from the five-year war, Alajma and other children began to role-play those figures prevailing over their war-torn life — soldiers, fighters, martyrs. Laura would be a “journalist” for Al-Jazeera at these make-believe clashes.

“It was how we tried to cope,” says Alajma.

As the 29-year-old executive manager of Bait Byout, the first live-action role-playing (LARP) organization in the Palestinian territories and the Arab world, Alajma is reclaiming these childhood traditions. With past and present reality etched into their identity, Alajma and her Palestinian cohorts are using LARP as a means for personal and social transformation. Introduced by visiting Norwegians in 2011, the LARP scene in Palestine by late 2016 had grown into a full-blown movement in need of a professionalized organization and a leader — Alajma.

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Tags: #community, #larping, #palestine, #therapy
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