young men have gathered in Lulus room, piling
onto the spare bed and offering me a chair with their
instantaneous politeness. Munirs placid face
looks out from his poster across his younger brothers
bed and beyond. Lulus nickname means pearls,
recalling the Qurans celestial simile of serving-boys
like protected pearls. Lulu was protected in this
world. Although the tank sniper damaged his legs severely,
he is still amongst the living to keep his brother
Munir in his heart.
pearls miracle is its transformation from gritty
irritation to lustrous little orb, courtesy of a boisterous
oyster. The irritation of Lulus injury becomes
an occasion for improvised theatre. We spotlight a
foreigners visit to the Refugee Camp, and the
residents quest to determine whether or not
they can trust him. The role of the foreigner goes
to a young man who has told me he is illiterate, but
in fact has very good English. He becomes the English-speaking
Dr. David and I become his translator.
plunges into the part. When one of his friends aims
a question in Arabic like a projectile, he turns to
me and asks quizzically, What is he saying?
They ask Dr. David why he has come to Jenin Refugee
Camp from America, and he explains sincerely that
he wants to see the situation for himself. Their cascading
doubts are so convincing that I finally break character
and say, He is like me! Their rejoinder
is, No, you came here to help us. What has he
done? Dr. David, still in character, protests
that he just arrived a few hours ago.
questions are animated, but the greatest dramatic
tension comes when several friends enter the hospital
room to announce that Dr. Davids real family
thinks he has been martyred, and grieving neighbors
are gathering at the house. When they tell him the
bitter coffee is on the boil, he realizes they are
serious and exits the stage. Not long afterwards he
reappears, having reassured the mourners that he is
still amongst the living. Stepping back into his role,
he draws subsequent unsuspecting visitors into the
play, asking me, Who is this? as they
come in. In the end, his real life friends decide
that his persona must be a spy. I wish they had given
him more of a chance. Since all of us were actors,
our audience of one, Lulu, applauds our efforts.
personal drama includes his mothers death, shortly
after his brothers, during the April Invasion.
She was kneading bread dough when a sniper targeted
her, and Lulu stayed by her side for three long days.
She could have been saved, but the mighty Israeli
Army prevented all attempts to evacuate this housewife
to an ambulance. Perhaps Sharon and his Defense Minister
Mofaz applauded the scene. They took their strategic
places at the top of Jenin Refugee Camps hill,
making a spectator sport of their soldiers grisly
carnage below, not unlike Roman emperors who gorged
themselves on meals peppered by the sound of Christians
being martyred in the arena. They brought a literal
dimension to World War Two vocabulary delimiting theatres
day at the hospital, I stop to chat with the crew
that does the cleaning, one of the few steady jobs
to be found. In my constant quest to encourage new
ways of listening, I suggest another theatre game.
The obvious characters are an Army officer and a Palestinian
youth/shabb. We begin with a question and answer session.
The actors are remarkably adept at barking questions,
as well as at answering rapidly and sometimes apprehensively,
and they include their four-part name as the Army
demands. Then we switch the order of the dialogue
so the answer precedes the question. This is more
Fawzi Khalid Abu-Hasan!
Jenin Refugee Camp!
do you live?
Im a cleaner at Jenin Hospital.
I dont know!
are the terrorists?
stumble over the order repeatedly as I try to get
them to do it flawlessly. Another day when I try it,
I cannot. Today the top thespian is Hani, with whom
I had a heated argument the night before about the
Qurans view of Jewish and Christian worship.
I battled his strident stance until an older man mediated
with more modulated interpretations. The sensitive
issue concerned who is a legitimate target in context
of the Israeli Armys continual attacks on weak
and innocent members of Palestinian communities. Hani
concluded by saying that Muslims are forbidden to
kill children and old people, and I concluded by ordering
him to Think about that! Think about that!
with typical Palestinian forgiveness, he greeted me
the next day with a smile and agreed that we were
still friends. Now in our soldier-meets-youth scene,
I gained a new respect for his capacities to listen
and respond with greater flexibility than any of us.
I felt this could be applied to larger spheres than
our coffee-break theatre.
ever-smiling Zayd tells me of the time he surrendered
himself during the April invasion when the Army was
using loudspeakers to summon all men from age fourteen
to fifty. He fell at the youngest end of the spectrum
and, as is typical, they blindfolded him with a black
and white strip that looks like a piece of a Palestinian
headdress/kafiyya, and manacled him. They herded the
men to a big sand pile at a building-block factory
in the Camp. When they began to beat him with a rifle
butt, he laughed. The soldier shouted, Arent
you afraid? Yes, said Zayd, partially
in Hebrew and still laughing, I am afraid!
