Israel denies Arab artists permits to join the March Freedom Ride

Press Release
The Freedom Theatre
Jenin Refugee Camp, Occupied Palestine
March 12, 2013 For immediate release
Israel denies Arab artists permits to join the March Freedom Ride

Ahmed Galai Ezzar and Zeid Khemiri are two rappers from Armada Bizerta, a revolutionary hip-hop group from Tunisia. Khalid Albaih is a political cartoonist from the Sudan – his stencils about the Arab Revolutions have appeared on streets and public squares throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Sondos Shabayek and Mona El Shimi are two Egyptian theatre makers, well known for developing the Tahrir Monologues – a series of solo pieces about the Eygptian revolution.
Ahmed, Zeid, Khalid, Sondos and Mona were planning to join the March Freedom Ride, a grassroots initiative of The Freedom Theatre’s Freedom Bus.
In order to gain permission for these artists to enter the West Bank of Occupied Palestine, The Freedom Theatre was required to submit permit applications to the Palestinian Ministry of Civil Affairs.
On March 11, after months of waiting, The Freedom Theatre finally received notice that these applications had been denied by the Israeli Civil Administration.
Events such as this serve as yet another stark reminder about the humiliating system under which we live: That our own Palestinian Ministries must coordinate with, and obey Israel.
– Let us continue to fight for the day when our freedom will permit fellow poets, musicians, artists and writers to travel freely and unhindered to our historic homeland, says Alia Alrosan, coordinator for the Freedom Bus.

MARCH FREEDOM RIDE
From March 17-29, students, artists and activists from across Palestine and abroad will join the people of the Jordan Valley and South Hebron Hills in their struggle against Israel’s forced expulsion of Palestinian communities in Area C.
This ride, organized by The Freedom Theatre’s Freedom Bus together with several grassroots organizations, will occur in solidarity with Palestinian farmer and Bedouin communities who are struggling against attempts to forcibly expel them from their traditional homelands. The March Freedom Ride will include building and reconstruction work, protective presence activity, guided walks, home-stays, interactive workshops, educational talks and cultural events. Through Playback Theatre, residents of the Jordan Valley and South Hebron Hills will share personal accounts about the realities of life and resistance under settler colonialism, military occupation and state-sanctioned apartheid.

ABOUT THE FREEDOM BUS
The Freedom Bus project of The Freedom Theatre uses interactive theatre and cultural activism to bear witness, raise awareness and create alliances in Occupied Palestine. In practice, this project offers a unique opportunity for activists, artists, writers, photographers and many others to come together and establish grassroots contact with communities engaged in day-to-day struggle to survive and resist occupation. Over the past year, the Freedom Bus has engaged over 2000 people in creative acts of community building and cultural resistance throughout Occupied Palestine.
FOR INTERVIEWS
Alia Alrosan (Arabic speaking)
E: alia@thefreedomtheatre.org
T: +972(0)599304523
Ben Rivers (English speaking)
E: ben@thefreedomtheatre.org
T: +972(0)592-902256
T: +972(0)544-930542

LINKS
Web: www.freedombus.ps
Blog: freedombuspalestine.wordpress.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/thefreedombus
Twitter: @FreedomBusPal

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Day Eight: Stand with At-Tuwani!

On the penultimate day of the September Freedom Ride, the Freedom Bus visited the small village of At-Tuwani in the South Hebron Hills. The village has a long history and archaeological investigation has uncovered evidence of Byzantine, Roman and Ottoman buildings in the village.

At-Tuwani is located in Area C, which means that it is subject to Israeli administration in all civilian matters. As a result, the villagers of At-Tuwani have had to defend their houses from demolition, as they are not included in Israel’s master plan for the region. They have also struggled to gain access to water, while the surrounding settlements are supplied by Israeli water system. The settlers themselves also frequently attack and harass villagers, shepherds and children on their way to school. The children and shepherds of At-Tuwani are accompanied by human rights volunteers from Operation Dove who act as observers and record acts of violence committed by settlers. Indeed, shortly before we visited, an Israeli activist accompanying Palestinians near At-Tuwani was blindfolded, mugged, beaten and threatened by three Israeli settlers outside the illegal outpost called “Avigail.”

 

The actors of the Freedom Bus performed outside with a back drop of ancient olive trees. The audience were asked to share their stories, with a focus on experiences with settlers.

A very old woman came forward to tell her story. One day she was in the fields with her sheep when she was attacked by settlers and beaten. She screamed and screamed. People from the village came and started shouting, chanting and protesting. The settlers called the Israeli police. They came and started to arrest her son. At this point she became very angry and started shouting at the police. She took off her slipper and hit a policeman in the face! This story elicited great cheers from the crowd.

A man came forward and told a story of an altercation with some settlers. He called the Israeli police to come and intervene. One policeman came. He stood near to the policeman so that we would be protected from the settlers, who fired shots in their direction. His mother was shot. They called for the ambulance but it did not come. He had to carry his mother to the hospital on the back of a donkey.

 

Finally, an older man, a shepherd, told a story about settlers. He had wheels made for his car that were decorated with the colours of the Palestinian flag. A settler came and stole one of the wheels from his car. The entire village and people from the surrounding areas went to protest outside the settlement to demand the return of the stolen wheel.. The protest was mainly made up of children, because it just so happened that the wheel was stolen at the same time that a summer camp for the local Palestinian children being held. The army sent more soldiers than there were children protesting to police the demonstration.

The soldiers told everyone to go home, promising that they would find the wheel and return it. The man (pictured above) said, “No! We will not go home until we get the wheel. And we will not go home until the settler who took the wheel returns it to us in person.” Eventually, the settler who had stolen the wheel came with his pick-up truck and gave the man a wheel. But it was different wheel, not the one with the Palestinian colours, but a new one that was better quality.

“This story has nothing to do with the wheel,” the man said, “The point is that we made the settlers concede to us. That is the victory.”

 

Images by Al Mayuk.

Day One: Stand with Faquaa!

Today the Freedom Bus visited the small village of Faquaa. Although the town’s name means spring water bubbles, it has been a long time since the villagers had easy access to clean water. Since Israel erected the separation barrier, the inhabitants of Faquaa have been cut off from their land and can no longer use their traditional underground springs.

Although the village is allocated 300,000 litres of water per day by the Israeli Civil Administration, the only filling station is 6km away from the village, and the water, once divided evenly between the villagers, leaves only 75 litres a day per person. This is well below the 100 litre minimum put forward by the World Health Organization.

To access the water the villagers have to pay to hire tankers to collect the water from the filling station and ship it back to the village. This option remains unaffordable for many, who instead choose to collect rain water in tarps or large containers. This water is often difficult to sterilize, leading to an increase in illness.

The view across the dividing fence

The Freedom Bus performance took place outside, with a view over well-irrigated Israeli fields on the other side of the dividing fence. We were watched, from a distance, by Israeli soldiers looking through binoculars and photographing and filming the crowd over the barbed wire.

The acting troupe of the Freedom Bus performed for the villagers, inviting them to share their real-life stories of water shortage and then transforming them into short pieces of theatre, using a technique called Playback Theatre.

We heard from an older woman about how her family’s well water became polluted with sewage. The family tried everything to clean it, adding chlorine and other chemicals, but nothing worked. In the end they had to replace all the water in the well. She added that lack of access to water was so difficult because it is used for everything; cooking, bathing the children, cleaning the house, washing clothes etc. A young man also shared a story about his grandmother,  whom he described as an extremely strong woman who was able to carry large jars of water. However, fourteen years ago she was collecting water from the well when she was chased and attacked by settlers. She injured herself and broke the jar. This story highlights that the problem of water access in Faquaa is not a new one, but is part of a long struggle that goes back generations.

It was a powerful setting for the start of the September Freedom Ride.

Images by Al Mayuk and Natasha Andrews.