Jewish children on stage together to forge a truce across the barricades.
BETHANY (West Bank) – The little kibbutz theater and
the hospice in Bethany are separated by many miles of highway, by Lake
Tiberiade and the Jordan Valley. And by snipers, and Sharon’s wall, and
Arafat’s duplicity. And by the checkpoints clogging the West Bank. And by
the hate of the second Intifada. And in the end, by History with a capital
“H”. Angelica and Samar have spanned it all in an embrace that began two
years ago and has yet to loosen.
orchards and military turrets in northern Israel, near the borders with
Hezbollah’s Lebanon, in that small theater called “Arcobaleno” [Rainbow],
Angelica Calň Livnč teaches young Jews, Arabs, Circassians, Druse,
Christians and Muslims to recite the lines of peace. At every terrorist
attack she prays: “My Lord, drive out hate, let us remain who we are.”
She says, “I had been looking for a Palestinian friend for a long time,
someone like me. I heard about her. One day I called her, and later we met.
You have to meet
a wild bunch of kids (she calls them “my children”) at the Jeel El
Amal orphanage in Bethany, which she inherited from her parents and expanded
into an even more defiant place of refuge - Lazarus Home – hiding
even young single mothers that Palestinian society would irredeemably damn,
Samar Sahhar is indeed special. She laughs, “Angelica
became my friend, then my sister. God has made us the same.”
This is the
story of a friendship that is almost forbidden by the prevailing political
climate. It is a story with a small “s” of an Israeli woman and a
Palestinian woman, whom perhaps God did make identical but who appear almost
to be opposites: Angelica is minute and brimming with nervous energy, black
curls and long lashes that moisten at almost nothing. Samar is robust and
unsinkable, with short hair and arms like a champion of the faith.
Only when you
have looked a little more closely do you see it in their eyes, that
identical gaze. And then you understand that when they call themselves “sisters”
it is not just a manner of speaking. Last Wednesday they met in Rome at the
Vittoria Theater in front of six hundred schoolkids from seven lyceums. But
before the show began—the show that Angelica is taking around Italy, “Bereshit,
In the beginning”, with her eighteen very young actors who dance in
white masks and recite lines like “No place is safe! There has to be a
solution … some hope!”—Samar appeared on the stage. And Angelica had not
been expecting her. They embraced each other there in front of the
uncomprehending Roman kids. Then Samar said, “If the whole world could
see this show everyone would know that peace is truly possible.” And
then there was a deep hush that lasted three full minutes before the
students finally burst into applause.
But the small
and determined story of Angelica and Samar is full of words. With the words
of Angelica, a 47-year-old who left Rome as a young girl to go live on Sasa,
one of the last Kibbutzim still keeping true to the original Socialist
ideals. She taught Batya and Nemi, Amal and Sharif and all the other pupils
at the Kerem Ben Zimra theater workshop that they can make a difference, “that
weeping in front of the television is not enough.” The idea behind “Bereshit”,
those white masks that fall to the stage floor “revealing the beauty of
diversity” accompanied by the songs of Noah (“it’s over, it’s all
done, we will touch our dream”), came from the children after six months
with Angelica and Samar. “When I spoke for the first time before the
regional council of High Galilee, when I said that I also wanted Arab
children, they said, ‘Well, it’s a nice idea, but with the Intifada … you
know … politically it’s not the thing to do. Forget about the Arabs.’
And I answered, ‘Either them or nothing.’ And it worked.” One
of her actors, Sharif Balut, a big Arab boy from the village of Fassouta,
took the script so seriously that he caused an outbreak of peace, real
peace, between his cohorts and the Jewish kids from Elkosh: “We were in a
situation of gang warfare. But I noticed Ofri over there at their barricade,”
she tells, “and one day he came to see me at the theater. I went up to
him and said, ‘Hello friend, do you remember me?’ Yes, he did. And so we all
made a ‘sulha’, which means reconciliation both in Arabic and in Hebrew.”
too, in the twin shelters on opposite sides of a dusty street in Bethany,
works with words—the words of a mother or big sister for the 70 children at
Jeel El Amal (“Generation of Hope”), the 33 little girls at the
Lazarus Home and the women hidden at the orphanage who find a refuge
from their troubles. At the moment there are three women, a prostitute, one
just out of an insane asylum and another who killed the man who raped her.
