Getting to Jenin was not easy. It took over 6 hours to drive a 100 miles from Bethlehem to Jenin. We were turned back at an Israeli army checkpoint. Theoretically since we have Israeli license plates and foreigner passports with tourist visas, we should be able to go anywhere, but they turned us back anyway. There are over 100 internal Israeli army checkpoints in the West Bank that the Israeli Army uses to control and harass movement by Palestinians and visitors. This checkpoint was going from “area A” to “area C”, designations from the Oslo Accords. Area C, 60% of the West Bank, is completely controlled by the Israeli Army, taxes go through the Israelis before returning to the Palestinians. (Last year the Israelis withheld those taxes for 10 months) In area C the Palestinian communities are under the heaviest harassment and stealing of land by Israeli settlements, and that is where we are performing nearly all of our shows.
Our first show was in the Jenin Refugee Camp, one of the most famous refugee camps in the West Bank. We did an hour long show in a Women’s Center for over 200 children and adults. The kids loved the show, screaming in joy, but we were a little unprepared for the wildness of the boys, who ran about, touching us, grabbing us. These shows in Jenin area are sponsored by the Freedom Theater.
Jenin Camp looks like a particularly crowded part of Jenin, not a tent camp, but it has lived under a yoke of oppression. Most of the camp was bulldozed after the last intifada in 2006. The founder of the Freedom Theater Juliano Mer Khamis was shot dead by an unknown masked gunman in front of the theatre. His other co-organizer is still in Israeli custody. Many have stories of family members dead or in Israeli prison.
Our second show was in a lovely garden in the community of Al Jalameh on an outdoor stage. Fidaa, the wonderful young storyteller woman who is organizing these shows introduced us and 260 children laughed raucously for an hour at a really enjoyable show.
As we arrived Tora Village there were already children waiting for us, who followed us everywhere. The show at a school was one of our best, the crowd of mostly children laughing loud, especially over everything Leah did, who they adored. Afterwards of course coffee with a few elders.
That afternoon a last-minute show back in front of the theater in Jenin camp for 76 neighborhood Jenin camp people and a few actors from the theater.