(PALESTINE – GAZA)
HEBA lives in Gaza. The Gaza Strip is a small self-governing Palestinian territory on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, that together with the West Bank, comprise the Palestinian territories, claimed by Palestinians as the State of Palestine.
Gaza and the West Bank are separated from each other by Israeli territory. In the early 1990’s Israel imposed movement restrictions to Gaza citizens, which were intensified after Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. In consequence, people living in Gaza are confined, denied free access to the rest of the Palestinian territory and to the outside world.
HEBA was fourteen years old when Gaza was attached by Israel under the Operation Cast Lead on December 27th 2008, by opening a wave of airstrikes that struck hundred preplanned targets. That was the start of a three-week armed conflict between Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and Israel. “The bombing started while I was at school, which was right behind one of the first bombed buildings. Everybody started to run, but I didn’t know where to go or what to do” The 22 days war ended with a balance of more than 1200 casualties, being the majority Gaza inhabitants. “My family was ok, Alhamdulillah’s, but there was blood all over, it was really bad”.
The war destabilized the lives of many, and HEBA and her friends were not an exception “We were children that came out of a war, and some of us did not want to talk, we did not want to do anything” It was thanks to an Ashtar’s theatre initiative that HEBA was able to overcome the trauma and get some perspective about the reality of her country.
Ashtar Theatre is a theatre company based in Ramallah that aims to promote creativity for change, combining training programs with professional theatre performances. The Gaza Monologues was the project created to help people in Gaza, which basic goal was to give voice to children and youth for them to be heard on the international arenas.
HEBA started going to a cultural center in Gaza, and it was there where she engaged with the project “First I started alone because I didn’t want to talk to anyone and then I trained with a group of other students. We had ten months of instruction with Ashtar, and afterwards each of us wrote its own monologue, talking about our lives before, during and after the war”
HEBA’s monologue, along with her colleagues’ ones, were performed by actors in 33 different countries “We wished to perform our monologues around the world but we can’t because of the siege here in Gaza. That is the reason why other people act on them” Thanks to Internet, they have been able to watch their plays despite being locked-in “We are happy to find another way to share our monologues, to see that people outside Gaza know about what is going on with us here, how is the situation for children in Gaza, and what are the effects of war on children”
Nowadays HEBA continues practicing theatre with Ashtar and she is really passionate about it “I feel so comfortable in the theatre, I feel good, I feel happier than in any other place” Regardless her passion, she faces some difficulties being a girl at the theatre. “When I started performing I had people encouraging me to continue, but at the same time I had people saying: – but you are a girl, you are not supposed to do this -”. Luckily, she is a mirror to many younger girls, which gives her the strength to continue working to convince everybody that girls can work in the theatre.
HEBA is studying industrial engineering at the university, and despite it is a degree that requires a lot of effort, her impression is that theater helps her to be better at her studies. She wants to be both an industrial engineer and an actress, and she stresses that “theatre is really important, is where we can discuss our ideals about Palestine, about the world we want. I believe we can change the bad things existing in people’s minds by using theatre”