Theatre Brings Patience and Hope
Jewish and Arab youth act out their differences

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Theatre Brings Patience and Hope

 Translation of newspaper article in Nederlands Dagblad 13 –8-2004

The Palestinian Raed Al Shiukhi and his Israeli colleague Melisse Boskovich see theatre as a solution for the conflict in the Middle East.

With theatre and role-playing the Palestinian Raed al Shiukhi and the Israeli Melisse Boskovich try to prepare children for their future. “Children suffer most from violence”.

Flevo Festival

Maarten Vermeulen

Once Raed al Shiukhi was close to joining Hamas, a Palestinian terror movement. Only ‘logical thinking’ kept him from doing this, he says. "Blowing yourself up is no solution. What is the use if everyone dies for Palestine? Who will have to build our country?” That is the message he tries to give the Palestinian children. At the same time he realises that certainly not every Palestinian thinks the same way as he does. “If someone suffers from hunger, has no more family and has no hope left, logical thinking is very difficult.”

A bus of the Palestinian organisation "Theatre Day Productions" drives each week to secondary schools to bring youth to the theatre. There Al Shiukhi teaches them that they have a future, that there is ‘enough to dream about’. “Children from 12 to 17 years old are vulnerable. Who is older, learns to live with his/her circumstances. Through performances we try to explain the situation they live in, we try to teach them patience.”

 Boskovich also works with teenagers, but on the Israeli side, via Peace Child Israel.  “We work with Jewish and Arabic children. “There can be great tensions. On days with violent attacks or actions of the Israeli army the emotions tend to raise highly.”

Via role-playing PCI tries to let the children experience how life looks like through the eyes of the ‘other party’. “One day a Jewish girl came to the course. She was furious, because earlier that week a boy from her school had died during a bomb attack. We changed the program and talked about this incident extensively. Jewish children played they were Palestinian and vice versa. After the session the girl had changed so much, that she wanted to go to the cinema with a Arabic girl. That is absurd, but this is our life.”

 Al Shiukhi also knows these stories. Once a boy who refused to talk walked in to one of his workshops. “The despair could be read on his face. During the introduction, I asked everyone to write a sentence on a piece of paper, to use in the play. ‘I want to die’, he wrote. Then slowly the story came out: his father was shot and his house was bombed. At the end of the workshop I asked all children again to write a sentence. ‘I love life’, he wrote then.”

 Boskovich tries to let children think about how Jews and Arabs in Israel have to live together. “Jewish children know exactly what is going on in Gaza, but nothing about the problems in Israel. If ever a Palestinian state will arise, the internal conflict is not solved.” According to the Israeli actress most Jewish people do not dare to trust their Arab countrymen/women.

“Jews live in fear and want to prevent to enter into unsafe situations. The more the world threatens them with UN-resolutions and sanctions, the more frightened they get. [And react accordingly] Most Jewish children live with a huge feeling of guilt, and do not know what to do with it.”

Although Boskovich disapproves of the construction of the controversial safety barrier, she understands how the Israeli government came to that decision.

To prevent the existence of the spiral of mutual hate in the future generation, Boskovich wants to bring children hope. And patience, because “in the coming ten years not much will change”, expects Al Shiukhi. “The government cannot change people, the other way is possible. But that takes time.”

Nonetheless, a change will follow. “Children change. Jewish and Arab youth hang around with each other. They discuss among each other. This is also affecting their parents. They dare to approach each other more easily.” To stimulate that, Boskovich will also start courses for older people next year.

Her Palestinian colleague is also optimistic. “The theatre plays change people, make them think. This builds Palestine, while blowing up yourself only destroys things.”

Provoke Festival Participants

Melisse Boskovich and Raed Al Shiukhi are in the Netherlands on invitation of the development organisations ICCO and Kerkinactie. At the Flevo Festival they will give several performances, to provoke/stimulate the festival participants to think. In the same tent there is an exhibition about the conflict in the Middle East, where a piece of wall symbolises the division between the Israeli and Palestinian visions. “It is controversial”, recognizes a spokesman of ICCO. “But we stand by it”. According to the spokesman the aid projects of ICCO and Kerkinactie in Israel and the Palestinian territories have no political purpose/meaning. “We take the needs of the people as point of departure and do not want to say, with the bible in the hand, who is right or wrong.”

Earlier the organisation ‘Christians for Israel” seriously criticized ICCO, which is thought of as pro-Palestinian. This difference of opinion continues.



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