Palestinian child raised as a Jew in Israeli play

Tue Apr 15, 2008 11:50am EDT
 
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By Rebecca Harrison

JAFFA, Israel (Reuters) - A Jewish couple raises an abandoned Palestinian child. Decades later the boy's two mothers meet, and, after an agonizing and high-octane exchange, they tentatively embrace.

The scene is charged with symbolism, heightened by the fact it comes from an Israeli stage production of a Palestinian novella, and is performed by a Jewish and Arab cast to mark Israel's 60th birthday.

"The Return to Haifa," a provocative new play by one of Israel's leading theatres, explores the personal suffering behind the decades-old Middle East conflict, from both an Israeli and Palestinian perspective.

"What's so special about this production is that it gives an arena for people of both sides to listen to each other's narratives," director Sinai Peter told Reuters ahead of the opening night in Jaffa, south of central Tel Aviv.

Through the stories of two couples and one child, the play evokes sympathy for both Jewish Holocaust survivors who sought a refuge in Israel, and the 700,000 Palestinians who abandoned or were driven from their homes during the 1948 war that led to the birth of the Jewish state.

Adapted by Israeli playwright Boaz Gaon from a famous novella by Ghassan Kanafani, it tells the story of Palestinians Said and Safiyeh who fled during fighting in 1948 and were forced to leave their baby boy behind.

New Jewish immigrants Miryam and Ephraim, who lost a son of their own in the Holocaust, move into the house, find the child, and raise him as their own. Two decades later, the five of them meet, and are forced to confront each other's histories.

"At the beginning it seems impossible that these people would sit down to have a dialogue," said Peter. "But the child is a sort of allegory. Who does he belong to? And there is a moment of grace where perhaps they could become one family."   Continued...

 
<p>The cast of the play "The Return to Haifa" hold hands during a curtain call at the conclusion of the opening night performance in a theatre in Jaffa, south of central Tel Aviv April 14, 2008. "The Return to Haifa", a provocative new play by one of Israel's leading theatres, explores the personal suffering behind the decades-old Middle East conflict, from both an Israeli and Palestinian perspective. Adapted by Israeli playwright Boaz Gaon from a famous novella by Ghassan Kanafani, it tells the story of Palestinians Said and Safiyeh who fled during fighting in 1948 and were forced to leave their baby boy behind. Picture taken April 14, 2008. REUTERS/Baz Ratner</p>