News / Middle East

Lebanon Theater Stirs Palestinian Emotions

Heather Murdock

Lebanon is home to more than 400,000 Palestinians, many are second, third and fourth generation refugees that fled the Arab-Israeli wars in 1948 and 1967. On Saturday, a Beirut theater company performed Return to Haifa, a play about a Palestinian couple visiting their old home in Israel, and finding the son they abandoned raised an Israeli.

In the play, "Return to Haifa" Said and Safia, played by Ghanam Ghanam and Raeda Taha, return to the home they fled in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war to find the son they abandoned raised Jewish, and an Israeli soldier.
In the play, "Return to Haifa" Said and Safia, played by Ghanam Ghanam and Raeda Taha, return to the home they fled in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war to find the son they abandoned raised Jewish, and an Israeli soldier.

In Return to Haifa, characters Sa'id and Safia evacuated their home by force during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, abandoning their baby.  Twenty years later, Israel wins the Six Day War, and the borders are opened.  Like many Palestinian families, Sa'id and Safia travel to Haifa, once their home, now an Israeli city.

In Haifa they find their house is now home to Miriam, a Jewish World War II refugee, and the adopted mother of Dov, the son they abandoned.  Dov was raised Jewish, and is now an Israeli soldier.   Dov, played by Hussein Nakhal, blames his parents for leaving him and insults Arabs in general.

"Twenty years have passed sir.  Twenty years!  What did you do during that time?  What did you do to bring your son back?  You are all impotent.  You are ignorant," he says.

At the opening of the play a young Palestinian couple, played by Haroutioun Izmirilian and Samira al-Asir (front), stands in their home in Haifa, which is now an Israeli City.
At the opening of the play a young Palestinian couple, played by Haroutioun Izmirilian and Samira al-Asir (front), stands in their home in Haifa, which is now an Israeli City.

The play opened on Saturday to commemorate the 62nd anniversary of the passing of U.N. Resolution 194 which promises all refugees, Jewish and Palestinian, the right to return to their homes or be compensated for their properties.   Much of the non-binding resolution was never implemented and Palestinians have now suffered the world's longest refugee crisis.

The story was written by celebrated Palestinian author the late Ghassan Kanafani.  But audience members say in this story, everyone is a victim, including the Israeli family living in the once-Palestinian home.  In this story, everyone is also at least partially responsible for their own fates.

After the show, Arab-American professor Laila Farah, of DePaul University in the United States, says the story resonates deeply among Arabs in the Middle East.

"The Palestinian issue is the heart of all of the conflict in this region and people take it very personally, whether it is support of or being against," said Farah.

In Lebanon, Palestinians live on the margins of society, mostly in camps, without the right to vote, own property and work in many professions.   Even though most were born and raised in Lebanon, they are considered foreigners and can rarely work outside of the refugee camps, where 60 percent of the people are unemployed or underemployed.

Many Palestinians in Lebanon say gaining basic civil rights in the country they live in is more important, and more realistic, than having the right to return to their homeland.  Many Lebanese people say Palestinians should not be given civil rights in Lebanon because they may lose the motivation to return to their homeland, but actor Hussein Nakhal, who plays the son, says Palestinians will never stop wanting to return.

"If you have your civil rights, it will not change your essence," said Nakhal.  "The essence is to return home."

Audience members say Return to Haifa also explores the nature of identity and asks the question of whether a person is who they born to be or who they were raised to be.  American University in Beirut Professor Robert Myers says the play created a world that allowed the audience to examine the question.

"Was he or is he still their son?  It is a real interesting question," he said.  "Because is genetics destiny?  It is a question that we live with now."

Myers says, for a Palestinian child raised by Israeli parents, there is no easy answer.

NEW: Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid