Freedom Riders in the Jordan Valley
This year's Freedom Ride in occupied Palestine brought together 50 people from Palestine and abroad who travelled to communities across the occupied West Bank, bringing cultural resistance from Jenin in the north, all the way to Jerusalem.
Actually, not everyone made it to Jerusalem. The original plan was to spend the two last days of the Freedom Ride there - a symbolic and actual defiance of the enforced separation between Palestinians in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. However, realities on the ground came in the way. Despite several attempts, the Palestinian members of the Freedom Ride, including The Freedom Theatre’s staff, students and actors, were denied permits and thus could not cross the checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem. The international members of the Freedom Ride were put in a dilemma – should they continue or stay? In the end half the group stayed behind to in Ramallah and the other continued into East Jerusalem. In the evening the two groups carried out parallel playback theatre events, sharing stories of isolation, marginalisation and the difficulties of having to separate from the Freedom Riders who were not granted permission to enter their own capital. There were also accounts about solidarity between people from around the world with Palestine and how that inspires and gives hope.
For many, this year's ride was a transformative journey.
"The Freedom Ride was a very intense, rich experience. I appreciated the fact that there was a good number of Palestinians on the ride and that Palestinians played a dominant role in organizing the itinerary and events throughout the ride. The Ride is unique in its combination of Freedom Ride participant interaction, experiences with a diverse set of Palestinian communities and engagement with the arts. Every day I was saturated with stories, information, emotions and thoughts—snapshots of the multiple and diverse perspectives about the reality of occupation. It is an experience I will never forget and one that challenges me to change my own actions and involvement moving forward."
The unique feature of the Freedom Bus project is the use of cultural activism to bear witness, raise awareness and build alliances. Actors and musicians invite real-life stories from communities across occupied Palestine and subsequently transform each account into a piece of improvised theatre. This makes the Freedom Ride organized by The Freedom Theatre unique in Palestine and very different from other solidarity rides. Other events of the Freedom Ride include volunteer work in communities, such as planting trees, painting walls or making mud bricks, walks, workshops and educational talks. All these activities happen in communities who are affected by the occupation in their daily lives, but who differ in how they respond to it. The accounts we heard were not easy to bear and sometimes emotionally overwhelming.
In the end we hope there will be no need for another Freedom Ride in occupied Palestine. But as long as Palestine is not free, we will continue. We hope you will continue to stand by our side.
Making new friends
Music and theatre are central in the Freedom Ride
Freedom Rider waving a flag close to a settlement
Popular resistance works!
Playback theatre event in a small village