Samar is 42 years old and Catholic. The first stone of the first shelter was
placed by Alice, her mother, many many years ago. “I was initiated with
the Memores Domini,” she says. She does not have a family of her own. “My
children are all these here.” Abdallah, 10 years old, with two stumps
instead of hands, who would not utter a word when he was first brought there
(“now he is the smartest one in the fourth grade”) asked her, “Mama, how
do sheep and cows eat if there’s a war?” All of them together, with the
children recovered from the refugee camps in Ramallah, Bethlehem, and
Tulkarem, decided that the sheep and cows had to start eating again and so
the war had to end. Samar bursts out, “An orphan doesn’t have anyone and
so the kids on the street are all ready and able to join the Intifada. Mine
aren’t. I don’t want my children to kill or die!”
And so Samar
fights her invisible war against recruiters and the Palestinian authorities,
and pays a price. She opened a bread shop in town to help support her work,
but she has not been able to get the electricity hooked up for a year.
People on the street have signed a petition to close the orphanage “that
hides the bad women”. If Samar gave up, the “bad women” would
probably be lapidated. And so she hangs in there. And she gathers close
around her the latest arrivals: Safiria, 6 years old, found in a chicken
coop covered with burns; Nanni, 7years old, chained in a cave in Bethlehem.
She fusses over Nahla, 14 years old, who has a long scar on her forehead but
is a whiz in science and attends the Peace Now marches. “Let’s all sing
together, habibti, my loves,” she says. Crystalline voices are raised in
the refectory, “Ya raba salam / imnan biladana salam, God of peace /
give peace to our land,” and reach all the way to the laundry room, ruled by
Alia, the woman who killed her rapist. His relatives have been hunting for
her ever since she got out of prison. She was a wrinkled face. She says, “I
am good at washing, you know? But my legs are always hurting, everything is
always hurting.” Samar strokes her hand, “It will pass, everything
for everything to pass, Samar and Angelica have filled two years of
friendship. Their first meeting was in East Jerusalem, their second at the
Weeping Wall. Together they toured schools and universities in Italy, won
awards and participated in debates with titles such as “Two Women’s Quest”.
Last year the Italian television program “Excalibur” dedicated a
twenty-minute special to them. Soon two children from the orphanage will
join the group at the Arcobaleno. But it is not always easy. At the
University of Bari they said, “We are two friends, not Sharon and Arafat,”
and someone snapped, “Who are you trying to kid? One friendship is not
going to stop the war.” Samar has a little story for people like that:
“A man sees a little bird lying on its back. ‘Why are you lying there like
that?’ he asks the bird. And the bird answers, ‘I heard that God is going to
make the sky fall today; I am trying to protect the Earth.’ The man laughs,
“Are you kidding? You’re going to try to save the Earth with your tiny
little claws?’ And the bird responds, “I am doing all that I can!’”
prize for Angelica and Samar?
awarded the prize for “Human freedom and advancement” to the Israeli
educator, Angelica Calň Livné, and to the Palestinian orphanage director,
included: Franco Mascia (president of Difendiamo il Futuro, Sardinia), Mario
Mauro (president of Difendiamo il Futuro), Giorgio Vittadini (president of
Compagnia delle Opere), Luigi Amicone (director of Tempi), Antonio Socci
(vice director of Rai Due), Renato Farina (vice director of Libero),
Alessandro Maida (Dean of the University of Sassari), Cosimo Filigheddu
(Correspondent for La Nuova Sardegna), Antonello Arru (president of
Fondazione Banco di Sardegna), Giampiero Farru (president of CSV Sardegna
Solidale), Roberto Perrone (Correspondent for Corriere della Sera), Ubaldo
Casotto (vice director of Il Foglio), Pierluigi Battista (Correspondent for
dramatic story of Abraham—in which we all have our origins—we read that the
patriarch, confronted with the foretold destruction of Sodom, threw himself
into dizzying negotiations with the Omnipotent and managed to win a deal.
The city would not be destroyed if 10 righteous people could be found in it.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, evoking this biblical episode in one of his stories,
The House of Matriona, concludes that this woman, Matriona, was the
person thanks to whom the village could go on existing. I wanted to mention
these images because they are always what comes to mind when I think about
Angelica and Samar.
A city, a
people, a nation, a state are not just political, institutional or economic
entities. They would crumble if that was all they were. They need a soul to
give them life. For those who have encountered these women face to face and
heard their tales, it is clear that they bring out the shining soul of their
peoples. The fact that people like them exist means that the good Lord has a
good plan for their two peoples, that they have hope, that they have a
destiny in peace. And they have it together.
For those who
have beheld the light in their eyes and the light that they represent for
the pain-stricken children and young people with whom they live and
work—both of them living a spiritual motherhood which is perhaps even
greater than the immensity of biological motherhood—it is clear that hate
and violence will not have the last word in this world.
There is no
curse upon the land that has given so much to human history, there is no
curse condemning everyone and everything to destruction. We always hear that
it is the political elite who have to resolve the problem. But instead the
thing that is truly decisive, in all things, is what gets planted in
people’s hearts, especially in the hearts of children, in the souls of the
young. Angelica and Samar are silent planters of humanity; they are the face
of hope. I think that when the good Lord sees the faces of people like this
He blesses their peoples.
A statement by
Angelica Calň Livnč
hope. It is the last hope for the world’s survival. The education of our
children, our own education. A few days ago I was with a group of old
friends. We meet every year from all over Israel and we go walking for miles
over rocks and through forests to get better acquainted with this small
land, and through our dialog with nature our bond becomes stronger.
It seemed that nothing could
darken the spirit of these unstoppable sabre, extraordinarily tanned all
year round from working in the open air. It was unthinkable that the
bitterness and incredulity at the situation in Israel could cast even for a
minute a shadow of troubles across their eyes too. During the outing, during
our climbs up the many rocks in the Wadi Daraje desert near the Dead Sea, I
hardly recognized my longtime friends, this group of wonderful, deeply human
people who, 25 years ago, at Misgav Am, a kibbutz on the border with
Lebanon, freed 11 three-year-old children from two terrorists who had taken
As we walked
between two immense majestic rock walls I told them about my travels in
Italy and around the rest of the world with Samar Sahhar, my Palestinian
friend, director of an orphanage in Bethany. I talked to them about our
efforts for peace and the warmth with which we were received wherever we
went to tell about our educational experience.
agronomist, interrupted me, “It’s very nice to hear your stories about your
theater project with Arab and Jewish kids and your efforts to bring them
closer together, but my dear friend there’s nothing to be done for it: they,
the Arabs, want us dead, they don’t want us here in Israel, they have no
intention of living side by side with us! There will never be peace with the
Palestinians. No dialog will ever be possible with these people. I know you
want it dearly but it is an impossible dream!”
45-year-old men whom I met when they were boys, when they were as old as my
son is now. Fathers without a future, who build houses and families to whom
they can promise nothing. A heated, painful discussion ensued, an argument
among people who feel betrayed. I realize that I cannot let myself be
overcome by the sadness, by the events, by images of attacks and of
barriers. I realize that they need to hear my voice, a voice that was once
also their own but that they lost because they did not have my fortune of
believing deeply in the inestimable value and power of education, the
fortune of knowing that I bore the responsibility of a generation to bring
“So why stay
here?” I asked, “Why be so deeply attached to this land? Why teach our
children to know every single stone? We have the duty to hope, to continue
to seek a way to live together with them, with the people who live on the
other side of the barrier. To convince them and convince ourselves that it
is possible. To find a way to raise their kids and ours normally! We have to
do what we can! And we have to start with education, ours and theirs. We are
doing it and we will go on doing it; we cannot give up. We alone can teach
these people the courage to love life, the secret of the industriousness
that creates work, bread, hope!”
echoed as if pleading with my listeners not to give up—please, not them!
