Readers of this blog know I’ve been a huge fan of the Jenin Freedom Theatre ever since my visit there this past December. I’m saddened to report that its facility was recently raided by the IDF.
From a 7/27 Freedom Theater press release:
Special Forces of the Israeli Army attacked the Freedom Theatre in Jenin Refugee Camp at approximately 03:30 this morning. Ahmad Nasser Matahen, a night guard and technician student at the theatre woke up by heavy blocks of stone being hurled at the entrance of the theatre.
As he opened the door he found masked and heavily armed Israeli Special Forces around the theatre. Ahmed says that the army threw heavy blocks of stone at the theatre, “they told me to open the door to the theatre. They told me to raise my hands and forced me to take my pants down. I thought my time had come, that they would kill me. My brother that was with me was handcuffed.“
The location manager of The Freedom Theatre, Adnan Naghnaghiye was arrested and taken away to an unknown location together with Bilal Saadi, a member of the board of The Freedom Theatre. When the general manager of the theatre Jacob Gough from UK and the co-founder of the theatre Jonatan Stanczak from Sweden arrived to the scene they were forced to squat next to a family with four small children surrounded by about 50 heavily armed Israeli soldiers.
Jonatan says: “Whenever we tried to tell them that they are attacking a cultural venue and arresting members of the theatre we were told to shut up and they threatened to kick us, I tried to contact the civil administration of the army to clarify the matter but the person in charge hung up on me.“
The Freedom Theatre is still reeling from the murder of its director, Juliano Mer Khamis last April – and now this. It’s heartbreaking to contemplate that an institution whose only mission is to give hope and courage to the children of Jenin is physically under attack by both fundamentalist Muslims and the Israel Defense Forces.
Please click on the clips above and below to learn about the Jenin Freedom Theatre and why so many of us are inspired by its work. Then click here and please support them with a donation.
We visited the Freedom Theater in mid-June as part of a tour of Palestine and Israel. It seemed to be a group of young and enthusiastic people moving ahead despite tragedy and outside pressure. They were fulfilling their mission of providing an emotional outlet for the youth of the Jenin Camp who have been and continue to be exposed to traumatic experiences which we cannot imagine. Did the IDF have some justification for this raid, or is it just one more case of putting a lid on something successful on the West Bank? I fear the latter.
Whatever the charges against the two who were arrested, Israel executed the arrests in a characteristically violent way and once again displayed disrespect for Palestinians and a Palestinian institution that, as Brant notes, has given hope and courage to the children of Jenin. It boggles my mind that we continue to allow Israel to get away with such an outrage.
In calls to Ambassador Oren’s office to ask for an explanation of the incident the following day, I was told the Ambassador was too busy to respond to our inquiries. I am pleased to report his secretary told me she was frustrated she could not get her work done because of the “hundreds” of phone calls that had been coming to her office. “Would you please tell people not to call.” A small victory at a great price.
Janet Owen, who was a member of the trip organized by Ruth & Sam Neff (Sam’s comment is above), shares this invitation in an email about her report on that trip to Israel/West Bank, which she’ll present tomorrow, Sunday, July 31st, 11;30am, in Evanston. Please share this info and attend:
On July 31st I will be giving a presentation at the Evanston Friends Meeting (Quaker) at 1010 Greenleaf, Evanston, IL 60202 at 11:30 a.m. for about an hour, regarding my recent trip to Palestine and Israel. This follows the meeting for worship at 10 a.m. There is no parking lot. There is an elevator up to the main level where meeting for worship and the presentation will be held – just enter the ground level side door and ask for help with the elevator.
The group I went with (Neighbors East and West) has an emphasis on travel to places with whom the U.S. government has tension, and attempts to lessen tensions at a grassroots level through people to people contact and education. This includes trips to Russia in the 70’s and 80’s, to Cuba and to Iran, and hopes are for trips to North Korea. However, on this particular trip to Palestine and Israel, in addition to religious and cultural sites and family home stays, we met with Palestinian leaders and civil society organizations and Israeli peace activists. I feel a deep commitment to share about this. I feel a responsibility both because of my own moral beliefs about caring for other human beings and because of the great amount of financial and other aid the U.S. provides to Israel sustaining the ongoing situation.