The Revolution’s Promise

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“The 3rd Intifada will be a cultural one”.  (Juliano Mer-Khamis)

On December 2nd, we held the Canadian premiere of The Freedom Theatre (Jenin)’s dramatic reading of The Revolution’s Promise on Hornby Island. Since its inception a year ago, this powerful presentation has been offered in 12 countries. It tells the story of The Freedom Theatre, located in Jenin Refugee Camp, West Bank, Occupied Palestinian Territories, Israel- Palestine. It also tells the personal stories of five Palestinian artists and three directors of cultural centres in the West Bank & Gaza.

Writer Zoe Lafferty conceived this project together with The Freedom Theatre. Each person who speaks was interviewed separately, without knowing who else was being interviewed.

Interviewee’s perspectives, thoughts, and ideas are solely their own. Other text is from material available online. The project is a fund-raiser for The Freedom Theatre, who right now are under seige from the Israeli military. Often called “Little Gaza”, Jenin has long been a place of resistance to Israeli occupation. Most of its inhabitants are, or descend from, refugees from Jaffa who were dispossessed in 1948 to make room for the new state of Israel.

Today The Freedom Theatre continues, despite recent attacks, destruction of its property, and arrests of its key people by the Israeli military, one of whom (General Manager Mustafa Shata) remains in prison at this time. Jenin Refugee Camp is seeing invasions every few days during the current war against Palestinians. The war is not only being conducted in Gaza. This year for the first time, Apache helicopters and Hellfire missiles have been fired on the Camp from the air; generally invasions occur on the ground. The current attacks are the worst that have occurred in Jenin since 2002. Since 7th October, 78 people including children have been killed by the Israeli army in Jenin Camp alone (www.cbc.ca. 16th December).

Traditionally, and especially right now, The Freedom Theatre works with traumatized children in the Camp (population 23,000 in .42 sq.km.), using theatre and art to help them grapple with their current reality: life in a war zone.

Our cadre of 13 performers read the parts of the artists from the Theatre and others in the West Bank & Gaza, followed by coffee, tea, desserts and an audience discussion. The piece is so powerful, even those of us who knew the script were deeply moved to hear it performed. Our charismatic cast ranged in age from 15-83, and several had never performed in theatre before. Many of our readers strongly identified with their character, recognizing that each of them is embodying a real person, now under house arrest, now in jail, now gone, for the crime of cultural resistance. This performance honours and celebrates the power of art as resistance.

We on these islands know the power of culture, of music, art, & theatre to influence. Creative work speaks to people at a level rational approaches can’t reach. Such is the value of these stories, we’re hoping to present our project again on Hornby in January and then some of us go on tour: first stop – Denman! Onward to a New Year, all good wishes to everyone. May we work

with our conflict, learn its lessons, turn away from warfare and find common cause in restoring our humanity and repairing our environment.