Palestinian Theatre: a casualty of war and a tool of resistance

The Gaza production of our Palestinian love story Tales of a City by the Sea which is soon be staged in Melbourne and in the West Bank, has fallen causality to Israel’s most recent war.

The play, which was set to premier in Gaza, the West Bank and Melbourne at the same time this November explores Palestinian life and love under siege and against the backdrop of Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2008-09.   Never did we imagine that we would be staging the play at a time when Gaza has just faced a far more brutal assault that has reduced more than half of the city into rubble and has caused so many deaths and injuries.

Our Gaza team, who were set to begin rehearsals this month, have suffered the loss of loved ones, the total destruction of their beloved neighborhoods and the absolute terror of 50 days of constant and indiscriminate bombardment. The situation in Gaza today is far worst than ever before.

Unfortunately, given the widespread devastation the city has been left with, the psychological trauma the people are reeling from and the inadequacy of even the most basic of infrastructure, the staging of the play in Gaza has been postponed.

In Melbourne as in the West Bank, the production of this play has become more important than ever. Both at the La Mama theatre in Melbourne and at the Alrowwad Cultural and Theatre Society in Aida Refugee Camp in the West Bank, we are now determined to bring the tales of the people of Gaza to life by using theatre as a means of raising awareness and encouraging ‘beautiful resistance’, an expression coined by Alrowwad’s director Abdelfattah Abusrour.

So with heavy hearts we will continue this project without our Gaza partners. This defiant old city by the sea Gaza deserves to have its theatre; its artists deserve to have space for their creativity and its people deserve to have normal lives. But none of that seems to be possible in the face of the ongoing military occupation, the siege, the bombardment and with the complicity of a silent world.

As we move forward with our productions in Melbourne and in the West Bank, we would like to dedicate our efforts to raising awareness about the plight of the people in Gaza.  We hope we can count on your continued support.

Email from Gaza: Tales that must be told

Friends, this week our eyes were glued to our laptops watching in disbelief yet another horrible attack on the people of Gaza. We worried about our friends, partners and loved ones.  Within theTales of a City by the Sea production team we worried about our partners in Gaza, our director Ali Abu Yassin and our representative in Gaza, Aya El-Zinati. Aya is a young dynamic and talented film maker and journalist who is the epitome of the human spirit we try to convey in our play. Before the war broke out, she promised to make a new video for our project. Imagine our surprise when she sent this email yesterday with a link to the video she completed while listening to the sounds of the falling bombs outside her window. With her permission, we are proud to share her email as it offers a deep insight into life in Gaza.

Email from Aya

How are you?

I imagine this is not the right time to even talk about this but I know I have work to do. True, I’ve only slept two hours in the last three days, and I’ve been away from home most of the time but I have been thinking of you. I’ve been wondering how can I produce the video (Trailer for Tales of a City by the Sea) and what if something happens to me and I (die) before finishing it.

So, every day at dawn I try to do more edits and I don’t know but I hope this time you will like it. Please believe me I’ve tried my best to do it better than the first cut. If you don’t like it and we remain alive I will do a better one for you.

What is important is that I want to tell you a few stories we hear about the martyrs in Gaza. I want to tell you so you know what Gaza love stories are like in reality…in war… in these conditions.

On the first day when 8 people were killed, one of them was from the Qassam brigade. His name was Abdlerahman AlZamly. He was engaged to a lady, maybe you’ve seen her in some of the photos that went viral as she was saying goodbye to him. They were engaged for a long time and couldn’t get married because they were waiting for the Rafah crossing to open and for cement to come into Gaza so they can finish building their house. All they needed was one ton of cement. Of course there were no crossings open and even if they were to open and if cement came in, they may not have afforded it because it would have been five times its actual worth.

Yesterday, the Kaware family was martyred in Khan Yunis. Their house was bombed. Eight members of the family were killed and neighbours injured some have serious injuries. When I went to report it I almost had a breakdown. I told the photographer to take photos. My stomach turned. But I tried to be strong…to be normal.

Yesterday a very young man Fakhr AlAjoory was martyred on his motorcycle and the scene was horrific. Before he was martyred he wrote a status on his Facebook: ‘when I die, some will mourn me, some will feel relieved, some will remember me forever, some wont care, but that’s o.k. it is enough for me to be going to a better place’.

Last night they bombed the Hamad family. The family was sitting in their garden drinking coffee at night. The missile landed suddenly and the problem is the whole family died except for the youngest child, 5 years old, he is now orphaned and with no one left to take care of him.

My father is a maintenance engineer at the hospital and because of the emergency situation there he doesn’t come home much. I try as much as possible to check on my mom at home in between my work shifts. Anyway, as I was walking to our house, I saw lots of nervous people in the street, some were running it turned out the neighbours were told to evacuate their homes because it will be bombed in ten minutes. I ran to my mother and told her to hurry up and leave. I told her they’re bombing the house next door. The problem is if a missile lands next door our entire house will be destroyed. I kept begging her to leave but she insisted on staying. She said she would never leave her home. I kept begging there was no time…I stayed with her preferring to die with her than to live and mourn her death. Can you believe the missile landed but did not explode? The authorities came and they carried it away. So we’re still alive.

There is no safe place in Gaza at all. Every place is a target. This means Israel is bankrupt and has no list of targets so it just bombs sporadically at civilian structures. Despite it all, the poor people of Gaza still go out into the street, they buy food for Ramadan, they make kenafah and katayef for desert and they try to live the spirit of the holy month.

What upsets me the most is that the situation in this city has become so painful. There are many who don’t have enough to buy food. And on top of that, there is war and destruction. Many live on handouts or borrowed money. Some people built their homes from borrowed money only to see their homes destroyed and with their home gone, so goes everything else they have. No one seems to understand the depth of our pain. Is it not enough we’re losing ourselves, losing our lives, losing our future, and outside, the rest of the world carries slogans ‘Gaza under attack’ or ‘Gaza under fire’ but listen first about what is really happening in Gaza. Some people even post the wrong photos from Syria or from Iraq this made the international media discredit what’s really happening here and this played to Israel’s advantage. But believe me what happened here in the past three days is a massacre.

What also really upset me and frustrates me is that no one is telling our stories. Our real human stories. They talk about us as enemies or they reduce us to numbers and statistics.

I am sorry I’ve given you a headache with my rant. But I really wanted to talk to you and tell you our stories.

I’ve been in Gaza for nine years now and in that time I’ve lived through three wars. Each war has many stories. If I don’t die in this war, I will write a book about those three wars….hahaha…I remember how innocent I was when I came here and how this place made me a human being. Seriously. I think as much as I am tired of being in this place, it has given me life.

All my friends outside Gaza call me and message me. They are worried this time I will get killed. One friend said ‘Promise me Aya you will not die. If you do I will be very upset with you’. They say if you need anything … I said yes…I’ve ran out of coal for my water pipe…I can’t smoke sheesha now. hahaha….:)

Pray for me.

Here is the video.

Palestinian actor Thaer Yassin on importance of staging a love story in Gaza theatre

This is part of our Tales of a City by the Sea video series. To learn more about this project click on the home page, or visit our youtube channel  and watch other short videos from the various key artists involved in this project. We are now half way through our fundraising campaign.  Please bring us closer to our goal by making a donation, and by helping us spread the word by way of sharing our videos on social media and talking to your friends about this unique new and exciting project.