We spent our last four days in the tiny village of At-tuwani in the South Hebron hills. We were part of a solidarity stay with the Freedom Theater from Jenin. We ate, performed, celebrated, and relaxed in close quarters with these talented Palestinian actors and amazingly resilient At-Tuwani villagers 24 hours a day during our stay there.
Our first day, Sunday, October 20, we did our show at the At-Tuwani school for 200 students who went bonkers with laughter. That evening we performed for the villagers in the open air community center where we also ate all our meals. They loved it. At-Tuwani is an ancient tiny village mentioned in Roman chronicles with old stone ruins spilled about.
The villager woman who was our main host told the story of how they brought electricity to their village finally in 2008. They had asked for permission to build pylons to bring electricity less then 1 kilometer from the main road but had always been refused by Israeli authorities especially frustrating since they are surrounded by modern Israeli settlements with bright streetlights and modern luxuries. In 2007 Tony Blair, Prime Minister of Great Britain visited the village and promised to advocate for them. Within a few months Israel not only gave permission but built the pylons. However for many months the Israeli electric utility refused to hook them up. As this was being resolved the Israeli military showed up by surprise with a bulldozer and started demolishing the pylons. Two were destroyed before the villager gathered to protect the rest. Some of the men were arrested. The Israeli’s don’t like to arrest Palestinian woman so the woman formed a chain to block the way. The army tear-gassed the woman but the woman held firm. They then sent a small group of female soldiers to beat them but the soldiers hesitated and one openly questioned the orders. The Israeli army suddenly changed mind and left. The villagers rebuilt the two pylons and wired them, working only at night and hiding whenever a patrol went past, and that’s how the village got electricity finally. The story was also about how the At-tuwani woman united to be allowed a leadership role within their own village.