My stomach turned a few times while I was watching the play Hebron in the Kameri theatre in Tel Aviv. I believe the other bereaved members of the audience felt like me,. The play tells the story of two families; Israeli and Palestinian who live in Hebron. The play starts with the death of Yotam. Yotam is murdered by Halil, the son of the former mayor of Hebron. Halil tries to kill the Israeli military governor who humiliated his dad and family and by accident, shoots his son, Yotam. Racheli the mother of Yotam decides not to bury him. Her eldest son kidnaps Halil's son, the ten month old, Naeim, as an act of revenge and kills him. Rania the mother of Naeim decides like Racheli, not to bury her son. From here the vendetta and animosity keeps on and many more from both sides join the growing list of the dead. The play ends in an apocalypse in which world order is ruined, the earth refuses to accept the bodies, rats fill the streets of Hebron and bite all her residents and flames rise from and above the city. Just the innocent get away; a girl who wants to be a singer, a retarded child, a poor child and a donkey. They all look for a place where they can live without fear.
After the play a discussion was held with the writer Tamir Grinberg, Dr. Aliza Lavie, the actress Raeida Adon and Boaz Kitain and Ali Abu Awwad, from the PCFF; Unfortunately the discussion instructor didn't prepare herself properly and didn't know the name of our organization. Worse than that, she didn't know that Ali had lost his brother Yussef in the conflict. She divided the time between the writer who talked about the play, the Dr. who said what she didn't like in the play, the actress who spoke about her feelings as an Arab participating in the play, and from my point of view was, the highlight of the panel; Boaz and Ali who, although they didn't get much time, spoke wonderfully
Tamir Grinberg told the audience that though the left wing in Israel complains that the play isn't left enough and the right wing complains that the play isn't right enough, they are both right because the play is apolitical. I definitely agree with him. The play does not try to show the reality in area H2 (The area of the Jewish settlements in Hebron, ruled by Israel), as it is, and as I have seen it with my own eyes. According to Grinberg the play is about a metaphysical conflict that starts with belief and leads to total heresy.
In the play, I saw very clearly what we in the PCFF saying. It was clear from the play that blood shed just leads to more blood shed and continues the circle of killing and violence and that pain is the same no matter whether you are a Palestinian or an Israeli and no matter how your beloved was killed in the conflict. The pain of loss is universal just like the need of revenge; the question is what a person chooses to do with his anger; to continue the destruction or to build something new, sane and full of hope.
Boaz Kitain, the PCFF Israeli General Manager honestly said that for him watching the play was too difficult. "We talk about our personal loss again and again, but it was too hard for me to watch it. One of the typical things which occur in Palestinian and Israeli encounters is the contest of who is more of a victim. When we in the PCFF speak to each other about our loss we get closer. This closeness is a message of hope." Boaz talked about his Grandmother who lived in Hebron in 1929 during the massacre of the Jewish residents of Hebron by Palestinians. She saw what was going on and was sure that all her family was going to be killed. Suddenly somebody broke the wall of the house. It was her Palestinian neighbor who, on seeing what was happening, came quickly from the vineyard, broke the wall between his house and theirs and rescued her family. Boaz’s grandfather was a Dr. and stayed in Hebron for the next few days to treat the Israeli and Palestinian wounded. Boaz returned recently to Hebron as part of our project "Knowing is the beginning", with his project partner Usama, and together, they went to look for his Grandparents house and the family who saved them. Boaz said that what makes the difference between the one who saves life and the one who takes it, is the personal choice. "People must understand that are responsibility for life and death."
Ali Abu Awwad said that he saw in the play the despair, the hope and the will to live on both sides. "It's hard", said Ali, "to show the humanity of both sides and keep away from politics, this play makes it possible not to judge." Ali explained that he is a refugee from 1948, and had sat in an Israeli prison for five years. He had been shot in the leg by a settler and his brother Yussuf was killed in the year 2000. His mother was active in the P.L.O. and had also sat in prison. "If I can speak about Peace everybody can. I am proof that there is a partner on the other side. I joined the PCFF because of my personal pain and loss. After four years of seeing lots of pain on both sides, my aim became promoting Peace and Reconciliation. As Mahatma Gandhi said; there is no way to peace. Peace is the way. Both sides decide on terms regarding who needs to do what first in order to have Peace. Peace won't happen that way. We don't have to accept the situation as it is now and to keep on living like that. To be a human being is to acknowledge the rights of the other. Let's focus on life."
At the entrance to the theatre a man gave papers with some details about Jewish connections to the city of Hebron since the days of the Bible and some details about the 1929 massacre. I took what he gave and read it. As a person who believes in dialogue I'm always willing to hear what the other side have to say. So I read the paper, saw the play, listened to the panel. I have been to Hebron and all I have to say is that I'm sorry that the settlers in Hebron never bother to open a dialogue and listen to the other side no matter whether they are Palestinian or Israeli. Watching the play would show them that the papers are irrelevant and unnecessary. Listening to Boaz and Ali would hopefully make them understand that there's no way out and no point in arguing about who is the victim and who is right. There is a lot of pain on both sides, a harsh and painful reality and a crucial and existential need to find a solution which will make life possible for both sides.
Do I recommend the play? Yes I do, but what I recommend even more is to listen to Boaz and Ali.
Sharon Kalimi Misheiker - July 2006
Hebron - Forum members visiting Hebron.
Hevron -Robi Damelin