Teatro Arcobaleno Rainbow Theatre

Press 2005

"The Theater of Miracles"
Goffredo Buccini,
Corriere della Sera Newspaper

Arab and Jewish children on stage together to forge a truce across the barricades.
BETHANY (West Bank) – KIBBUTZ SASA (Upper Galilee).

The little kibbutz theatre and the hospice in Bethany are separated by many miles of highway, by Lake Tiberius and the Jordan Valley. And by the hate of the second Intifada. And in the end, by History with a capital “H”. Angelica, Edna in Hebrew, and Samar have spanned it all in an embrace that began two years ago and has yet to loosen. Among the orchards and military turrets in northern Israel, near the borders with Hezbollah’s Lebanon, in that small theatre called “Arcobaleno” [Rainbow], Angelica Calò Livné teaches young Jews, Arabs, Caucasians, Druze, Christians and Muslims to recite the lines of peace. At every terrorist attack she prays: “My Lord, drive out hate, let us remain who we are.” She says, “I had been looking for a Palestinian friend for a long time, someone like me. I heard about her. One day I called her, and later we met. You have to meet Samar too, she’s special.”

Submerged by a wild bunch of kids (she calls them “my children”) at the Jeel El Amal orphanage in Bethany, which she inherited from her parents and expanded into an even more defiant place of refuge - Lazarus Home – hiding even young single mothers that Palestinian society would irredeemably damn, Samar Sahhar is indeed special. She laughs, “Angelica became my friend, then my sister. God has made us the same.”

This is the story of a friendship that is almost forbidden by the prevailing political climate. It is a story with a small “s” of an Israeli woman and a Palestinian woman, whom perhaps God did make identical but who appear almost to be opposites: Angelica is minute and brimming with nervous energy, black curls and long lashes that moisten at almost nothing. Samar is robust and unsinkable, with short hair and arms like a champion of the faith. Only when you have looked a little more closely do you see it in their eyes, that identical gaze. And then you understand that when they call themselves “sisters” it is not just a manner of speaking.

Last Wednesday they met in Rome at the Vittoria Theatre in front of six hundred school kids from seven lyceums. But before the show began—the show that Angelica is taking around Italy, “Beresheet, In the beginning”, with her eighteen very young actors who dance in white masks and recite lines like “No place is safe! There has to be a solution … some hope!”—Samar appeared on the stage. And Angelica had not been expecting her. They embraced each other there in front of the uncomprehending Roman kids. Then Samar said, “If the whole world could see the Arcobaleno's theatre shows everyone would know that peace is truly possible.” And then there was a deep hush that lasted three full minutes before the students finally burst into applause.

But the small and determined story of Angelica and Samar is full of words. With the words of Angelica, a 47-year-old who left Rome as a young girl to go live on Sasa, one of the last Kibbutzim still keeping true to the original Socialist ideals. She taught Batya and Nemi, Amal and Sharif and all the other pupils at the theatre workshop that they can make a difference, “that weeping in front of the television is not enough.” The idea behind “Beresheet”, those white masks that fall to the stage floor “revealing the beauty of diversity” accompanied by the songs of Noah (“it’s over, it’s all done, we will touch our dream”), came from the children after six months with Angelica and Samar. “When I spoke for the first time before the regional council of High Galilee, when I said that I also wanted Arab children, they said, ‘Well, it’s a nice idea, but with the Intifada … you know … politically it’s not the thing to do. Forget about the Arabs.’ And I answered, ‘Either them or nothing.’ And it worked.” One of her actors, Sharif Balut, a big Arab boy from the village of Fassouta, took the script so seriously that he caused an outbreak of peace, real peace, between his cohorts and the Jewish kids from Elkosh: “We were in a situation of gang warfare. But I noticed Ofri over there at their barricade,” she tells, “and one day he came to see me at the theatre. I went up to him and said, ‘Hello friend, do you remember me?’ Yes, he did. And so we all made a ‘sulha’, which means reconciliation both in Arabic and in Hebrew.”

Samar and Angelica have filled two years of friendship. Their first meeting was in East Jerusalem, their second at the Weeping Wall. Together they toured schools and universities in Italy, won awards and participated in debates with titles such as “Two Women’s Quest”. But it is not always easy. At the University of Bari someone snapped, “Who are you trying to kid? One friendship is not going to stop the war.” They have a little story for people like that: “A man sees a little bird lying on its back. ‘Why are you lying there like that?’ he asks the bird. And the bird answers, ‘I heard that God is going to make the sky fall today; I am trying to protect the Earth.’ The man laughs, “Are you kidding? You’re going to try to save the Earth with your tiny little claws?’ And the bird responds, “I am doing all that I can!’”

Goffredo Buccini

A statement by Edna Angelica Calò Livné

Education is hope. It is the last hope for the world’s survival. The education of our children, our own education. A few days ago I was with a group of old friends. We meet every year from all over Israel and we go walking for miles over rocks and through forests to get better acquainted with this small land, and through our dialog with nature our bond becomes stronger.

It seemed that nothing could darken the spirit of these unstoppable sabre, extraordinarily tanned all year round from working in the open air. It was unthinkable that the bitterness and incredulity at the situation in Israel could cast even for a minute a shadow of troubles across their eyes too. During the outing, during our climbs up the many rocks in the Wadi Daraje desert near the Dead Sea, I hardly recognized my long-time friends, this group of wonderful, deeply human people who, 25 years ago, at Misgav Am, a kibbutz on the border with Lebanon, freed 11 three-year-old children from two terrorists who had taken them hostage.

As we walked between two immense majestic rock walls I told them about my travels in Italy and around the rest of the world with Samar Sahhar, my Palestinian friend, director of an orphanage in Bethany. I talked to them about our efforts for peace and the warmth with which we were received wherever we went to tell about our educational experience.

Avi, an agronomist, interrupted me, “It’s very nice to hear your stories about your theatre project with Arab and Jewish kids and your efforts to bring them closer together, but my dear friend there’s nothing to be done for it: they, the Arabs, want us dead, they don’t want us here in Israel, they have no intention of living side by side with us! There will never be peace with the Palestinians. No dialog will ever be possible with these people. I know you want it dearly but it is an impossible dream!”

They are 45-year-old men whom I met when they were boys, when they were as old as my son is now. Fathers without a future, who build houses and families to whom they can promise nothing. A heated, painful discussion ensued, an argument among people who feel betrayed. I realize that I cannot let myself be overcome by the sadness, by the events, by images of attacks and of barriers. I realize that they need to hear my voice, a voice that was once also their own but that they lost because they did not have my fortune of believing deeply in the inestimable value and power of education, the fortune of knowing that I bore the responsibility of a generation to bring up.

“So why stay here?” I asked, “Why be so deeply attached to this land? Why teach our children to know every single stone? We have the duty to hope, to continue to seek a way to live together with them, with the people who live on the other side of the barrier. To convince them and convince ourselves that it is possible. To find a way to raise their kids and ours normally! We have to do what we can! And we have to start with education, ours and theirs. We are doing it and we will go on doing it; we cannot give up. We alone can teach these people the courage to love life, the secret of the industriousness that creates work, bread, hope!”

My voice echoed as if pleading with my listeners not to give up—please, not them! “But Galilee today is the cradle of Hamas…” says Hanoch. “I know, I live in Galilee but the Arabs of Fassouta and Jish are part of our lives there. And lots of them are looking for serenity just as we are. Life, when you get right down and live it, is a lot less complicated than it seems when you just talk about it!”

When it came time to say good-bye to Amos, the most disenchanted of all, Amos, with his past full of stories, someone who knows the Arabs well from having worked with them and lived with them, he hugged me and gave me his own sort of blessing… “Keep on doing what you’re doing, we need lots more like you who still believe…”

And I send on to you this blessing, this prayer, this urgency: believe! And the prophecy will fulfil itself! It will!

Edna Angelica Calò Livnè
Kibbutz Sasa - Upper Galilee


Teatro Arcobaleno Rainbow Theatre
  Press 2005  




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