The March Freedom Ride (17 March till 29 March) has been organized with several grassroots organizations and is currently taking students, artists, and activists through the Jordan Valley and South Hebron Hills. This arts and educational event began this past Sunday, 17 March 2013 with an orientation at The Freedom Theatre followed by a night of music and Playback Theatre. The evening proved to be a great ice breaker for participants as they got a chance to learn about each other through the telling of stories, some experiencing Playback Theatre for the first time.
For the past 3-days participants have been in the Jordan Valley taking part in building and reconstruction work, tree planting, guided walks, and discussion groups while enjoying evenings filled with Playback Theatre, live music, Dabke, and other cultural events. After the Jordan Valley participants will make their way to the South Hebron Hills.
In preparation for the ride a Core Training in Playback Theatre was held in February, facilitated by the founder of Playback Theatre Jo Salas. Participants in this workshop acquired and/or strengthened their skills and knowledge about the philosophy and application of this applied theatre art. In an effort to learn more about the communities taking part in the ride and to strengthen our working relationship with community members, the Freedom Bus held a solidarity stay in February in the Jordan Valley in the communities of Ein Al Hiluwa and Khirbit Samra. The main objective of this event was to raise awareness about Israeli apartheid practices and to engage children in exercises that stimulate their imagination and creativity.
The March Freedom Ride has been organized to correspond with International World Water Day, held annually on 22 March as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. An international day to celebrate freshwater was recommended at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). The United Nations General Assembly responded by designating 22 March 1993 as the first World Water Day in light of the increase in demand for water access, allocation, and services.
This year, the Freedom Bus will highlight issues of inequality surrounding water allocation and the accompanying social and economic impact upon Palestinian communities living in the Jordan Valley. Day 6 of the ride, which falls on 22 March, will consist of an all-day solidarity walk from Mak-hul to Ras Al Ahmar via Al Hadidya followed by an evening of Music (featuring DAM, Toot Ard, and Ministry of Dub-Key).
Since the completion of the first Freedom Ride, the Freedom Bus troupe has been on the move visiting communities across the West Bank. In November, the Freedom Bus partnered with students from BirZeit University, just outside Ramallah. The students who are part of the Juzoor/EWASH water justice advocacy programme joined the Freedom Bus in Faquaa and the Jordan Valley as part of our Ride for Water Justice, which also visited Battir, Bethlehem near the end of November. All three events succeeded in raising awareness about the water situation in all three locations. Additionally, the days with student participants from BirZeit University succeeded in fostering connections between Palestinian media students, international activists, and community members.
The Freedom Bus ended the year with a visit to Nabi Saleh, located in Area C. Palestinian society is divided into three “areas”, Area A (under full Palestinian civil and security control), B (under full Palestinian civil control and joint Israeli-Palestinian security control), and C (under full Israeli control – security, planning, and construction). In 2009 an Israeli settlement, now called Halamish, was built in Nabi Saleh claiming the one spring on which the village relied. The spring, which was privately owned by Mustafa Tamimi, was an obvious affront to the sovereignty and rights of the village. Two year later, Israeli soldiers shot a tear gas canister into Mustafa Tamimi’s face causing severe wounds and eventually death. This past December the community of Nabi Saleh came together to pay tribute to Mustafa and Rushdi Tamimi, two unarmed civilians shot and killed during, regular, peaceful demonstrations in Nabi Saleh. The day included a Playback performance by the Freedom Bus troupe, Dabke (Palestinian folk tradition), and a play by local children. The Freedom Bus troupe was honored to be the only group from outside Nabi Saleh to be given time on stage, demonstrating the communities understanding and value of the role Playback Theatre plays in remembering, grieving, and affirming identity.
The Freedom Bus project has just completed its first Freedom Ride, bringing together hundreds of Palestinians and internationals on a tour to communities all over the West Bank of occupied Palestine.
During the ride, The Freedom Bus visited some of the most besieged areas of the West Bank. Palestinian actors and musicians enacted personal accounts of community members, touching on issues such as home demolitions, land confiscation, nightly army invasions, arbitrary arrests, settler violence, water shortage, the effects of the Wall and much more. Interactive theatre and music performances were complemented by hip hop concerts, university seminars, community tours and giant puppet shows.
