The little stage and a bit of Christmas

As part of my volunteering program here in Jerusalem, I work with a Palestinian-Israeli Youth Performance group at the YMCA. Our goal is to create a play together and perform it in May at different schools in East and West Jerusalem.

We meet once a week, sometimes more, working with teens ages 14-15 on movements, songs, gestures, and, really, anything that can make them feel more comfortable with each other in a very diverse group, and with themselves as performers.

There are traditional Muslims who stay covered, as well as punk Palestinian teenagers with all the piercings. Among the Jewish kids, we have religious people who keep it modest, some who really don’t care about this, and two immigrants: one from Ethiopia and the other from Russia. They speak hesitate Hebrew or don’t speak at all. 

We use three languages when we meet, English being the least used one. Arabic and Hebrew are being translated into one another all the time. We have a very professional translator who translates everything that is being said in the room, a Palestinian lady with a better Hebrew than mine.
It is a shame that even though Arabic sounds familiar to my ears for its rhythm and a fair amount of words, I speak English with kids who don’t speak Hebrew. 
I didn’t major in theater, but I’ve always been charmed by it. It brings out sides of me that I praise, but usually don’t let out. It erases boundaries, brings people together and makes you feel important, as an actor and a viewer.
I took an acting class during my first year in the States, it helped me open my mouth again after a long period of silence. Later on, I took an extraordinary theater class at Bard as well. It was probably the most expressive class I’ve taken there, and we rarely ever used language.

I have to admit that sometimes, with all the ugly things going on in Jerusalem, I can’t help but to see our little Stage as nothing more than an illusion. The unrealness of it grips my heart.
But once I see the teens truly having fun together, smiling wide,  and telling about it in an excited voice to their parents when they show up to get them, I am convinced that it is very real. Staged or not.

(First two photos here were taken by the talented Adina Karpuj)

The activity below was about choosing a body part that is especially dear to you, drawing it, then making up a scene about it.
I think we all got a bit confused by the instructions. But The drawings were so nice. One girl drew a box and said that her important parts are inside, but nobody is allowed to see. Even not those who chose eyes.

So there was this colorful Christmas Fair going on in the building during our meeting.

From what I’ve noticed most people were either Palestinians or tourists.
Jerusalem is suffering from a no-tourists disease. So it was nice seeing them.

Someone was very excited about Christmas as you can see, I couldn’t help but get into the holiday spirit myself 🙂 

Yesterday two of my roommates and I went to eat Chinese food on Christmas eve, an American Jewish tradition I’ve never celebrated.
We found the only Chinese restaurant place in Jerusalem (?), or something like that. The place was booked with tourists (including Chinese tourists), decorated for Christmas with Chinese items, and some signs to remind us that we were still in Israel:

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