their masks - The Arcobaleno-Rainbow Theater performs Beresheet. The outbreak of
the second intifada in 2000 had a profound effect on Dr. Edna Calò Livné. An
Italian immigrant who married a veteran kibbutznik from Kibbutz Sasa in northern
Israel, Calo Livne was no longer able to stand on the sidelines as the drama
played itself out on national television.
Instead, Calo Livne took action, launching the Beresheet Lashalom Foundation,
dedicated to promoting dialogue across diverse groups in the region through one
of the most potent channels of communication - the stage.
The Arcobaleno-Rainbow Theater comprises young Arabs, Jews, Druze, and
Circassian Israelis from different communities in the Galilee. The inspiration
for the theater group came from Calò Livne's doctoral thesis on the plays of
Pirandello as a lever for social change.
"The youth from these seemingly opposed cultures can unite around the positive
interactions of theater and can put the horrors they have faced into a
perspective that fosters understanding and mutual respect," she explained.
"Putting the children on stage together gives them the opportunity to get to
know one another as people, creating a safe forum where they can interact and
break down the barriers between them," added Calò Livné, who was a leader of the
youth Zionist Movement Hashomer Hatzair and a master of Education in integrating
the arts in education.
The theater's performance - entitled Beresheet - 'In the beginning' and the
first word found in the Torah - is, according to an 18-year-old Muslim performer
from the village of Jish, "a hymn for peace. I can't accept terrorism. I'm glad
that I can show, through our performance, that coexistence between Jews and
Arabs is possible. We show this with our living presence."
A collaborative process between the performers and the staff that, according to
Calò Livné, developed over the course of the year, Beresheet begins with all the
children wearing masks. As the play continues, all but two of the children
remove their masks.
"It's a metaphor for what we are trying to achieve," Calo Livne told ISRAEL21c.
"Through the theater, as with our other activities, we want to get beyond
preconceptions and prejudice and get to know the person beneath the mask."
The troupe will be traveling to northern Italy during the Succot holiday to
perform Beresheet in a piazza in front of 100,000 people, as part of an annual
bread festival taking place. As part of the festival, Israelis will also be
taking part in "Bread for Peace" Day, in which four women (a Jew, Muslim,
Christian, and Palestinian) are baking bread together.
"The aim is to create, to collaborate, and to teach their children that good can
always prevail," explains Calò Livné. "It's about showing them what they have in
common, not what makes them different. Their performances are a dance of hope
The focus on creating common understanding is perhaps best summed up by a member
of the theater group, 16-year-old Tamar Ben Lulu, from Safed: "With all our
differences, in this theater I feel that we are all equal. It's not important in
which God we believe, or where we live because we are all human beings. The
strong connection between us is convincing me more and more of the fact that
it's possible that a Jew, a Christian and a Moslem can walk hand in hand, that
religious and secular can speak without offending each other."
With its focus primarily in Italy and other parts of Europe, the Foundation's
message of peace also began reaching a wider audience in Israel via the All for
Peace radio station, which has been simultaneously broadcasting from Jerusalem
and Ramallah since January 2006.
The station invited the foundation to produce a pilot of an hour's broadcast
from young people to young people. For the young actors of the Rainbow -
Arcobaleno Theater it was a whole new challenge, because now they had to express
themselves in words instead of the body language which characterizes their
performances of dance-theater.
Their broadcasts have been aired for the last year and a half, and have included
segments with young Jewish and Arab rappers, and interviews with a group of
young Israeli and Arab peace activists.
"Beresheet LaShalom is all about educating and encouraging a positive spirit,
helping children as well as adults to confront the difficulties they face," says
Calò Livné, who runs the organization with her husband Yehuda, who has 25 years
of experience in formal and non-formal education.
Yehuda coaches a soccer team comprised of youth from the Galilee, who recently
participated in an international soccer tournament in Udine, Italy for the
second time. The event, entitled "Let's Get to Know Each Other," brings children
from different cultural backgrounds together through sport. Teams from 10
countries took part in this international event.
When they first founded the organization, the Calò Livnés were focused on
helping victims of terror, and they still devote a good portion of their
attention in that direction. In August, they took 20 teenagers from the Galilee,
Sderot, and Lebanon (children whose parents served in the South Lebanon army and
who moved here after Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon) on an eight-day trip to
The children from Sderot, under daily rocket fire from terrorists in the Gaza
strip, have been deeply affected by the ongoing barrage on their city. "They
feel like they have been deserted. It's hard for them to trust," relates
Calò Livné. "In the beginning, the children were like ice. It took time until they
They experienced a vastly different reality as they explored the countryside,
going sightseeing in Rome, Pompeii, Amalfi, and more. The visit focused on
enhancing understanding and knowledge of the area and each other including
swimming, playing games, and partaking in music, dance, theater, and art
activities. During their stay, the children were also able to interact with the
locals, learning the art of parading with medieval flags and riding on horses
pulling a variety of carriages.
Through their various efforts, particularly the theater group, Beresheet
LaShalom has begun to make an impact in Europe. Well known throughout Italy as
the recipient of prestigious peace prizes, Beresheet is intent on showing the
human faces and hearts of Israelis of all cultures and religions. According to
Calò Livné, the performances and messages leave audiences hopeful, and have
helped to change the image of Israel in Italy.
"During this difficult period in world history, there is a will to create a
positive message, capable of inspiring hope and fulfilling the dreams of those
who knew war, but now aspire to peace," concluded Calò Livné.