The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict on Stage

Play exposes emotions of the "other."

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"We had to try and be neutral and not emotional," says Ashraf Barhoim, an Arab actor who, in one of several crossovers, plays an Israeli soldier as well as the suspected suicide bomber.

Thus, a settler couple whose child is killed in a Palestinian attack are treated with sympathy; on the other hand a group of settler women evading a soldier trying to evacuate them by throwing a baby like a frisbee from hand to hand until he is, shockingly, dropped, makes a highly charged point about the involuntary exposure of children to the conflict. As does one of the most disturbing scenes: a group of Palestinian children vying, as if in a game, for a suicide vest to avenge their dead 11-year-old school friend.

A Lot To Learn

Ronen says the cast did not, as they worked on the play, think much about the audience "or whether people would be angry with it." But she agrees that it is Israelis who have the most to learn from Plonter.

"Unlike for Palestinians what's happening is not a matter of everyday life for them. They have the privilege of behaving as if [the occupation] didn't exist every moment of the day, until, that is, a terror attack comes to their doorstep and then they say 'What do you want from us, why are you trying to kill us?'"

For a symbolic taste of Palestinian life, theatre-goers arriving at the play have to submit their ID to two aggressive actors in soldiers' uniforms.

It has already been shown to Arab and Jewish schoolchildren, in an experiment that the thatre is busily seeking sponsorship to expand.

Anti-Occupation Ethos

The play doesn't seek to come up with a detailed peace plan. But the cast is united by an anti-occupation ethos; they are of a generation marked as teenagers by the rising hopes and then the crushing disappointments of the Oslo agreement era.

Despite the darkness of much of the work, and her own admission that the audience probably "only comes half-way with us," Ronen suggests there are some grounds for optimism in the mutual understanding the cast built among themselves through "real honesty and real dialogue" in rehearsal.

"Of course if we can do it, and if the audience gets involved, they will be able to do it too." She cites one minor example. In one scene, the dead Palestinian child's distraught mother, compellingly played by Raida Adon, composes herself for the TV cameras to say how happy and proud she was to have a "martyred" son before lapsing back into inconsolable grief.

Ronen says that in the discussion after one performance a Jewish high school pupil aged 16 said that she "had seen this so often before, but now she understood what the mother was really feeling."

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Donald Macintyre has been The Independent's Jerusalem correspondent since 2004.