The Freedom Bus made its first stop in Faquaa, where although the village's name means spring water bubbles, the villagers are struggling to get access to clean water due to Israel's separation barrier and land confiscation. The performance was watched, from a distance, by Israeli soldiers looking through binoculars and photographing and filming the crowd over the barbed wire.The bus continued to Nabi Saleh, a small village surrounded by settlements, where we heard several stories from women in the village who are very involved in the non-violent resistance. A newly released prisoner also joined the performance, and as the villagers joyfully crowded around him to welcome him home he told the audience about his experiences of being held in Israeli prison.In Aida Camp, close to Betlehem, the Freedom Bus actors had the opportunity to perform in a beautiful purpose-built outdoor theatre directly next to the separation wall. As we performed in the shadow of the wall the lights of our show lit up the resistance graffiti. It was a truly astonishing setting. An elderly man began his story with a joke: “When people come into your house, they usually choose to enter through the front door. But in the Second Intifada our visitors [the Israelis] came through the walls.” He was referring to the Israeli practice of bombing the walls of neighbouring houses to move through the camp internally. His house was entered in this way and occupied by a group of soldiers for seventeen days before the army set off a bomb that exploded through the walls of five adjacent houses.Another stop was made in Ramallah, where in the unlikely setting of a corporate conference room, we heard stories from Gazans who lived through the war on Gaza of December 2008 – January 2009. The performance was beamed to the people in Gaza and as the Freedom Bus actors introduced themselves they said they dreamed of one day being able to perform in Gaza without the need of wires and cables. A woman from the Gazan group summed up what many were feeling when she said; “I am happy to see you, but unhappy about the borders between us.”In Al-Walajah, a village facing impending strangulation by the separation wall, the Freedom Bus joined community members in a creative march to protest the attacks on their land and homes. The villagers of Walaja have owned the land for generations, but only inhabit one side of the valley after they were expelled from the location of their original village in 1948. Soon, the valley will also be lost and the wall will essentially imprison the village.In a desert valley overlooked by hilltop settlements near Jerusalem, we found the tiny village of Khan al-Ahmar, a Bedouin encampment of ramshackle hand-built shacks of tin, plastic and wood. The Freedom Bus tour purposefully chose to visit Khan al-Ahmar in order to highlight the conditions of the often-forgotten Palestinian Bedouin population in Israel-Palestine. These people are prevented from pursuing their traditional way of life and their homes are constantly under threat. Nonetheless, an older Bedouin man described the Bedouin as “fierce and resilient people” who will resist as long as they can. As one young Bedouin man put it: “The singer may die, but the song will live.”
It is hard to do justice to the experiences of this Freedom Ride. In short, the international participants left occupied Palestine with memories for life. The perhaps strongest impression was the steadfastness and creativity of people living under occupation. The stories, brought to life by the Freedom Bus actors, acted as a remarkable testimony of a collective struggle to live with dignity in the face of oppression.
This historic Freedom Ride would not have been possible without your support. As we look ahead towards what we hope to be many more rides, we invite you to join us on our continued journey.
The Freedom Bus project is ready to take off! On September 22nd people from around the world will gather in Jenin to get onboard the bus, joining Palestinian actors, musicians, writers and activists in a Freedom Ride to key sites of resistance and oppression in the West Bank.
Join this ride for justice and hear first-hand accounts of resilience, courage and determination. Witness stories come alive through theatre, giant puppets and music. Attend seminars with some of Palestine’s leading activists, writers and scholars, exploring issues such as the mechanisms of occupation, colonialism and apartheid. Meet with community members to share experiences of the many ways that they are engaging in the struggle for freedom and justice. In short: it will be the ride of a lifetime!
In addition to community visits, interactive theatre performances and seminars, the ride will also include several concerts featuring some of Palestine’s best contemporary music artists:
If you can't join the Freedom Ride this time, you can stay connected through our many social media channels:
Web: http://www.freedombus.psFacebook: http://www.facebook.com/thefreedombusTwitter: @FreedomBusPalE-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also support the project by making a much-needed additional donation at:http://www.freedombus.ps/donate
Thank you and welcome onboard the Freedom Bus - if not in body then in spirit.
August is upon us and the Freedom Bus team is busy laying the ground for the Freedom Ride that will take place from September 23 to October 1. During these nine days, people from around the world will travel through the occupied West Bank, coming together to share experiences, build alliances and stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine. If you wish to join the ride, click here to find out more!
The group of actors that was formed at the end of last year has developed into an ensemble with members from across the West Bank as well as from Nazareth. They hold regular trainings and performances, connecting with communities that will be part of the Freedom Ride. Recent Freedom Bus events include a female-only performance in Faquaa north of Jenin, where the women of the village got together to share stories from their everyday lives, and a performance in Dheisheh Refugee Camp outside Bethlehem.
Using storytelling, one of the most ancient rituals for developing support and connection between group members, the Freedom Bus has already given voice to hundreds of accounts, bringing them to life through improvisational theatre. Audience members often give feedback on how the ensemble is highly successful in communicating the essence of their experiences. At the latest Faquaa event the women repeatedly told the actors: “It was exactly like that!”
The Freedom Bus has also helped raise awareness about the difficult circumstances under which many Palestinian communities exist. The events held so far have facilitated meetings between community members, and organisations, researchers, journalists, scholars, artists and human rights advocates who have helped to broadcast their experiences. One example is Faquaa, where village members have established an ongoing partnership with EWASH, The Emergency Water, Sanitation and Hygiene group which is a coalition of international and local organisations working in the water and sanitation sector.
This is only the beginning of the Freedom Bus project and we are very excited about the outcomes it can bring. We welcome you to join us, if not in body then in spirit, as we embark on what promises to be an eventful ride.
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