The Freedom Theatre working for social/political change through ‘cultural resistance’

by ray goodlass

4 January: joined a ‘serveese’ shared taxi, an eight seater mini-van, for a journey of 90 minutes to get to the refugee camp in Jenin in norther Palestine, near the border with the northern part of  Israel, to visit the Freedom Theatre. This was definitely a highlight of my Palestinian experience, as I explain below.

It is renowned for its policy of non-violent ‘cultural resistance’. I also Interviewed Jonatan Stanczak, its Managing Director, who was very generous in his warm welcome and generous hospitality. I’m very impressed by its political theatre, its activism, and its philosophy. 

In more detail, it is a community based theatre and cultural centre, which offers performing arts and multi-media activities and training, including acting, psychdrama, playback theatre, stage design, filmaking, photography, and creative writing. It stages theatre productions of extant scripts but its program also includes devised works, and outreach activities such as the Freedom Bus.

Just to quickly illustrate the context in which the theatre works, the Jenin Refugee Camp suffered dreadfully at he hands of the Isreali military during the second Intifada in 2002, with a huge death toll, the founding artistic director, Juliano Mer Khamis, was assasinated last year (no surprises as to who was resonsible, but as usual in such cases, no one has been brought to justice), and only yesterday the was a ‘micro intifada’ when the residents of the camp peacefully prevented the Israeli military from arresting a man.

I really am very impressed by the Freedom Theatre and am proud to have become a donor.

As to the journey to Jenin, the country, whilst still characterised by hills, ridges, and valleys, becomes relatively less so, with more fertile land. It is in fact more of a farming area, with tractors chugging along the roads and working the fields. This part of Palestine is the old biblical Samaria, while the Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Ramallah area is what was known as Judea.

Off to Jerusalem tomorrow., the last leg of my trip