Jewish-Bedouin Theater Group

In 2006, Neve Hanna founded the first Jewish-Muslim theater group in order to step up its coexistence program even further. The play, written by the children with the assistance of professionals, tells the story of a Jewish girl living in the Neve Hanna Children’s Home and a Bedouin girl from the near-by Bedouin town of Rahat. The
play, called “A Day in a Life”, tells about the daily lives of the girls, the differences as well as similarities and their ability to cope as minors with inter-ethnic conflicts.

The Jewish children were chosen from among the children residing at Neve Hanna; the Bedouin children had no prior connection to the children’s home. Approximately 30 children participated in the preparation phase and about 14 to 16 children performed with at least 4 additional children who participated as optional substitutes. In 2007, this theater group was invited to perform in Germany. Due to the play’s great success, this invitation was extended once again in May 2010. For this trip, Neve Hanna prepared other children for the participation, extending the circle of involved children and families yet even further. The play received again warm reactions, and the children had an extraordinary experience, which would have been unavailable under any other circumstances. Being “Ambassadors of Peace” gave these children a tremendous sense of mission and importance. In 2011, the theater group traveled once again, this time performing in Switzerland.

For each individual the theater group is a personal journey of growth, helping them deal with individual difficulties, mastering challenges as well as exploring and discovering “the other”. Parallel to this individual process, each ethnic group first embarks on its own a process of exploring and strengthening its group identity. After a few months, the two groups join together for additional drama, dance and pantomime lessons, embarking on a multi-cultural,    multi-ethnic and multi-religious exploration. Finally the groups come together as one group, and work as “Ambassadors of Peace” in their family frameworks, in their schools, their communities as well as to a much larger audience by performing in Israel and abroad.

Preparations for the current, third theater group started in May 2013, first separate for each group. This is first of all, an individual therapeutic process. The two groups of Jewish and Bedouin children joined together in fall of 2013 continuing the individual therapeutic process also on a group level. Once again, more children are involved in this process than finally appear on stage.

First performances in Israel are scheduled for early summer 2014. So far, the theater group is scheduled to play in Germany, during the second half of 2014. Later on a trip to Switzerland will follow. This time the children prepare together with a drama teacher, who accompanied also the first and second theater group and help the children to develop the play, yet another play telling about inter-ethnic relations in Israel.

Project Objectives

  • Strengthening curiosity and the desire to learn something new which is not only
    unfamiliar, but sometime “strange”. During this process, the children discover
    that there are nevertheless similarities and that cooperation beyond all
    differences brings advantages not only to the group, but also strengthens the
    individual.
  • Strengthening identities and the feeling of belonging while reducing prejudice
    and xenophobia among children who have suffered rejection. These children
    have never been exposed to the subject of a peaceful coexistence and need to
    learn how to build trustworthy relationships
  • Creating open dialogue regarding questions relating to peace and coexistence.
  • Transforming the children into “Ambassadors of Peace” first of all within their
    families and immediate communities, but also transmitting their message to a
    larger audience in Israel and abroad.

Since Neve Hanna works with a population struggling economically and socially and in general lacking a strong educational background, the theme of peaceful coexistence is not part of their daily life. In other words: Neve Hanna works with a population not remotely close to “the other”, quite the opposite. Therefore, due to the process that the children and the related adults undergo in “Path to Peace” and the theater group, they become even stronger and authentic “Ambassadors of Peace”. This is an aspect, which contributes to the uniqueness of this project and distinguishes it strongly from other co-existence projects in Israel.