Arab and Israeli music
Hebrew and Arabic language
Palestinian and Jewish stories
Claimed by both cultures,
Developed through TJT's signature ensemble process,
aaron davidman director, co-creator and artistic director of tjt
In the Sprng of 2002, I shared my conviction with the tjt ensemble that we can’t bee Jewish theatre in the 20thCentury end not deal with the situation in sled, 1n a move atypical of the ensemble process, they instantly agreed.
I had developed a strong bond to Eretz Yisrael—the country and the land—when I lived there for a short period in my early twenties. The nineties were relatively calm in Israel and in my naiveté I was somewhat blind to the smoldering layers of ethnic conflict there. At the some time I was impressed by the power of place, was surprised to feel so at-home. What a relief not to be in a minority for the first time in my life, What a relief not to feel self-conscious about being Jewish.
But as the conflict heated up, my awareness grew, and, back in the States, I found myself flipping between different sides of the debate: defending Israeli rights here; defending Palestinian rights there. My core sense of social justice, which I attribute to my secular Jewish upbringing, told me that equality and justice were fundamental human rights. But my fear of persecution and my ethnic survivor instinct said “equality and justice far me and my people first.” Were my own Jewish values a threat to my own Jewish values?
I visited lsrael in September of 2002 to begin research for the project. This visit would not be about identity empowerment. The Al Aksa Intifada was now two years old and going strong. The Israeli occupation of the West Sank and Gaza was thirty-five years aid and more aggressive than ever. The fatigue in the air was palpable from Jerusalem to Acco to the Negev. Most people I met were surprised that I would choose to come there, even to visit. I interviewed dozens of Israelis and Palestinians. Their presence, their experiences, their stores affected me deeply and directly fed the process of creating this play. It quickly became clear that interviews wouldn’t be enough. We needed to work with artists from the region. The project become an international collaboration.
I met Ibrahim Miari and Meirav Kupperberg at the Acco Theatre Festival and recognized them as the kind of artists we needed. They each had experience in ensemble and physical theatre; they each had worked on projects that dealt with Arab-Jewish issues; and they each lived in communities where Jews and Arabs have a great deal of contact with one another. They also each had a passion to dig deeply into the material. They accepted our invitation and began working with us in August 2003. We have all learned a great deal from them. They have been brave in their willingness and commitment to bring the life they actually live into the work.
We’ve been influenced by many people during this process and it must be mentioned that Joe Haj, who was an integral part of the first workshop in August 2003, made an indelible impression on us all. Libby and Len Traubman and Elias Botto of the Jewish-Palestinian Dialogue Group have been unwavering in their support.
Harold Saunders, who worked for the Carter administration and helped broker the Israel-Egypt peace negotiations, said during a workshop I attended, that "peace negotiations fail because leaders are unwilling to go down a path where they can’t see the end.” Being on a road that we don’t know is the persistent (and often unwelcome) condition of the artist. We all would rather be on safe ground. It’s a natural survival instinct. But not knowing is a condition artists learn to embrace or their work dies. We learn over and over that by not knowing we have the opportunity to push out into new territory. We take another person’s hand (or seven other persons’ hands) and we start walking. A few years later we wind up with a play.
Throughout the process of making this play members of the Middle Cast Project Ensemble did not always agree. But the push and pull of ideas propelled us forward. Not every idea wound up in the play, but everyone had a place at the table and was given the opportunity to be heard. Democracy is messy. Diplomacy is messy. Dialogue is messy. And God knows the collaborative process of making art is messy. The two guiding principles that helped keep us on track I learned from the Dialogue process. First, Dialogue requires deep listening: that is, listening to understand not to prove. And, second, to have true Dialogue you have to be willing to give up what you think you already know.
We invite you now to listen deeply. And we ask, for these brief moments that we share, that you too be willing to give up what you think you already know Then maybe together we can all forge something completely new.
new israel fund show community partner
Marriages do exist between Jews and Palestinians, but they are rare [perhaps 1000 in all of Israel] and the families face grave social pressures, stigmatization, bureaucratic obstacles and ostracization from one or both their communities. In the most simple of cases, the issue of identity in Israel is complex — people are expected to incorporate many different and often competing identities.
The Israel of today is about 80% Jewish Israeli and about 20% Palestinian Israeli. Being a Palestinian citizen of Israel — as distinct from a Palestinian of the West Bank and Gaza — involves a significant level of alienation. While both Jewish and Palestinian citizens enjoy full political rights — they may stand for office and vote, they pay taxes, and may freely express their political views — there is a significant gap in social rights. It is virtually impossible for Palestinian citizens to rent land from the government as Jews can, and there are serious gaps on spending for infrastructure, education and health care in the Palestinian sector in Israel. Palestinian citizens almost never serve in the Israeli military, which has significant implications for the opportunities available to them in the workplace and in society. When they do serve, they ore often vilified by their communities and distrusted by the government.
Since Israel defines itself as a Jewish state as well as democratic, Israelis of all backgrounds are asking tough questions about how far the Jewish majority is willing to go in treating the minority as true equals. What role is there in Israel for the non-Jewish minority? What does it mean to be a “Jewish” state? These are open questions about the identity of Israel that Israelis need to resolve for the country’s long-term sustainability.
For its part, the Palestinian minority has undergone dramatic changes in its politica1 awareness and orientation over the last 20 years. Prom 1948 until 1967, Israel governed them using a military administration. Traditionally, the population was relatively quiet on issues like pursuing civil liberties, or even encouraging peace. Although there is little uniformity in public opinion, the trend has been towards greater emphasis on pursuing equal rights in the Israeli system, greater awareness and identification of their special status as both Palestinian and Israeli, and their particular narrative. The essence of being a Palestinian citizen of Israel is that one is neither fully accepted by other Palestinians and Arabs, nor are they fully accepted in lsroel, This alienation would be multiplied for someone such as our protagonist, who would have no natural community in which to seek refuge.