Which one played his role most believably?
was first impressed by the theatrical quality of the
Israeli Army when I joined the International Solidarity
Movement in a violence-prevention mission in June
2002. The Army had emptied Balata Refugee Camp in
Nablus of its able-bodied and handicapped men, and
were hacking holes in the walls of homes. The imbalance
of material power was palpable, a community of unarmed
women, children, and old men facing tanks, helicopter
gunships, and aggressive armed soldiers invading their
homes. If a suburban American could envision waking
up to this one morning, would she approve this allocation
of her taxes?
any case, the Army must have its headgear! In the
morning, they went about their destructions wearing
traditional kettle-shaped helmets. After their lunch
break, they reappeared like a line of termites from
a hole in a homes wall, this time wearing floppy
squashed-muffin hats adorned with camouflage leaves.
Had the terrain changed? Were they now undertaking
jungle warfare amidst the furniture, bedclothes, and
chunks of plaster as they made a path through the
houses? No. This was merely a costume change. Was
it for their personal amusement or was it to impress
their audience? There was no applause.
men are dead! Why do they need to dig up their corpses
and shoot them again? asked a Balata Camp resident
of the soldiers macabre practice. It serves
no practical purpose for the Army or the nation they
are defending, so they hide these deeds from their
own nationals. And they target their audience. They
design these dramatic enactments of their attitudes
and armed abilities to create an atmosphere of terror
for their chosen audience.
is theatre concludes an article on the topic.*
in Jenin, one night there is no room at the Internet
Café because so many boys are playing computer
shooting games. I stop at the Taxi office next door
and inquire about the bullet holes in the front window.
Did the international press or the Israeli populace
hear about this attack on a business? The tanks targeted
their usual audience, the Palestinian populace, especially
those working, and more especially those employed
the soldiers charging forth in their tanks intend
to make the Quran a witness to their violence? Bullet
holes mar the holy verses in three different frames,
two of which are from the Throne verse/Ayat al-Kursi,
whose words many people wear on a necklace for protection.
The Army snipers shot a bullet hole next to the words,
Who is it that intercedes except by His permission?
and where it says that God is the Self-sustaining.
The taxi drivers in the office were protected that
they are ready for some fresh views, and take roles
for impromptu theatre, depicting the local situation
as they see it currently. The Director arranges each
symbolic person in his place after much discussion
from the group. One burly driver barges into the middle
of the stage because he does not like his colleagues
interpretation and wants to do it right!
I suggest there may be a variety of views, and assure
him he can have a turn as Director afterwards.
drama really begins when the Director changes the
peoples positions according to how he would
like to see them. He shows UNRWA closed because the
people are relying on themselves, and the Palestinian
refugee watching as the Israeli soldier and the foreigner
engage in discussion. This causes a mild uproar, so
he rearranges to have the Palestinian refugee and
the Israeli soldier discussing together directly,
much as the youth at the hospital had done on a previous
occasion with a similar scene. Our taxi driver-Directors
vision elicits a vociferous _expression of opinions.
I applaud this healthy exchange of ideas in the guise
of dramatic art!
home from town one day, I am hailed by a taxi. I inquire
about the bullet hole in the windshield at the drivers
eye level. It is from when an Israeli sniper killed
a taxi driver several months ago in one of the incidents
that welcomed me back to Jenin. This violence sends
a vivid message of horror to the population it wants
to impress. The identity of its victim is inconsequential
- Israel had nothing against that taxi driver. More
important is the emotional impact on the community
of survivors. Does this incident make them afraid
not like seeing it on television, says Allam
of being near a home demolition. That is an understatement!
You witness by hearing and feeling the explosion in
your very being. How would the suburban voting American
define it if her next door neighbors house were
exploded? As a reasonable security measure?
a pre-dawn raid of home invasions in the Camp, the
housewives compare notes on the Israeli soldiers
makeup. Their faces were painted black, with
yellow and red stripes. Ours were
yellow with red markings. Warpaint is terrors
* Where I draw the line
by Brian Michael Jenkins, in Perspectives on Terrorism,
Christian Science Monitor.
Dr. Annie C. Higgins specializes in Arabic and
Islamic issues and is conducting research in Occupied
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