Verbatim Theatre Project, Alrowwad Centre, Aida Refugee Camp, Bethlehem, Palestine

by ray goodlass

A short entry today, for as all but one of my cast had to go to a Alrowwad Summer Camp event today. I think they had been asked to look after the little kids, as they were off an excursion today. This is a lovely feature of life here that we seem to have lost much of in the ‘West’ – i.e. family bonds and caring for one’s siblings. We seem to have replaced that with sibling rivalry!

Anyway, though I’ve no project rehearsal to report, I do have very good news: almost all the stories have been translated into English, so I can now i) fully understand them, and ii) begin the process of organising them into a script. That will take some time of trial and error as I try differewnt permutations, but it is a great step forward.

The translations all need a bit of finessing, which I will be happy to do as the need arises, which I hope will first of all be when we do the sub-titles for the film, and then the booklet, if the project ever gets that far.

Each day I’ll include a different story in my blog. Today I’ll begin with Shaima’s Story, as it includes a fair amount of the history of the Nakba (The Catastrophe, which is the Israeli conquest and expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948), though as I asked, she has beautifully personalised it by making it a family history.

Shaima’s family Nakba story:

My grandmother used to tell my father stories about how she was expelled from her hometown of al-Malha to Aida refugee camp in Nakba Day in 1948 and my father passed all of the stories to me. The stories told how happy life was in al-Malha village, full of joy and peace. They used to wake up at dawn for dawn prayer, go to their farms where they used very simple primitive tools and brought water from old wells. Life was simple and peaceful, until one day Israeli Zionist forces invaded the village, occupied it and expelled Palestinians. They were forced to live in tents after that day. Life became so despicable and diseases spread and then UNRWA was established and provided refugee camps for displaced Palestinians. My grandmother came to Aida refugee camp, gave birth to her children in the camp and was forced to adapt with a completely different life than the one she had in al-Malha. My family as all other Palestinian refugees tried their best to adapt to the new life, but Nakba Day kept repeating itself as Israeli Zionist forces raid refugee camps constantly, execute Palestinians and put so many behind bars. Challenges continue to face Palestinians where military checkpoints, separation wall and Israeli Zionist procedures are blocking them from life.

Here I faced my problem when israely forces areest my brother for the third time, when we want to visit him in Israeli jail we woke up at 3:00 am, take the bust that took us to the checkpoint, and there we were referring to the ill-treatment and inspection of Israeli soldiers. Then we boarded another bus to take us to prison. We waited for long hours in a small place where there was no ventilation to see my brother for only 45 minutes. (All this suffering for only 45 minutes), of course we could not see my brother directly, but behind a transparent glass reinforced, we hear his voice only through the phone.

Suffering we are living through the difficult living conditions in the camp, and we mean this economic in the first place, the social, health and psychological.

فهنا واجهت مشكلتي عندما اعتقلوا أخي الوحيد للمرة الثالثة, فعندما كنا نذهب لزيارته كنا نستيقظ الساعة الثالثة فجرا , حيث نستقل الحافلة التي تقلنا الى الحاجز العسكري , وهناك كنا نعني من المعاملة السيئة والتفتيش من الجنود الأسرائيليين , وبعدها نركب حافلة أُخرى لتقلنا الى السجن وكنا ننتظر لساعات طويلة في مكان صغير لا يوجد به تهوية من اجل رؤية أخي لمدة 45دقيقة فقط (كل هذه المعاناة من اجل 45دقيقة فقط) , بالطبع لم نستطع رؤية أخي بشكل مباشر, وأِنما من خلف زجاج شفاف مقوى , لا نسمع صوته الا من خلال سماعة الهاتف .

من المعاناة التي نعيشها باستمرار الظروف المعيشية الصعبة في المخيم , ونقصد بهذا الاقتصادية في الدرجة الأولى ,الناحية الاجتماعية والصحية والنفسية .