- Published on Monday, 16 April 2012 12:51
By Ella David for PNN
On Friday 13th April, the Freedom Theatre - a theatre and cultural centre in Jenin Refugee Camp in the north of the West Bank - performed at Al Walajah, a village close to Bethlehem.
The solidarity event was entitled 'Stand with Al-Walajah' and was attended by around 200 people of all ages and nationalities: as well as Al-Walajah villagers, there were performers and members of the audience from around the West Bank along with internationals, some of whom had recently arrived as part of the Welcome To Palestine campaign. The Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) stood in the background throughout the performance.
Members of the community of Al Walajah shared personal stories and feelings about their struggle against the occupation, in particular, the Israeli built Apartheid wall that is fast encircling the village. Freedom Theatre actors with musicians from Dar-Qandeel - a cultural and art centre in Tulkarem, near the West Bank city of Nablus - transformed these accounts from the audience into pieces of improvised theatre called 'Playback Theatre'.
The first audience member to participate in the Playback Theatre was a young boy who replied to the question of how the audience were feeling with 'I feel belonging.' He lives in a house that will soon be on the Israeli side of the wall and surrounded by a fence. Another resident of Al Walajah shared a memory of his young neighbor going to school one day at 8am and returning at 1pm looking for his house: while he had been at school it had been demolished by the IOF. The actors instantly transformed these feelings and stories, besides many more, into short, powerful theatre pieces. The five performers wore plain, black clothes and used only colored cloth as a prop.
Following the Playback Theatre, there was a performance by rapper Talha Alali aka Wise Wolf from District Rhymes Unit - a group of rappers, break-dancers and spoken-word performers from cities across Palestine.
Al Walajah has suffered for many years from land confiscation, house demolitions and violence from the IOF. Where the event took place is a hillside that will soon be cut off from the village and be on the Israeli side of the wall. The house of Omar Hajajlah and his family will also be on the Israeli side of the wall. This family's home will be connected to the village only by a tunnel and will be completely surrounded by a fence.
Al Walajeh straddles the green line - the internationally-recognized armistice line between Israel and the West Bank - and is located both within the southern boundaries of the Jerusalem municipality and the West Bank. It is also in Area C: Area C is land that under the 1993 Oslo Accords is under full Israeli civil and security control, except over Palestinian civilians. Area C encompasses 60% of the West Bank. There are already many illegal Israeli settlements in this area and the land that will be annexed by the wall may result in more. When the wall is completed, there will only be one way in and out of the village through an IOF controlled checkpoint.
Playback Theatre is an interactive theatre approach used by the Freedom Theatre and theatre groups around the world as a tool for trauma recovery and community building among other things. In a playback event, audience members share feelings, memories and autobiographical accounts and watch as a team of actors and musicians spontaneously and often silently enact these experiences without discussion between them – it is a collaborative and artistic response based on the actors' ability to empathize and reflect the essential structure and meaning of the teller's experience.
The Freedom Bus, an initiative of The Freedom Theatre, uses interactive theatre and cultural activism to bear witness, raise awareness and build alliances throughout Occupied Palestine and beyond.
Friday's event was just one of a series of Playback Theatre events to be held around the Middle East in the run-up to the Freedom Bus Ride taking place on 23rd September-1st October where people around the world will join the bus on a solidarity ride through the West Bank.