“But Galilee today is the cradle of Hamas…” says Hanoch. “I know, I live in
Galilee but the Arabs of Fassouta and Jish are part of our lives there. And
lots of them are looking for serenity just as we are. Life, when you get
right down and live it, is a lot less complicated than it seems when you
just talk about it!”
When it came
time to say good-bye to Amos, the most disenchanted of all, Amos, with his
past full of stories, someone who knows the Arabs well from having worked
with them and lived with them, he hugged me and gave me his own sort of
blessing… “Keep on doing what you’re doing, we need lots more like you who
And I send on
to you this blessing, this prayer, this urgency: believe!
And the prophecy will fulfill itself!
Angelica Calň Livnč
(Kibbutz Sasa Alta Galilea )
CHILDREN OF LIFE
A few weeks
have passed and I still dream of them. I dream that the bus arrives and I
count them over and over. I dream that our guides serve tons of pasta for
dream that we travel and I look
around at the sea, the hills of Tuscany, the street of Florence, and I make
sure that everyone is close by.
I dream of
Moriah’s arm that has already been through four operations after that night
in the shopping center in Karney Shomron... Of Naama’s sweet smile and her
father’s big hug upon our return to the airport. And the tears of joy at
their meeting after the long two weeks. Many shivers have run down my spine
during the unforgettable journey with “The Children of Life"- as we called
Sestieri of the Jewish Community in Rome called us, me and Yehuda my husband
“Only you can
help me! We collected money from many people here and we want to invite 50
Israeli children survivors of terrorist attacks. We want to give them a
special vacation in Italy, to give them some love and fun, to give them
some rest. We ask you to organize and direct this project. We know that
you can, you have experience, patience and passion!”
We could not
say no. Everyone in Israel would like to do something to help these injured
families. Everybody wants to do something to stop the madness.
We had our
first trip for The Children of Life in the summer of 2002 and this summer we
did it again. This was a wonderful group - 25 girls and 25 boys – 13 to 15
We chose 12
guides, university students with a profound spirit, sense of humor and
plenty of love to give. They were religious and secular, from different
villages, kibbutzim and settlements, and together we prepared a program full
was to try to give to these youngsters 12 days of joy, of good feelings and
to relieve a little bit of the heavy burden that they carry
on their shoulders. These are children that were in the
attacks and survived but they were wounded in their bodies and souls. These
are children that have lost family in the attacks. We wanted to fill them
with positive experiences and enough energy to go on with their lives, and
dare to dream again..
was rich and full of things that youngsters like: seaside beaches, Aqua Park
, discothčque, Mirabilandia (park like Disneyland), travel in the big
cities of Italy - Rome, Siena, Florence, Pisa. There were art, nature and
music and fun.
arts and crafts sessions. The children made “dream catchers”, jewelry, and
They cooked, and played sports and danced and much much more.
people came to visit bringing gifts – shoes, t-shirts, toys for everybody.
The children were excited to get all this love, attention, and have a
special connection with Diaspora Jews – Jews outside of Israel. The
visitors would repeat:
“You are not
alone! We understand your pain, we feel your tragedy, your people's
suffering. We stand with you!”
physiotherapist that come to take care of Moriah’s hand was so moved by
her story. She told him:
"I was raised
with love, and I cannot hate anyone even after I was wounded in a terror
attack!!” Upon hearing this, the physiotherapist decided he would not
accept money for his services.
