Verbatim Theatre Project, Alrowwad Theatre & Culture Centre, Aida Refugee Camp, Bethlehem, Palestine. Thursday 13 – Saturday 15 July, 2017

by ray goodlass

Three days without a blog post, but I’ve been having a very fulfilling time with Australian Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon since late last Thursday afternoon.

That day began with a productive class/rehearsal, and the students didn’t seem too daunted by my instruction that they type up their stories when I can’t be present on Friday.

I followed that by taking part in an Australian Greens Global Issues Group meeting as a Greens NSW delegate via TeamSpeak, though my role was confined to listening, as apparently when I spoke I sounded like a ‘chipmunk’. Oh well, I tried.

The it was off to meet Lee in Ramallah, by bust via Jerusalem. The final leg, being late afternoon rush hour, was hot, crowded and so I arrived feeling dizzy and nauseous, but soon made a good recovery. From Ramallah we drove to the village of Nabu Saleh (where I was tear gassed four years ago) to meet with Dr Tamimi, who is one of the founders of the nascent Palestine Greens part. It was the back to Bethlehem for me, via shared taxi. Here I was helped by APHED staffer Jeremy. who negotiated the late night bus station for me, which I doubt I coulkd have managed on my own. Jeremy was our guide and driver/helper throughout this little trip, and he was wonderful throughout.

After only a few hours sleep it was back to Ramallah early Friday morning to meet Xavier Abu Eid, Communications Adviser for the PLO, with Lee and Jeremy,

Then Jeremy drove us to the village of Bili’in, which has a very well known weekly march on Friday to Israel’s Apartheid Wall, which has taken a huge chunk of their farmland, burnt or uprooted hundreds of their olive trees, and has cut them off from what trees remain. The protest involved reminding the Israeli military, esconced behind the wall, via a loud hailer, of their misdeeds, and also setting fire to a tyre at the gate, which doesn’t sound much, but was very effective

We then drove south to Hebron, the largest Palestinian city (after Occupied East Jerusalem) in the West Bank. What a horrible situation for the people of this fine old city, for here the illegal Israeli settlers have established themselves in the centre of town. There a famous street where the locals have to stretch nets and tarps over the street because the settlers throw rubbish down onto them, including filled nappies.

The ratio of soldiers to settlers is 3 to 1, so as there are about 600 settlers there are 1,800 or so soldiers

These Israeli soldiers made our visit as difficult as they could, refusing us permission to go to almost everywhere we had planned to visit, including the Ibrahim Mosque (tomb of Ibrahim (Abraham in English), but we did manage to get to the wonderful little Shuhada Street kindergarten, made possible with funding from the Leichardt (Sydney) Friends of Hebron and APHEDA.

The on to Bethlehem, where Lee was able to see the Wall at close quarters, including where it has cut off Rachel’s Tomb from all but Israelis, and the Story History Wall Museum, before dinner at Banksy’s Walled Off Hotel.

A terrific and very busy day, and I’m graterful for the honour Lee showed me in letting me accomnpany her.

Today (Saturday) a really encouraging class. The student actors are now becoming very adept at the exercises and games, but the b onus today was that all but two had typed up their stories, and when they read them to me they took direction very well, showing real development as they moved on to having another go. Very encouraging.

I also talked to Isa, the film teacher and set goy about my ideas for how we could stage it, which is essentially a ‘Poor Theatre’ version of as TV studio. Again, very encouraging, as he understood what I was trying to convey.

Oh, to add another bonus, one of my Charles Sturt University graduates, Bethany Simons, turned up at Alrowwad. I say ‘one of my graduates, but I had been promoted to postgraduate courses supervision by the time Bethany was at CSU. She’s had a very successful career (Green Room awards and all), but is now taking a year off to travel, and has already been to 20 countries. Here she’s living at Aida Refugee Camp and teaching in a community cooking classes project for people with a disability. Beth is going to drop in to my class/rehearsal tomorrow.