Out Of Occupation In Palestine

Fundraising event to bring children from Palestine to Oxford this Summer
North Wall Arts Centre, Sun May 29th 2011

May 30, 2011
How many wars are started by children? Name one. Exactly. But many children have to live in warzones, and the environment in which those children grow to adulthood will profoundly affect the course of their lives, and their relationship within – or without society.

Children – all children – caught up in a war suffer fear, deprivation and loss. For those families continually vulnerable to military attack, but physically contained and unable to flee, the threat is ever present. It compromises schooling, employment and every aspect of daily life.

Last night’s fundraising event organized by the Oxford Ramallah Friendship Association (ORFA) allowed some of those voices of children living in refugee camps in Gaza to address the audience. Even more powerfully, their words were spoken by children from Oxford’s Pegasus Youth Theatre.

Yasmin Sidhwar, Head of Creative Learning at Pegasus explained that each actor chose a monologue for themselves. ‘It had to be a personal thing, being able to relate,’ she explained.
‘It helped me put my life in perspective,’ one actor said.
‘It made me humble,’ said another.

The electrifying effect of individual performances suggested a genuine sympathy for those they’d never met, as Oxford children became compelling Gazan talking heads.
‘It’s not like it’s Shakespeare, or something: just telling a story,’ one actor said. ‘This is not fiction.’

Equally affecting was Jen Marlow’s short film A Family in Gaza. Whatever your political views, the aftermath of the three week Israeli assault on Gaza in December 2008 resulted in the reported deaths of 1400 Palestinians and the destruction of 20,000 homes.
‘Mama, you always wanted to go up on the roof. Now the roof has come down to us,’ a child from the Awajah family told their mother.
The terror, the pain of bullet wounds, the grief at losing their son and being unable to hold him as he lay dying in front of them, the bewilderment of their children, and the aftermath of their tented existence are captured with eloquent dignity in the family’s words.

Guardian journalist Rory McCarthy reminded the audience that Gaza was ‘ a wonderful place full of extraordinary people.’ Now, as one Gazan voice commented: ‘Gaza is a matchbox, and we’re the matches within it.’

In a summer initiative, the ORFA is hoping to bring 4 children and 2 supervising adults from the Amari refugee camp in Ramallah over to Oxford in July. According to ORFA organizer Laila Asser:
‘We support a film/video making course in the camp and the children have been chosen on the basis of merit and achievement in the courses. This opportunity will allow them to attend a film/video making course in Oxford to improve their skills. But the most important element of the trip will be to widen their horizons as most of them will not have travelled very far from the camp,’ she said.

The event was also raising funds for the Pegasus Theatre in Oxford to bring some children from Gaza to attend a theatre workshop. On July 22nd at 4.30pm and 8.30pm there will be chances to see another performance. It is hoped that, despite travel restrictions at home, the two groups from Ramallah and Gaza will get to know each other, share experiences and meet people from the UK.
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