Historically, Jaffa was on important Arab port city just south of Tel Aviv. Traditionally, Jaffa has been borne to the cosmopolitan Arab intellectual elite that mirrored the economic success of the port. Like many other historic cities in Israel, Jaffa holds deep meaning for all three major religions in the region. Today, Jaffa is one of IsraeI’s five “mixed cities” — it is about 70% Palestinian Israeli and 30% Jewish Israeli.
While the majority of Jews who immigrated (made Aliyah) to Israel come from Eastern Europe and the Middle East, there were also some Jews who come from North America. Many of the early settlers in the land become pioneers in the early agricultural communities (or kibbutzim), deepening the Jewish connection to the land. The kibbutz movement emerged out of a Zionist and socialist ideology barn in Eastern Europe in the early 20th century and is much like a commune, with common ownership of all property and a collective responsibility for the land and the community. A major innovation in the early kibbutzim was the development of the drip irrigation system, a method still used internationally for water conservation. Groundwater resources are severely limited and a perpetual concern in Israel, thus making water allocation a hotly disputed issue and one of the most sensitive areas for Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. Water management in Israel is government-owned and fraught with tension regarding uneven distribution and competing demands among the different populations.
Military culture is deeply entrenched in Israeli society. Three major wars occurred during the first thirty years of statehood, each of which threatened the existence of Israel (1948, 1967 and 1973). This, coupled with mandatory military service for the Jewish population, has invested the Israeli army with tremendous respect. Military heroism and leadership confers enormous prestige, and often opens doors to public service, corporate leadership and certainly high social status. More recent warsk and in particular the Lebanon War (1982) which some describe as lsrael’s Vietnam, marked a shift in public attitudes towards military service. The earlier, almost mythical exultation of the Israeli fighter, is far less common in today’s post-Lebanon environment, in which one could say that the Israeli body politic lost its innocence.
provided by tjt
Both Judaism and Islam trace their ancestral lineage to Abraham (Avraharn in Hebrew and lbrahin, in Arabic), the biblical founder of monotheism, According to the Bible Abraham had two Sons, one by Hagar, his maid-servant — though a princess in her own right — and another son by his wife Sara. The son from Sara is Isaac (Yitzchak in Hebrew) whose off-spring became the Jewish people. And the son from Hagar is Ishmael (Ismail in Arabic) whose off-spring became the Islamic people. Since this lineage is traced back to these two half-brothers it is often said that Jews and Muslims are cousins.
A central event in the Bible is the binding of Isaac. Abraham is asked by God to sacrifice his son as an offering. Abraham brings Isaac to the place of sacrifice, binds him and raises up a knife only to be stopped by the voice of an angel. A ram appears in the thicket and is used as the sacrificial offering in Isaac’s place. The story also appears in the Koran, though it appears as a dream and only implies that the one to be sacrificed is Abraham’s son, here Ishmael. Again the sacrificial offering is not fulfilled.
This passage has been interpreted and argued over for thousands of years. The common analysis holds that Abraham proved himself a worthy servant of God by his willingness to offer up the thing most precious to him, his son. Another more contemporary interpretation considers that child sacrifice was a common practice in Biblical times and that Abraham embodied two opposing human tendencies: the one that kills and the one that does not. Ultimately he proves himself a true servant of humanity by not making the sacrifice and breaking the cyclical pattern of elders sacrificing the young for their own ideals.
TJT’s commitment to dialogue:
TJT is committed to continuing the dialogue of reconciliation. With this in mind, please take the time to fill out one of our feedback cards and leave it with an usher or house manager. Or take the time to e-mail us at email@example.com. We certainly appreciate your continued dialogue with this material, each other and with those of us here ot TJT. Thank you.
coexistence and reconciliation
There are many thoughtful organizations working to heal the deep wounds between Israelis and Palestinians within Israel and between Israel and the future Palestine, to create a more tolerant atmosphere, more equality and a higher degree of civil discourse. Those organizations provide a real light, are the seeds of transformation in Israeli society, and demonstrate beautifully that an alternative path of mutual acknowledgement and respect is possible.
New lsrael Fund
For 25 years, the New Israel Fund has been at the forefront of efforts to promote equality, social justice and democracy in Israel. Inspired by the vision of Israel’s founders for a just and tolerant Jewish democracy, and the values of tikkun olam, NIF supports human rights and the status of women, alleviates the gaps between rich and poor, and strengthens religious pluralism. Here are just a few NIF grantees working in the area of Jewish-Arab equality and coexistence:
Sikkuy — Jewish-Arab advocacy organization founded in 1991. They develop and implement projects to advance civic equality between Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel in government budgets, resource allocation, hiring policy, land usage, etc.
Al Beit Mosaic Communities — aiming to create Multinational Housing Cooperatives that would enable Jews and Arabs to live together in the same apartment complexes.
Neve Shalom/ Wahat al-Salam — sustains the only joint Jewish-Arab village in Israel.
Hamoked — helps protect the civil rights af Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem.
Neighbors for Joint Development in the Galilee — aims to establish a sustainable, regional development plan that enables all residents of the area to benefit from the Galilee’s rich economic, cultural and social potential.
Econamic Empowerment for Women — founded by a group of Arab and Jewish women from Haifa in an effort to improve the lives of low income women through economic empowerment.