Yesterday, The Freedom Bus joined with Nazareth Playback Theatre Company to perfom in the Old City of Nablus. Hoards of children crowded onto plastic chairs, in a crescent shape in front of an ancient wall. People watched from the windows overlooking the square and from the nearby bakery.
The four actors listened to stories from the audience and then performed improvised re-tellings. The performance was facilitated by a conductor, who asked the person telling the story questions to find out about their experiences in more detail.
The conductor asked the audience for story that linked to the street we were sitting in. A woman called Ranin came forward a told a story about an Israeli army incursion in Nablus. She lived on the street where we were sitting. It was night-time and no one could sleep. Everyone, especially the children, were afraid that the army might attack. When the soldiers came they demolished a house in the street, killing those inside. When asked how she felt at that time Ranin replied that she was terrified and could not sleep. “How can you really sleep,” she asked, “when you think the army may attack you at any time?”
A man called Sa’ed came forward and told a story about one of the most memorable days of his life. It was 27 April 1982, and four Palestinians had recently been killed. Sa’ed was a fifteen-year-old student at the time, and he joined the street protests. A group came from the boys’ school and another from the girls’ school. At the protest Sa’ed was shot at close range by an Israeli soldier. He was shot three bullets one in his left leg, one in his abdomen, and one in his left shoulder just few centimeters above the heart.
The final story came from a small nine-year-old boy. The conductor asked him how he felt when he saw the Israeli army. “I am afraid,” he answered. The conductor asked him why. “I am afraid they will shoot me.” The conductor was deeply affected by the boy’s words. He told the audience he was moved because in Europe children do not go around fearing that they might be shot, but in Palestine it is ordinary.
Images by Al Mayuk and Natasha Andrews.