In the first
day we saw the most beautiful places in Rome: the Coliseum, the Vatican, the
seven hills and that night the Jewish Community opened a big Synagogue for
us and held a beautiful ceremony. Afterwards, Jewish families hosted the
children in their houses.
the wonderful Villa that was our home for the camp, we found the president
of the Jewish community in Livorno with a magnificent Sefer Torah -our holy
keep with us during our stay. It
was a great honor and a beautiful gesture.
Salomon a Christian business woman had invited all the group to one of the
biggest amusement parks in Italy. She also took the whole group to lunch in
one of the restaurants of the park. When we got back in the bus we called
her on the phone and all the children shouted a big “Graaaatzie” , 'Thank
You' in Italian.
It was like a
big contest between the people who wanted to help.
The children felt surrounded by warmth and love. They mentioned that many
times. They were surprised and moved that Jews in the outside world felt so
attached to Israel.
There were still some of them
that did not smile. We understand why only too well.
One of the
girls came and sat next to me and showed me a book she prepared about her
father who was murdered in Hebron. Slowly slowly, the other children
gathered around. Each one of them felt that he or she can come and tell
their personal story. That was one
of the very special and delicate
moments of the journey.
days before the camp ended Jonathan came to me. He is a
very sweet red-headed boy who had been very quiet. He ask me if there is
any chance that this special project
will take place again also next
summer. He never talked to me before and I felt very happy in my heart.
I gave him a
big hug and asked:
"If it will
be, will you come with us?" He nodded his head with a little smile. Then I
told him. “ Yes my dear boy, we will do it
especially for you. Believe me, with God’s help, we will make it happen!!!”
Edna (Angelica) Calo-Livne’
multi-cultural, religious and ethnic experience
Theatre, so named for the variety of colors, religions, cultures and
ethnicities of our players consists of 18 actors, aged 13 to 21, who live
in different communities in Galilee. Together they launched a youth drama
group, under the tutelage of Edna Calo- Livne’ - director/producer, and a
member of Kibbutz Sasa on the Lebanese border.
difficulties being endured by the citizens of Israel, with the constant
threat of war, the fear of terror attacks, and the ever present desire for
tranquillity and peace of mind is troubling to everyone. Youngsters –
Jewish and Arab, religious and non-religious, kibbutz, village and city
members – are meeting to search for meaning in their life, and have finally
found the answer through music, dance and creating unconventional ties made
possible only through the arts.
play "Breisheet" – In the Beginning - is a vibrant presentation that
reflects their emotions and yearnings for peace. It is the product of
cooperation by all the participants, resulting from training, monologues,
and a journey into the very soul of each and every actor. Using their
bodies, through music and pantomime, the actors,
from the arab villages, the kibbuzim, the moshav
and the settlements in the area, express their inner thoughts and burning
desires to accept people and be accepted as they are. The actors wanted to
convey a message of tolerance and a deep aversion to war. The joy of
creativity resulted in a sense of cohesion and deep, kinship among the
actors. The process they underwent gave them meaning and hope for a better
This play has
been presented to many European audiences to rave reviews.
course of the performance, which is a drama with music and movement, only 5
sentences are recited, chosen by the actors after much deliberation and
which reveal what young people who are born in a country constantly
struggling for its survival, really feel:
·“Freedom no longer exists”.
·“It’s so routine that nothing surprises me
·“No place is safe”.
·You have no chance to speak with them”.
“I want so
much to believe in a solution .. that there is a chance ..”.
relating to the performance were decided upon only after a serious, in-depth
discussion: costumes, colors, the name of the play. The name “Bereshit”
comes from the hope that perhaps their message will bring about change in
the world. The play is important for its message to a wide-ranging
audience: high-school pupils, community centres, organizations and youth
groups overseas, Jews and non-Jews,
in Israel and in the world.
It conveys a message of criticism as well as optimism and great hope. The
play is important for anyone who wants to know what youngsters in Israel
-and perhaps in many other parts of the world - really feel.
Producer and Community Theatre
Director, Galilee, Israel
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