Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Our sign is the stone: Stories from Nabi Saleh

Juicebox Gallery

By Leona Vicario - October 22, 2013
Section: [Main News] [Culture]
Tags: [Nabi Saleh] [Freedom Theatre ]

 Photos by Julie C.

The living room of activist and Nabi Saleh Popular Committee member, Manal Tamimi, has turned into a shelter for foreigners and locals during the village’s weekly anti-occupation demonstration. On these days, the room is transformed into meeting centerof violent Israeli military attacks or the training room where, sitting down meanwhile drinking coffee, countless stories about the life in Palestine have been told. 

One of these conversations sparked the inception the Freedom Theatre’s latest performace, 'Our Sign is The Stone,' which is based on the recent history of the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh. The play pays homage to Mustafa and Rushdi Tamimi, residents of the village who were shot and killed by Israeli soldiers in 2011 and 2012 respectively, and these days celebrates its lasts performances around West Bank after more than one month on tour. 

 "The idea of this play came accidently," Manal explains. "Ben[Rivers, an actor for the Freedom Theatre] was here one year ago and we were talking about the Popular Resistance Committee. During the conversation, I wondered that it could be better if someone came to do a play about the popular resistance, performing in all the places which do not participate in this struggle, cause many villages in Palestine do not know anything about resistance," Manal remembers. 

A few months later, she received a proposal from Ben. The British writer Di Trevis came to the village and stayed with her family for one week, gathering testimonies from some of the inhabitants of Nabi Saleh. 

"They talked about real situations such as when the Israeli army threw a gas bomb inside a house, forcing the residents to go out through the windows to prevent them from suffocating; the soldiers' incursions at night or the shortage of water," Mohammad Dabdoud, one of the  actors performing in the play, recounts. 

The outcome of this experience is the artistic placement on stage of Nabi Saleh’s struggle and  community of resistance against the Israeli occupation and its innumerable aftermaths: land confiscation, ethnic segregation and/or racial discrimination that lead to arrests, protests, violence and even to the death.

 The play presents a powerfully intimate form of communication; simple music and several actors remain framed in a humble stage where daily scenes of real characters are recreated to trace "the political development of a young boy as his community organizes an extraordinary campaign against the Israeli occupation," Di Trevis, the performance's creators described. 

During the play, actors do not have a very obvious role because "it would not be naturalistic since it is based on many different stories, but everybody knows what we are talking about, they expect what will happen," says Mohammad. 

Spectators from the village were reduced to tears during the performance, remembering the recounted situations or their own stories. Sn elderly Palestinian man in Jericho cried because the performance reminded him of his the loss of three of his sons.

Manal shares that feeling. "The first time that we saw the play was very difficult for everybody," she assured. "We relived everything again cause sometimes, when you are in the middle of the action, you forget what is real or about some details. But to see it by other people, especially when they are talking about Rushdi and Mustafa..."

However, she praises the play, pointing out that this feeling does not show up because the performance focuses on Nabi Saleh but because "it is about the suffering of Palestinians, it is about the occupation or the price that the children paid due to this situation when they should be just children and not the enemy in this situation... So this is a good way to spread the idea of non violence resistance; to spread out what is really happening, raise the awareness, make people understanding the meaning of this idea.". 

Supporting the Non-Violent Struggle

Nabi Saleh was not chosen by chance. It has became a symbol of non-violent resistance three years ago, when its residents decided to wage a non-violent struggle against the stealing of their land and a water well by the neighboring Israeli settlement of Halamish, the attacks of settlers on Palestinian civilians and the Israeli military occupation as a whole. 

"This village is a good model of popular struggle for other villages. It is almost an invisible place but everybody has heard about the struggle here," Mohammad argues. 

Also the performance’s meaningful title, “Our Sign is the Stone,” draws a strong connection to the non-violent means of resistance most commonly associated with the First Intifada. 

"The name of the play is 'Our sign is the stone' because we do not see in it a way of violence but our way of struggling," Mohammad assures, coinciding with Manal's opinion. "This is another way of non violence resistance, which should not be misunderstood with pacifism," she stresses. 

 However, Manal goes on, "the entire world is influenced by the mainstream media, Israeli media or controlled in Israel's favour that portrays Palestinians as terrorist and the Israelis as victims who suffer our attacks meanwhile they are trying to live a normal life." 

In order to criticise the demonization Palestinians, the performance includes the presence of a naive foreign journalist who tries to teach Palestinians how to resist and convince them to give up in this practice of stone throwing, since, as has been repeated over and over again, it “delegitimizes” the Palestinian struggle  

"Sometimes, they [journalists or international activists] look for equality between the soldiers and the people in here or ask why we throw stones: 'you have to do the demonstrations without any violence,' they say. And that behaviour makes people here feel very bad. 'Do you want to talk about violence? Go and tell to the soldiers!' Some of them come to pitch into the victim instead of into the guilty one," Mohammad critics. 


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