On April 8, 2009, MPT visited the most heavily populated Palestinian refugee camp, Balata Refugee Camp in
Narrow passages between buildings crowded with people.
The young man who showed us around was gregarious, but gave us little history. [We were aware of some history because MPT presence in the camp in previous years.] Our guide rather expressed his strong frustration with the
On April 12, MPT visited an internal refugee camp in Jenin where sixteen thousand people live. In 12 days in 2002 during the Second Intifada, Israeli soldiers put down an armed resistance, destroying 400 houses, arresting 1000 people and killing 65. [Jenin has been occupied by
Our guide stated that this crushing of the people in 2002 was a turning point for many of the refugees. They witnessed the devastation to children who had experienced the horrors of the death and destruction in the camp. He felt the young people in the Second Intifada had died for nothing because nothing has changed, and that their lives were snuffed out when they had so much talent that would never be developed. Our guide expressed that
In 1988, Arna Mer-Khamis, an Israeli socialist activist woman who had been married to a Palestinian from
In 2005, Arna was ill with terminal cancer, but her son Juliano Mer-Khamis, who had grown up with the Jenin theatre alongside his mother and had become an Israeli actor, return to Jenin and built Freedom Theatre. A theatre group has developed the only theatre and film school in
The theatre group recently performed Animal Farm, which was rewritten by an Israeli to have a decidedly Palestinian twist. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7968812.stm] ] The Freedom Theatre building with 250 people capacity has had visiting circus and mime groups. All people – Palestinian, Israeli, international are accepted as part of the theatre as long as they hold to its principles (nonviolent action/expression—although the position of the organization is that they respect those who choose armed resistance—and rejecting normalization of the occupation/non-acceptance of the occupation.) Our guide teaches young people filming and directs film workshops. He showed us several superb short clips. Our guide presented a film in
The theatre is not always well accepted by the camp who are very conservative culturally and very protective of the young women. When our guide tried to make a film about girls being able to ride bikes in the camp, authorities forbid it.
Between the town and the refugee camp, [the physical boundaries are indistinguishable] there has been suspicion and discrimination. Refugees are labeled as uneducated and criminal and town people are labeled as rich and uncaring. Town children do not participate in the theatre. However, there are efforts to bring down the barriers between town and camp.
We watched a short part of the children’s new production, The Magic Flute and we were very impressed with the acting skills of the children