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Freedom Theatre in Jenin Refugee Camp
   2016-04-28 10:25:58    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Guo Jing

Mohammed Lahlouh (L), the story teller of a short play created by children from the Jenin Refugee Camp, and leading actor Aws Abutabikh, both 12 years old, pose for photos with a gesture of love in a training room of the Freedom Theatre in Jenin, West Bank, on Tuesday, April 19, 2016. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com / Zhang Jin]

By CRI Jeruslam Correspondent Zhang Jin

A project for the arts in a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank is said to be offering a new ray of light for young people who are suffering through economic and cultural isolation.


In a rehearsal room of the Freedom Theatre, a group of Palestinian boys are performing a short play that they created themselves.

Twelve-year-old Mohammed Lahlouh is playing the role of a story teller.

"The story tells the daily suffering of the Palestinians, killings and attacks, or disputing conflict on a daily basis. What you just saw is about Israelis with guns attacking and beating Palestinians. It is an endless conflict, so the story has no end."

Ahmad Tobasi is an actor and the leader of Child and Youth program at the theatre.

"You see, this is what they try to create. The camp is one of the most attacked areas in the West Bank, so when these children see adults holding guns, that makes them feel this is most proud thing you can do. And we try to tell them this is not the solution."

The Freedom Theatre was established in 2006. The founders believed that the arts can play a crucial role in building a free and healthy society.

They offer a programme of activities in performing arts and multimedia, including theatre and drama, filmmaking, photography and creative writing.

Jonatan Stanczak helped set up the project.

"We want the people here to discovery their own stories, to be able to express those stories, and to tell them to the rest of the world."

The 2011 assassination of Juliano Mer Khamis, an Israeli actor, director and another founder of the Theatre, came as a major blow to the project, and it took some time before the Theatre was able to resume normal operation.

Nabeel Al-Raee, the Theatre's artistic director, recalls the first time he met Juliano Mer Khamis ten years ago.

"He said 'Welcome to the revolution!' I said, a revolution, what does it mean? I think it took me couple of years to understand that, yes, art is a revolution. Art is meant to be a way to change lives. It's not an accessory. It's a necessity. Art is a way for us to know ourselves. It's a way for us to reach others. It's a way for us to communicate. It's a way for us to understand our position from the perspective of our struggle."

Ahmad Tobasi, actor and youth project leader, believes creating change is a gradual but vital process.

"It's the children what we believe are the future, maybe after 15 or 20 years these children will become old people. They are going to be married they are going to have children, they are going to know what the Theatre and freedom mean, how to behave in their families, so the whole society will change."

Since The Freedom Theatre opened its doors more than 100 thousand aspiring artists, spectators, visitors and friends have come together in the theatre to engage, perform and create. Actor and a former graduate from the theatre school, Alaa Shehada, feels an obligation to continue with the mission.

"You can't change the people in one day. It's about putting spotlight on things people do not see. For us as artists, we are seeing it as very clear images, so we show it in clearer details, then the society and people will see it, at least they will think about it. From there, our hope is maybe by this, things will be changed."

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