The show must go on

We are Muslims, Jews, Christians and Druse who collaborate.... We struggle.

Bonna Devora Haberman (photo credit: FACEBOOK)
Bonna Devora Haberman
(photo credit: FACEBOOK)
The late Bonna Devora Haberman must be smiling in heaven, as the show she co-founded goes on: This week, Y Theater – the avant-garde Israeli-Palestinian community theater she established in 2009 with Qadar Huraini – staged its first production since Haberman lost her battle with cancer in June.
The Thursday performance of Take Away at Jerusalem’s Beit Mazia, starring Y Theater’s original cast of Huraini and Dana Gleser, featured new actors, costumes and music. The debut performance of the revamped show will be followed by a second performance Thursday, September 24, at Tel Aviv’s Bascula Theater. The troupe is then taking Take Away on tour across the US and Canada.
The show examines how Palestinians and Israelis trash one another; set in a garbage dump on Jerusalem’s sacred hill, the Temple Mount, the play ultimately inspires hope for the possibility of coexistence and cultural understanding.
The main characters are, naturally, garbage pickers.
Initially the Jewish and Arab actors live in peace among their orderly recycling of waste materials. But following the arrival of a surveyor who is measuring for the construction of a separation barrier, coexistence collapses, and chaos and violence reign in progressive disarray.
Unrelenting and in your face, the guerrilla theater production is presented in Hebrew and Arabic, with a smattering of English and Yiddish. A simultaneous English-language translation was screened on the stage backdrop.
The production is riddled with symbolic theatrical language; for example, Huraini shakes a bottle of soda and then opens it with a violent reaction, acting out the Arabic word “intifada,” literally meaning shaking off.
Born of collaboration among performers that began at the annual Speaking Arts Conference – first held in the capital in 2009 – the Y Theater creates “a shared performance language that combines Arabic and Hebrew without translation, using contact-based choreography, music, and video art,” according to the troupe’s website.
“We are Palestinians and Israelis,” proclaims the website. “Our lives and world views usually exclude one another. We agree about almost nothing.
We are Muslims, Jews, Christians and Druse who collaborate.... We struggle.
We do not whitewash. We face difference and difficulty with caring and respect.”
Huraini notes that “normalization” of any sort, including in the realm of art and theater, is taboo in Palestinian civil society. “There are Palestinians who declined to participate in this because it is cooperation with Jews or Israelis. But there are Jewish Israelis who said they won’t or can’t participate in something that is a joint Israeli-Palestinian project.”
“I don’t think this [performance] is normalization,” Huraini tells Metro.
“Normalization is a lie that everything is okay; the situation is the opposite.
The situation is difficult, and that’s exactly what I am saying about the problem.”
Before her death, Haberman – a Canadian-born writer – described the play as “a unique collaboration between an ardent Zionist and a Palestinian nationalist.” Huraini, a Palestinian from the village of Hizma north of Jerusalem and the former theater director of the capital’s YMCA, says it’s a new way to tell the story of his homeland to the world.
Haberman, who held a doctorate in ethics and education, taught at Harvard and Brandeis universities in Massachusetts, as well as at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She trained in theater with Augusto Boal, creator of Theater of the Oppressed. Haberman also founded the Mistabra Institute for Textual Activism in Boston, where she created and directed Unmasking Esther and Inner Fire. Among other things, she is known for initiating the Women of the Wall egalitarian prayer movement.
Huraini trained in acting and directing at Al-Jamilla College for Arts in Ramallah, and founded The Comic Theater in Eizariya. He won the best actor award at the Tel Aviv Tzavta Theater Festival for his performance in Take Away.
For more information: