This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I recently met with Adiv Jahshan, one of the two Artistic Directors at the Arab-Hebrew Theatre in Jaffa. He is specifically the Artistic Director for The El-Sayaraya Theater, which is the Arab portion of the Theatre.

The Arab-Hebrew Theatre is set sea-side in ancient Jaffa. Founded in 1998, the theatre sits in a once abandoned, archaic stone building.

The history of Jaffa is quite fascinating – when, before 1948, it was the epicenter of Arabic culture, before then it was conquered, destroyed, and reconquered for thousands of years. In the recent history, Jaffa was once a booming city, known for the arts, with Tel Aviv being a much smaller town in close proximity. As we see today, it is very much the opposite, and Tel Aviv boasts all a metropolitan city can offer, while Jaffa seems to sit in its shadow.

Yet if you take a step in you can see phenomenal programs and organizations originating in Jaffa, such as this theatre. It is one of the many efforts to bring Palestinians and Jews together, Arabs and Israelis in once place to share a stage, to have a voice which does not accuse, but to express and create bonds and relationships between these ‘sides’.

With the short hour I spent with Adiv, not one moment passed which disregarded history, experience, and emotion. While sitting face to face with this elder Arab man as he spoke with excitement of this city – his home, his stories were never without underlying pain and longing. Adiv is a man who has lived his life in stages of wars, struggles, fights for self-identity and respect, and still he is working with everything he can to simply bring people together. These may be people who have once hurt him, or people who may not have believed in him, but when he speaks about the occurrences that happen on his stage, he speaks with a simple love for people.

The theatre hosts an array of shows, in Arabic, Hebrew and English. As with many organizations, the Theatre is struggling financially, but refuses to allow this to affect the quality of their work. The intention of the theatre is to bring Arabs and Jews together to one stage to perform and to build amicable relationships, and to show that these individuals can coexist. The theatre also hosts an annual three-day Women’s Festival as well as an International Children’s Festival.

The video will come later, but here is a powerful excerpt from our conversation when I asked him about events that have taken place on his stage:

“We made here an open microphone for the Jews and Arabs. We opened the theatre and the stage, we say ‘you have the microphone’. In this place you could say what you like. People were very nervous, very cross, and everyone had the real freedom to say what they like. You could see and feel the eyes. There was the anger, if it’s Arabs or Jews it doesnt matter. But, in the end, it’s amazing how these people, they get to relax, they breathe outside, all the air outside, and they sat together, drank coffee and tea, and they talked. Suddenly, everything gets open. Just sit and talk, but be honest, not to play, to make fool of him, it never works. It could work one year, another year, but it will not work forever. Let the other side feel that you are right, you speak from your inside, your soul, from your heart, that you really want to live in peace with him.”

To learn more about this inspiring theatre, visit: http://www.arab-hebrew-theatre.org.il/eng/about/about.htm

Advertisements