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

    UN Observes International Day of Peacekeepers

    The U.N. honors 3,400 peacekeepers killed since first mission in 1948

    Video Rolling Thunder Tribute to US Military Turns into a Trump Rally

    Half-million motorcycles are expected to rumble Sunday afternoon from Pentagon to Vietnam War Memorial for rally in event group calls Ride for Freedom

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora