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Between 2004 and 2010, Just Vision interviewed more than 80 Palestinian and Israeli grassroots leaders. The interviews in this archive represent a fraction of the civic leaders working in the field at a particular moment in time, and aim to provide audiences access to a range of perspectives and approaches.

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Ihsan Turkiyyeh

Ihsan Turkiyyeh is an actress and comedian with Palestinian Television. She has participated in numerous joint projects with Israelis and Palestinians, and currently works with the Arab-Hebrew Theatre in Jaffa. Along with a group of Israeli and Palestinian actors, Ihsan performs Viewpoints, a series of vignettes about the conflict, in schools throughout Israel and East Jerusalem. The daughter of Palestinian refugees, Ihsan grew up in Lebanon before moving to Ramallah.

  • How did you first get involved in joint Israeli Palestinian productions?

    First it was curiosity. Curiosity to know the other. I have to know him. Who's that? Who are they? So this was the first thing-- it wasn't peace. Although I came to Ramallah with Oslo in 1994, I suffered a lot at the hands of the Israelis, especially in Lebanon. We were in Beirut when Sharon invaded and I was alone with my daughter. My husband was fighting in the mountains of Lebanon against the Israelis. My husband spent his life fighting the Israelis, and he died for it. It's not so easy to make a 180-degree change. It has to be a process, that's what I believe. I don't believe anybody who comes and says, "Hey, I want to make peace with you!" No. I think he is a cheater, in one way or another. We are human beings and we have to go through a process, and in this process, you will cry, you will curse yourself, you will curse everybody. You will curse that you were born in this world, that you were born in this country. But in the end of this process, you will see the change. How? If Palestinians meet a good group of Israelis, there will be a change. And Israelis also, if they meet good, intellectual, nice people, they will change. But if it is the contrary, there will be no change. That is important. I was lucky.In the first project we were doing a theater piece sponsored by the Americans, and by New York University. The writer of the play was Jim Mirrione.1 He's an American, and he did research here before he wrote the play. A friend of mine told me that they wanted actors who speak English. This was a good opportunity. I'm an actress, I act in Arabic, but it was a good opportunity for me because I spoke English. My friend told me there would be Israelis and Jordanians. He said Israelis first and I was shocked. Then he said Jordanians, and I thought, "Okay I'm not the only Arab; at least there is another group of Arabs." They took us to England and it was very, very difficult. They did a documentary film and it won third prize in Leipzig Festival for Documentary films, out of 2000 films.2 Imagine! I'm lucky in that way. But the director took the prize, not me, although I was the main character in the film. We fought, because everyone has his ideology, everyone thinks that he is right. Everyone. And everyone has his excuses, you understand? In this country you will see two faces to reality. Everyone says, "Oh, we were here before you, it is our land, you took it," it's like the egg and the hen. So you come to a point where you are always fighting, a hundred years of suffering for both people-- and especially the Palestinians because they are suffering more, there are refugees, you know. Even now I feel pain when they bring the African Jews here from Africa,3 while my people are nearby in Lebanon living in camps4 and suffering. They don't have the right to work, it's a very difficult life. I lived as a refugee in Lebanon, I know how it is; it is difficult. And they are very nearby, but [they are not allowed to come here] because of their race; they are Arabs, they are not Jews; they are mostly Muslims or Christians.So it's a very difficult process, but I feel I managed it successfully, because you don't always have to look into the past. You have to find a good future. Especially, you know I lost my husband in the war and I was 24 years old. I was very young, the age of my daughter now, and I had two babies. My son was 40 days old, and my daughter was 2 and a half. So when the [Oslo] peace process came, and they made an agreement, I was happy.

    • 1A city in Northern Israel just north of the West Bank and southeast of Haifa. It's population is approximately 40,000 people, who are predominantly Palestinian citizens of Israel.
    • 2Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1979 following negotiations at Camp David, a United States presidential retreat site. The treaty was negotiated by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, with American President Jimmy Carter serving as moderator. Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in exchange for peace and Egyptian recognition of the State of Israel, thereby establishing a precedent for "land-for-peace" negotiations. While Israel and Syria have attempted to broker similar "land-for-peace" agreements in the past, no formal treaty between the two countries has been signed. Neither Syria nor Lebanon officially recognizes the existence of the State of Israel. Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994.
    • 3Also known as "Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel," "Palestinian Israelis," "1948 Palestinians," or "Arab Israelis." Refers to those Palestinians and their descendents who remained in the area that became the State of Israel in 1948. They were granted Israeli citizenship. Until 1966 most of them were subjected to military rule that restricted their movement and some of their rights. In 2004, they make up approximately 18-19% of the Israeli population, live within the Green Line of the State of Israel, participate in government and hold Israeli citizenship. (See: http://www.mossawacenter.org)
    • 4Following Israel's capture of Jordanian controlled Jerusalem in the Six-Day/June War of 1967, Israel offered citizenship to the permanent residents of the captured areas, if they were willing to meet certain conditions. Most all of the residents declined the offer. See B'tselem's "Legal Status of East Jerusalem and its Residents" http://www.btselem.org/English/Jerusalem/Legal_Status.asp. See the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs' "Status of Jerusalem" (March 1999), Section V: Jerusalem's Arabs and Israel-Palestinian Negotiations. http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/MFAArchive/1990_1999/1999/3/The%20Status%20of%20Jerusalem.

  • Could you start at the beginning... tell us about your background, where you grew up?

    I was born in Kuwait in 1958. My father is a mechanical engineer, working with cars. When I was 8 years old my father was driven out of Kuwait for political reasons. My father was supporting the Palestinian Fatah group and in that time in the Arab world it wasn't okay.1 My father is originally from Jaffa, and my mother is from Jaffa, and my grandfather is from Jaffa, and my grandmother is from Jaffa, but my other grandmother is Lebanese. In 1948 my mother's family was deported to Lebanon and my father's family was deported to the Gaza Strip. They are still there in a camp called Maghazi Camp.2 My grandmother is still living there with my uncle. But most of my family is in Lebanon now. This is the origin of my family. I was raised in a very nice place in the mountains of Lebanon that I love. When my father was rich, when he was working in Kuwait, he built a nice summer house and when they deported him we came to stay permanently in this house in a village called Mikin, in the municipality of Aley [in Lebanon]. I was raised in nunnery schools. I was lucky; they had money in the beginning. For two or three years I was in a Palestinian school, then I left and went to a very famous school, the Lycee Nationale in Lebanon. Rich and powerful people in the government sent their children there, but I went without paying money. I was 15 years old, and I went to the director of the school and I told him I was Palestinian and I wanted to learn but my father didn't have any money now to teach me. There is a very patriotic Arab party in Lebanon, I went to one of the party members and I asked him, "I am Palestinian and I want to learn but my father doesn't have money." And he looked at me-- I knew he was in this party. I've been clever since I was very young. I told him, "You say you support Palestinians... so you have to support me because you say that the Palestinians can't liberate their country unless they are educated. And I want to be educated. I am smart, I am first in my class." He looked at me and he hugged me and he said, "Okay. You can come to the school." It's a very expensive school. The princes of Kuwait went to my school. Then I asked him for another request. He said, "What else? You are coming to the most famous school for free!" I said, "Sir, but the books. My father doesn't have money for the books." He said, "What!" I said, "the books." And he called a teacher, who was a Maronite, but was also in the same party. He said, "look, this Palestinian girl..." I was very skinny, tiny. I looked like I was living in poverty. He looked at me and I said, "Yes, I don't have books." He said, "okay I'll bring you books, but they'll be used books." I said, "It's okay, at least I can learn." I went to the school and finished my Baccalaureate there. And then my father had an opportunity to go to Qatar to work in a Mitsubishi car company, and I went to the university to study English literature. My father sent me, and I studied there.Before that there was the war in 1976, the Lebanon War.3 I joined the Palestinian army. I was 16 years old. They gave me a course on wireless walkie talkies-- talking to soldiers everywhere. You give them orders, like where to bomb. The Phalanges4 were fighting us, and the Syrians at that time were also fighting us in Tal el-Za'atar. It was the Syrians who helped the Phalanges to kill the Palestinians in the camp of Tal el-Za'atar.5 I met my husband when I was working with the Palestinian leader Abu Jihad. I was a kid.

    • 1Prior to the Arab League Summit in Rabat, Morocco, in October of 1974, which supported the claim of the PLO as "the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people," there was no single organization with such recognition but a variety of groups and countries claiming to be the "legitimate voice" of the Palestinians. For a brief overview on the formation of Fatah and the rise of the PLO see: William L. Cleveland. A History of the Modern Middle East. 2nd ed. (Boulder: Westview Press, 2000) 350-358.
    • 2One of eight refugee camps in the Gaza Strip. It is located in the central part of the Gaza Strip and is home to roughly 22,000 registered refugees. See http://www.un.org/unrwa/refugees/gaza/maghazi.html
    • 3The Civil War in Lebanon lasted from 1975 until 1990. The war was largely fought over the nature and future of the state in Lebanon and between the major sectarian communities in Lebanon (the Maronite Christians, Sunni Muslims, and Shii Muslims) as well as the Palestinians. The war also had a large international component that involved the governments and armed affiliates of several countries in the Middle East, particularly Syria. For information on the events leading to the Civil War in Lebanon see: Farid el Khazen. The Breakdown of the State in Lebanon 1967-1976. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000).
    • 4The Phalange (Kataeb Party) was the main Christian Maronite political party and paramilitary organization prior to and during the Civil War in Lebanon (1975-1990). The confrontation and violence between the Palestinians and Maronites, particularly between the PLO and the Phalange, was one of the major trends of the Civil War.
    • 5The Tal el-Za'atar Refugee Camp "was besieged for 51 days by right-wing Lebanese forces who massacred all the inhabitants upon their surrender," according to Wadie Said in The Obligation of Host Countries to Refugees under International Law: The Case of Lebanon. According to another source: "on 22 June 1976, forces, led by the National Liberal Party, launched an offensive against the Tal el-Za'tar Palestinian camp, one of the largest and most heavily armed camps in the country. Fighting went on for over 50 days and resulted in a high casualty toll on both sides." Farid el Khazen. The Breakdown of the State in Lebanon: 1967-1976. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000) 346.

  • You met your husband while you were on the walkie-talkie?

    Giving instructions, yes. I was in the operation room. You hear the boom and you lie down under the table. But I was young and I was not afraid. It was war, it was really war. Some girls went to be nurses, but I don't like blood. They asked me what I wanted to do and I said I would go to the dispatch room. They gave us a little money, but at least in war we all become a big family. I am the eldest of my brothers and sisters. We were seven children and my parents, so it was difficult. We left our house and went to a safer house. You can open any house, you can stay anywhere during war. Even if it doesn't belong to you, you can stay in it, sleep, eat and everything. This is war; this is the hard life we lived. I met my husband there. He had been studying in Belgrade in Yugoslavia. He was preparing for his Master's degree in politics and economics and international relations. He was a volunteer who came to defend the Palestinians in the camps. He is Palestinian but he was studying in Yugoslavia.

  • Where was your husband from?

    He grew up here in Palestine, in Nablus. But he was also a refugee from Jaffa, and his family went to Nablus.I met him in Lebanon. I was talking to him on the walkie talkie, and he wanted to see who this girl was. I was very young, and he was around 26. He came to meet me, and we had a fight. The first time we met, we fought. I said, "Who are you, talking to me like that? Who do you think you are?" And then he said, "Okay, okay. Sorry." And the next day he came to apologize to me, he said, "You know, I'm a volunteer..." He was with the army. He said, "I'm a volunteer, don't talk to me like this." And I said, "Okay, then behave well!" After about a week he sent his friend, who was a doctor and also a volunteer, to tell me that he wanted to marry me. I was 16, 17. And he said, "You know that guy..." I said, "What? That guy I fought with!" He was a very charming man, very nice, very good-looking, and tall. He had character and charisma. You felt like he was a leader. We got engaged, but the war stopped and after a year we left each other. He came and said, "I can't marry you, I have no money, my father died. I don't know what to do in my career." And we separated. I went to the University and he was assigned [by the PLO] to Iran during Khomeini's time.1 My husband was helping to support the Iranians against the Shah. So they put him in the director's office in Iran. He was the first Palestinian director for the PLO office in Iran. He gave him a gun as a gift. It's a very nice gun but it was later stolen in Lebanon. Then he came back to Lebanon, and we met again in the street after three years. We left each other and after 3 years we met in the street! He said, "Hi... how are you?" He came to talk to me in the street and I said, "Who are you?" He said, "You don't remember me?" I said, "Wala [I swear]. Maybe I have seen your face before." He said, "Hey come on, you know I'm in a different situation now. I am responsible now, I can get married." So I said, "Okay, go ask my mother." And we got married after five months. I lived with him for only 3 years and he was killed in the war in Bekaa Valley.2 We had many wars in Lebanon, it is hard to count? He was killed in the war between the Syrians and the Palestinians who were supporting the Syrians and the Palestinians who were supporting Arafat. My husband was with those who were supporting Arafat, the Fatah. Because there was a separation in the PLO, some of Fatah turned to support the Syrian groups.3 And after that he was killed in Bekaa. But in Lebanon it was a real mess. In Lebanon you found, all very close to each other, the Israelis, the Syrians, the Phalanges... you could see 100 parties in one area the size of Ramallah. One in the south, one in the north... this is Lebanon. It was like that.

    • 1(1902-1989) The first Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which replaced the government of Muhammad Reza Shah after the Revolution of 1978-1979.
    • 2Runs from North to Central Lebanon, along the country's eastern border with Syria.
    • 3The Fatah- dominated PLO of the 1970's and the Syrian government were at odds over events and operations in Lebanon during the first phase of the Lebanese Civil War in 1975-1976. Their differences eventually led to a war between the two in 1976 in Lebanon. However, not all Palestinian groups were at odds with Syria. Like many Arab governments at the time, Syria sponsored its Palestinian guerilla group, al-Sa'iqa. For more on the PLO-Syria war of 1976 see: Farid el-Khazen. "The Palestinian-Syrian War," in The Breakdown of the State in Lebanon 1967-1976. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000) 339-351.

  • Your husband was killed fighting against the Syrians?

    Walahi[I swear to God], he was not fighting anybody. He was against bloodshed between the Palestinians. Arafat sent him to negotiate... not to shed blood. We are brothers, we are from the same nation. Many people said, maybe the Syrians shot him because they didn't want the Palestinians to... the Arabs always betray us so I can't believe anything. Some said it was a bomb, and the Israelis were also in the area. Nobody knows in the end. In the end for me he was killed, and he sacrificed his life fighting the Israelis. He wanted to go home. The last thing he said to me was, "I love you, I love my kids, but I love Palestine more. I want my children to live in dignity. I don't want my children to live as refugees like us. It's very hard. We lived without dignity. We were humiliated by Arab regimes, and by the Israelis. We have the right to live as people. If I die I will die for this cause." That's what he said. What shall we do? That is our life. So he left me with these two babies. It was very hard; it was also very hard in the Arab society to be a young widow. But I was really lucky with my family. My father and mother, because they were raised in Lebanon, were very open-minded. You can do what you want, you can work, you can have your own home... you are out of the house and it's your responsibility to take care of yourself. And maybe this gave me the opportunity to be a struggler in life. I worked at many things in my life. My first job was this job in the army, then I went to the Palestinian Red Crescent.1 I was 19 years old and I worked as an English translator with the foreign delegations that came to visit the camps and the hospitals. Sometimes they thought I was a foreigner, too. They would say, "Put your hands up!" I said, "I'm Palestinian!" When I got to the camps they thought I was a foreigner. It was a difficult life. I don't think it's like anyone else's life. You have different experiences. I think the experience makes the people. I lived for a long time in Lebanon. I told you I studied English literature, and in the third year the Israelis invaded Lebanon so I didn't finish my B.A. So they are responsible for my failure! [Laughs] For me it's okay, it's not the degree you get, it's what you are. Sometimes people have degrees, a BA and an MA, but when you talk to them you find that they are nothing. I believe that life is a good experience for people. It's not the certificate you are carrying. I meet people that have high degrees and you can't sit with them for ten minutes.

    • 1See http://www.palestinercs.org/

  • When did you come to Ramallah?

    I moved to Jordan and I worked in the Palestinian Embassy in Jordan. You know diplomats, they are all liars, so I learned acting from the diplomats, because they are actors and parrots. They were always parrots, throughout the four years I worked there. In every job,one learns, and I learned acting from this. Actually when I was young I used to do plays and read stories on our roof. I hung blankets where my mother used to hang the clothes, and did theater for the neighbors. I used to play the princes and the princesses. Many times I told my father I wanted to go to acting school to study acting. Once the Palestinian cinema in Lebanon came to ask me to act, but my father refused. "No you are young, go study, you have to worry about academics." Old-fashioned parents don't believe in art. I said, "But this is my dream!" He said, "No, go study English literature." He always taught me that you have to learn the language of the enemy. And our enemy was England, because Britain gave Palestine to the Jews.1 They were the main enemy. My father always said you have to learn the language of your enemy. Because of this he made me study English. In Lebanon there was French and English. I said, "God, dad, you could let some of us learn French!" But no, he said, "All of you have to study English. Go study English because you will help each other if someone is not good." The eldest, or the eldest daughter, is always given more responsibility than she can bear. Now my parents are old. When my sisters and brothers have problems they call me from overseas. "What shall I do, I am fighting with my husband, and he did this to me!" I say, "sweetheart, I'm not living with you now in Jordan, I can't come now and fight with him. I am away!" They still have to call me if they have a problem, or if they are in need of something. I am like a mother and a father to them. This is because our parents instilled in us the responsibility of the eldest child. This is difficult. Also, you act. You have to be the eldest, you have to be the courageous one, you have to be the thinker... everyone comes to you with problems and you have to think! You will be busy all the time with their problems. I ran away to here! So in 1994 they made the agreement [Oslo]. There was something my husband told me before he was shot. He said, "If Palestine becomes established, take my children back. Go home. My country is very beautiful." Because I was raised in Lebanon, even though I'm Palestinian, I didn't know Palestine, and I didn't have those emotions like him. He was raised here. I said, "Eh, when Palestine becomes established, god willing, in about a hundred years, we'll go then." That's what I said to him. I was never convinced that we would go to Palestine. The first time I came they took me to Tel Aviv. I couldn't believe it! I said, slap me. Weee, from Beirut to Jordan to Tel Aviv. Nothing is impossible in the world. This teaches you that there is nothing impossible. The impossible became possible. If we believe that, then I also believe that there is no eternal enemy. Why? Japan was fighting with the Americans, and now they are allies. Germany with France-- when I went to France my friend told me that if some French girl loved a German, they used to shave off all her hair, look how strong the hatred was-- and now they are in the European Union. When you think of that, you know there is no eternal enemy. So why can't we work now, start building this idea. We see in our history that many empires were demolished. The Roman Empire, England, France, they were empires and now they are a state like any state. So I feel there is nothing eternal.

    • 1One illustration of this is the Balfour Declaration, a 1917 promulgation of Lord Arthur James Balfour, promising the British government's support for the creation of a Jewish national home in Palestine. The Balfour Declaration later became the foundation for international support for the creation of the State of Israel.

  • When did you first get involved in working for peace?

    I work for peace and I pay a lot for peace, it's not so easy. I started with the American writer with a play called the Last Enemy. We went to Broadway in America, and we also went to Jordan.1 We performed in the American Embassy. We did it in Ramallah here in Grand Park, and in Tel Aviv and in Beer Sheva; we went to a lot of places here. I worked with that project for around 2 years. Then I was a producer of a program with Israeli Channel Two, about Palestinian and Israeli teenagers. You give them a topic, and they talk about it, and you bring in someone from the Israeli government and someone from the Palestinian government. It was with the cooperation of the head of Palestinian Television. Then what happened? They screwed us. Seven months without salary. They stopped paying our salaries because we did that. According to them, it was "normalization with the enemy." It was the one who was assassinated in Gaza, Hisham Makki,2 who stopped our salaries for seven months. But look at what happened. I said if you are doing something good for God, he will always help you. I am a mother, I have kids, I have a house, I have to raise my children. You will not believe it, after less than a week I had a dream, and I woke up in the morning and said, "Oh God it's a good dream." I was very, very high. I got a telephone call and they said, "You are invited to go to France to train for a women's race called the Triumphe Aicha Des Gazelles."3 This is a woman's race and they go through Paris, Spain, and Morocco.

    • 1"The Last Enemy" was performed in American, Jordanian, Palestinian, and Israeli locations.
    • 2Hisham Makki, director of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation, was assassinated on January 18, 2001 in the Gaza Strip. The Al-Aksa Martyr's Brigade claimed responsibility for the killing, accusing Makki of corruption. Soon after, the PNA seized Makki's bank accounts which were estimated to be around 17 million dollars. See Khaled Abu Toameh. "Corrupt Palestinian Officials Said Fleeing in Fear for Their Lives," The Jerusalem Report. 12 Mar. 2001, pg. 4.
    • 3A women's only jeep race through the Moroccan desert. See http://www.rallyeaichadesgazelles.com/.

  • What is the women's race you participated in?

    Rally, jeep, four by four: car racing. I said, "What! You want me to go alone in a racecar?" I would be the driver, and the navigator would be my friend Nomi; she's Israeli and we were working together on the previous project. They got our names because it was the tenth anniversary and they wanted to do something for peace, Palestinian and Israeli. Nomi was in India and I sent her an email, "Hey crazy, they are inviting us to race, what do you think?" She asked me what I thought. I asked my kids. They said, "Oh mom, it's a good opportunity, go!" I said, "Racing, I will die!" They said, "No mom, you are courageous you can do it." And I asked my friends and they said, "Ihsan you are brave, you can do that." So I went to the race with my friend Nomi. They made a film about it. It got first prize in the Berlin Film Festival.1 Every film I am in gets a prize! You should see me with the helmet and the kaffiyeh2 and my shorts in the desert. It was a very tough experience, I got dehydrated in the desert and a French doctor who was also racing helped me. She saw the car on the top of the mountain in the sand and she thought, "Why are they stopped up there, it's Ihsan and Nomi, I have to check." She came up and saw me lying there, and Nomi was saying, "Habibti,3 what should I do?" She was calling on the telephone, and saying, "Ihsan is really in serious trouble." I said, "I am okay, but I want to sleep." She said to me, "Don't sleep, don't sleep." And they came and gave me glucose. It was windy and it was like 50 Degrees [Celsius]. It was very hot. Also we lost the race. It was horrible. The first day Nomi lost the compass and we were like two babies lost in the desert. She was the navigator and I was the driver. Sometimes she took me to terrible places and we went over rocks and valleys. This was in the south of Morocco. We went there for peace! We put Palestinian and Israeli flags on our jeep, and we were saying, "Screw both, screw both, we are going to die! Screw peace!" That was in the year 2000. I met Nomi in the first project, in the play the Last Enemy.

    • 1The documentary about Ihsan and Nomi's race through the Sahara Desert is entitled Two States of Mind (2001, directed by Shira Richter). The film won several awards including the Berlin Jewish Film Festival Audience Prize.
    • 2An Arab headdress made of one piece of cloth traditionally worn by men.
    • 3Arabic for "my dear."

  • What was it like the first time you worked with Israelis?

    It was difficult, it was difficult. Because you feel like every word they say to you is because you are Palestinian, you are not Ihsan. This is very humiliating. And when you become liberated from this idea, when I talk to you as an individual, it's not like I talk to you as from where you belong, from your group. This is the main problem of the Palestinians and the Israelis. They talk to you in the name of your group. But you have to talk to me as a person. I learned this, to talk to a person as a person.

  • Can you explain what you mean by someone speaking to you as if you're part of a group and not as a person?

    You know, through my experience now working with Israelis, and it's 6 years, which is quite a bit of experience. I can tell when people are talking to me as a Palestinian, and when it's personal. I can recognize it. For example, once I had a fight with somebody, poor guy, he was new to the peace work. We were in a school and we have dialogues after the shows. I asked the kids, Israelis in Afula, "Do you know what is the meaning of occupation?" One kid said, "People who are occupying other people, people who take the land of other people." And he felt that was political. I felt that it was not political, that it is the issue. So I fought with him, God, poor guy, I pitied him after that. Because I am a very honest person; when I am angry I never lie. "What do you think I'm talking about... this is the main issue, occupation, this is the issue! If you want to live in peace you have to end the occupation!" He started apologizing, poor guy, and said, "I didn't know the occupation was not politics." I said, "No, no this is the main issue." So this is the difference between being recognized as a person or as a group: if you can defend yourself. Sometimes I can't defend myself as part of a group. For example if they talk about how the PNA [Palestinian National Authority] is corrupt. Yes, the PNA is corrupt. These are things that everybody can see. I can't defend the corruption, but I can defend the right of my people to live in dignity and without occupation, and to live without corruption. They have the right to live without corruption also. So you know what to defend. Also we have a problem here: they [Palestinians] don't like to talk about their issues; they want to work on putting their force against the enemy. But I don't believe it works like this. We have to build ourselves, to clean ourselves, to fight corruption, to create new democratic thinking, where people can express themselves. So I feel that changes can't start except from here. Before we go to fight an enemy like Israelis, we have to start with our house. You don't go to clean your neighbor's house; you have to clean your own house first. So that's what I believe.

  • Do you remember some of your first encounters with Israelis?

    That was six years ago. You know, the problem of both people is that everyone is seeing his suffering, he doesn't see the others suffering. He has one eye on himself. The Israelis have one eye on themselves. They are suffering, and they are suffering, and they are suffering. The Palestinians have their eye on themselves also, that they are suffering and suffering. We are not in a competition of suffering. If we are in a competition... this comes up when we do the shows, when we do workshops and write the scenes. We sill have fights about the scenes. Some say, "No we don't want to say that, we want to say this," and we fight.

  • Can you be specific about some of the scenes that were hard to write together?

    For example, we did this show one year. We did a scene in which a friend of mine, he is Arab Israeli, gets on the bus and his father calls him on the cell phone, and he speaks with him in Arabic. "Hi Dad, Keefak ["how are you" in Arabic], how are you?" The Israelis on the bus get scared. We made the scene very fun because in black comedy you have to put poison into the comedy so that the children will understand. They laugh, but they have to think. So everybody is scared of him. There is an Arab guy sitting by him, and there is an Israeli guy sitting by him, and the Israeli thinks, "Oh God, I hope that he is not a suicide bomber." The other one, the Arab, "Oh God, he is an Arab, he looks strange, I am afraid if I talk to him they'll think I'm his partner. It's better to keep my mouth shut." And then the guy thinks, "It's hot. I want to take my shirt off." And he starts to reach to pull up his shirt. Everybody panics. He stops and says, "Okay it's hot, but forget it, what shall I do." He's talking to himself. He says, "Maybe if I take out my Hebrew text they will feel more relaxed because I read Hebrew and I am an actor and I have a show in Haifa." So he reaches for his backpack, and everybody runs off the stage, "Ahh! Terrorist! Bomber! Guards!" Everybody runs away. My friends came and said, "It doesn't show what it's like. You have to make it be a real attack." I told them, "you can't put everything in the mouth and in the head of the audience. Because they are there and that moment they think that his backpack is going to explode." They said, "but we are making a satire about terror attacks." I said, "No, you raise them to a point that they feel it is going to explode. But we don't want to bring the news into the theater. It would really be a stereotype, and it would not give the message." After that I was angry. They [Israelis] talk about the attack in Beit Lid1 or something, but we [Palestinians] didn't talk about anything, we talk about the checkpoints, we take simple things, but through the simple things we approach our suffering in this. We also talk about how the border police treat the Palestinians. We use many symbols. I said, "After a year of doing the show, you can't change it, or come and say you want to add that. Why didn't you work when we were doing the workshops? When we do the workshops we write our scenes, why didn't you write your scene?" And we stopped them. They said, "It's not equal, it's pro-Palestinian." And I said, "We are not equal, in life we are not equal. How are you going to make this show equal?" And now, it's okay. Also there is a scene where two women lost their kids, and there was only the Hebrew language on the radio, so I said, "It's not fair, it's 'Viewpoints,'2 we also have to hear the sound of Palestine, how they give the news. Our news is also different from your news." It is also important for people to see that everyone has a different reality from the other. Now we also have Arabic radio news in the show.

    • 1This is most likely a reference to the January 22, 1995 bombing at a bus stop at the Beit Lid junction near the Israeli city of Netanya, in which 19 people were killed in two consecutive bombings, according to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs website: www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Facts+About+Israel/ Israel+in+Maps/1993-2000-+Major+Terror+Attacks.htm
    • 2The name of a play by the Arab-Hebrew Theater of Jaffa, which tours Palestinian and Israeli high schools to promote the values of tolerance and peace.

  • What is the theater piece and who works on it?

    I work with Igal Ezraty.1 He is very nice, Igal. Sometimes we get angry at him, sometimes he gets angry at us, but I feel he is a very dedicated person. He feels so much with us. I also did a show with [another Israeli director], but I felt inside that he was racist. Like he was pretending. But Igal is not. You know, through experience you can feel these things. [With the other] you feel like if you give him tough words he is shaking. With Igal, no. Sometimes I tell Igal I am not convinced about something. "Igal I'm not convinced!" He says, "Okay, you are not convinced. Enough!" I say, "I like to do things from the heart, we write things ourselves and you clean them up and you show them!" But really, I like to work with him. First, he is very responsible. He also knows what humiliation means. He knows what the humiliation of the Palestinians means and he gives us good opportunities. Sometimes the Israeli actors are jealous of us. They say, "When you talk to Igal he always listens to you! Sometimes he doesn't listen to us!"

    • 1Co-Director of the Arab-Hebrew Theater of Jaffa.

  • Where do you perform the show?

    I think you saw the theater where we do the rehearsals, the Arab-Hebrew Theater in Jaffa. We have done this now for more than 15,000 students. In Israeli schools? Israeli and Israeli-Arab schools. Inside Palestine no, we have not had the opportunity, although I would like to do it. Because I told them, "It is still occupation. How are you going to teach children about peace? First get the army out, then come educate them. You have to do it step by step."

  • Why do you think it's not a good idea to do the show here in Ramallah?

    First, I can't bear the responsibility to bring Israeli actors to come with us to do a show; it's a big responsibility. And also, how do you teach people about something when they are facing it every day. It's too much-- I am hungry and you take me to the cinema to watch a movie? It's not going to work like that. I told the Peres Center1 to bring kids from Ramallah and take them for a day to the theater in Jaffa. We can do the show, we can have a dialogue about it, we can have lunch together, they will feel it's like a field trip, like they are going outside the cage they are living in, and I think it's a good idea to take them outside the cage, but not to do the play in the place where they are living.

    • 1The Peres Center for Peace sponsors the play Viewpoints.

  • How do your kids and the rest of your family feel about you being involved in work like this?

    Oh, all of them support me. First it was difficult, but they support me. My father saw one of my shows in Jordan and he came to me and hugged me and said, "I am proud of you and what you are doing is very brave."

  • What is the goal of the show?

    First it opens the eyes of the other, Israelis or Palestinians, about a reality where we have to find a way to co-exist together. We show the suffering, that we are suffering and they are suffering. But what's the point of it? It's to find a way to co-exist together, but in justice. Peace in justice, not by surrendering. In three years the Palestinians didn't surrender, and the Israelis didn't surrender.1 So we have to find a way to give the Palestinians their rights, the Israelis can't have peace unless the Palestinians have rights. Also, the Israelis come to a point that when they kill Palestinians, the Palestinians are going to kill them. And you feel this now in the street. Once we were doing a show in Bet Shean2 and a kid from the Likud watched the show and he said, "I'm changed. The first time you show a soldier lifting up his mask and we see that he is a human being, we start looking at it differently... the negative and the positive." It's an Israeli soldier who is telling his story that he was fighting against the Palestinians, and he came to a house to take someone who is wanted, and they tell him to take his brother, who is sleeping next to the mother, and the mother tries to defend her son. He was putting the gun in her face and she was grabbing on to her son. He said from this moment my mask came down and after that I left the army. Because I feel that I am a human being also. And this boy from the Likud, he said, "I'm changed and I say it's a good show and I think it will change a lot. Keep doing it." We went to Afula3 also, to places where they are always having bus bombings. And we were shocked, they liked us, they celebrated us. They were very nice to us. Although in some schools we are asked very tough questions. And sometimes in Arab schools we have very tough questions and I feel embarrassed because as an Arab, I can't justify the Israelis. They have to defend themselves. I tell the actors I work with, "When we are answering questions on the Palestinian side, you have to justify, it's not for me to justify you!" It would be very embarrassing, and also it would be very difficult. Because when I go to the Israeli side I can justify myself.

    • 1Turkiyyeh is referring to the events of the last three years, the Second intifada and the Occupation.
    • 2A town in northern Israel.
    • 3A small city of about 150,000 residents located in the Jezreel valley in northern Israel.

  • What are some of the tough questions kids ask after the performances?

    Tough questions like, "What peace are you talking about? Yesterday you carried out a terror attack on a bus!" I would tell him that before yesterday there was an invasion in Rafah and they killed 10 people. You can't just talk about the results, because there is a cause-- and you know, he kept his mouth shut because you can feel that they are also human beings and they are dying, you can't just see only one reality-- a bus explosion! No! Because there are other people who are also suffering and they are demolishing their houses. Once an Israeli girl said, "The Israelis didn't do anything, the Palestinians commit terror attacks against us and the Israelis only demolish houses." I said, "If they demolish a house, do you know how many human beings are living in this house? 10-15? You create 15 terrorists to kill you!" They don't understand because they have only one way of seeing reality. I told them, "Don't let the media manipulate you. You have to open your eyes to see other realities. There is not only one face of reality, there are two and three and seven faces of reality." Some of the kids were happy to see a Palestinian talking to them about their experiences. Once an Israeli boy asked me, "Tell me what the Israeli army is doing? From your experience and from your friends' experience." I told him about my experience when they invaded our house and stole things and put us on our knees and humiliated us and did this and that to us... He was shocked.

  • The Israeli army invaded your house here?

    Yes, here they invaded us. Three times they came to my house. They were shooting around and they put us on the couch. We were hostages for six hours. If I went to the toilet I had to ask and there was a soldier with an M16 standing at the door to the toilet. Imagine going to the bathroom and he is there with the M16 against the door! And the Israeli kid [at the theatre production] was like, "Oh! I can't believe it." I said, "This is my experience," and he came and hugged me. Once an Israeli kid in Kiryat Gat1 said to me, "I don't know, I like the show you are doing, and really, I like you," you know, they start liking us, and I said, "You are going to the Army, please if our fate puts us under your occupation please at least behave as human beings. Don't be such animals." And I told him, "If somebody came to your mother and he obliged her to bend down on her knees, what would you do?" He said, "I would shoot him." I said, "What about us? When the Israeli army takes us out under the rain, they took us out like this under the rain," (me, and I am the age of his mother) I said, "What do you think? Should my son kill him?" He looks at me. You create a question. Also on the Palestinian side they have tough questions. Once we did the show [for girls who had taken] cousins and brothers [to hospitals] because [they were demonstrating against] the wall. They were trying to defend their land from being taken and they ended up in the hospital. One girl said, "How can you convince us of peace when my cousin and my father and my brother are in the hospital because [the Israeli Army] came to steal their land to build the wall." What you can say? I always say to the kids, especially to the Palestinians, I say, "Don't give up hope, don't give up hope. Don't be depressed, because I lived 15 years of war in Lebanon and everything has an end, nothing is endless, everything has an end. So don't give up hope! Study, learn, go live your life. Don't let the situation depress you."

  • What gives you hope personally?

    I am always an optimistic person. Sometimes I am a little bit depressed if I have things on my mind, but I am usually an optimistic person. I believe in change. There were many things in my life... I was born in Kuwait, I was raised in Lebanon, I went to Jordan, I went to Syria- I went to many countries and I came here. I feel like life is changeable, nothing is set in stone, that's what I believe. Maybe this gives me a different outlook. I am a hopeful person; also because I am a spiritual person, because I pray, and God doesn't like depressed people, He likes hope always to be in your heart. If you are a believer and you are a spiritual person you always keep hope.

  • What is depressing to you?

    In my life now, thank God, I don't have anything that's not going right, but sometimes what depresses me... especially in our work, you know, you do and you do and you do. You want to create new initiatives in the world, between people. The Israelis behave irresponsibly- they come and they do very tough things. Sometimes I say, "OK, I am believing, I am still going to the checkpoint everyday and I suffer the same as any Palestinian. The government of Israel depresses me very much. It's very depressing, especially Sharon, because I have a long experience with Sharon since Beirut. After 20 years I am having the same experience with Sharon, imagine! Twenty year before I had this experience with Sharon in Beirut, and now I have to face this man again and I am in my 40s. It's 20 years, God! It's enough. (Laughs) In Lebanon they have a very funny proverb that says, "You are running, running, running and he is hanging from your moustache." I can't believe it, 20 years. When my daughter was one and a half, we were surrounded in Beirut and now it's twenty years later and my daughter and I are living in Ramallah. It's a different time, the same man, and God, I feel like history is repeating itself.

  • Are there any other peace-related activities you were involved with?

    I went to the jeep rally, I did the play the Last Enemy, we also did a show with Palestinians, Jordanians, and Israelis, and we were invited to the Jewish Federation in Los Angeles. I was the first Palestinian to go there. We did shows in America; we did shows in American schools, about anti-racism. We went to Jewish schools, to religious Jewish schools in LA. What was that like? This was in the year 2001, I think. It was a very good show. It's similar but different from what we are doing now with Igal. We did monologues, everyone talked about himself, and we did exercises, improvising, and it was good. We also went to Ireland, to do shows about the Protestants and the Catholics. We also went to do a workshop in Malta, and to a festival in Italy. I am happy with the show we are doing now, I am convinced. I brought my daughter to watch it and she liked it. We did the show in Jerusalem, in Haifa, in many places.

  • What language is the show in?

    We do the show in three languages. When we are in Arab schools we do it in Arabic and Hebrew, and when we are in the Israeli schools-- sometimes you want the translation, but sometimes as an actor you want to feel that the audience can directly understand you-- so we speak a little bit of Arabic a little bit of English and mostly Hebrew.

  • Do you act in Hebrew also?

    Yes, sometimes. Also, I recently had a fight with Igal. He said everyone had to say the other's sentence in Arabic and in Hebrew. I said, "It will be a mess because they won't say the Arabic right, and it will convey something bad." Because when I teach you to say a sentence in Arabic and you don't know how to pronounce it, it will be satirical. So it will not give the right idea about the words, and they are very important. So I fought with him, and I said, "I will say my sentences in Arabic!" And he said, "OK, OK, enough." So I say my lines myself, I say them in English and in Arabic.

  • You mentioned that there was a time when the Palestinian Television refused to pay you? Besides that how do people react to your doing these projects?

    Well, there was a good reaction on the Television, it was a successful program. But you know the problem is, do you want peace or not? Do you really want peace or do you just say it, and you don't do it? And I feel that both the Israelis and the Palestinians were liars. I feel the people who make peace [on the political level] have their intentions and they are the only people who are enjoying the results of peace but the people didn't feel it. And that's why it failed. If the people feel peace on ground,they will feel they can work, they will have good life—peace is going to be stronger. But if the benefits are only going to go to the deal makers, there is not going to be peace. That's why it was destroyed.

  • What does the word peace mean to you?

    I hate war because I grew up with war. I hate war. Peace for me is not an easy word. I always say we are in a process of making peace, we are not living in peace. It's a process we are going through. One crazy person will start the war, and the rest will do it, and then there will be a hudna, (a ceasefire) from time to time, where they stop the fighting. And peace is like war. You will have a quiet time and then dududududu [makes shooting sounds]—war—and then it will subside, and then dudududu—war. You make war to get to peace. You will go through wars to their end and in the end both of the sides are tired—exhausted. They have paid with everything they had, they live in poverty, and they feel they can't live except together. Until they are tired many people from both sides are going to pay. Do you think that people on both sides are not tired enough? Both are tired of the economic situation. In the social life also they are tired. There are people who haven't see their parents for three years and they are next to them in another village. I think the people are tired but the governments are not, neither of the governments.

  • What do you think it will take to get to a point where progress can be made?

    I am not going to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but I feel like from my side as a Palestinian I would think first of my own people. We have to strengthen the Palestinian people, to build democratic institutes, associations, and ministries. We have to have a rebirth, to make a new state that's capable of carrying the name of a state. Up until now I feel we are not ready for that, neither the people nor our government. They are not ready. I feel they have had 10 years or a seven-year chance to make the structure of a state but I think they failed. Why? Why? Because nothing depends on your [academic] degrees, it doesn't depend upon your mentality, it depends on whose son you are... We are behaving like tribes. Everybody comes and brings his family to the ministry. Now I think they have started to fix that. But it is still the case that somebody has to call you and say, "He is my relative, I care for him, please put him in this position." In our Palestinian Television you will see people who don't have an elementary education and they put them on the TV to be an anchor. What do you think? Because she is sombody's mistress! That's the reality. So I feel angry! First for myself, because my husband was killed for the liberty and dignity of Palestinians. I see that these institutions have dropped so low, and he paid for them in blood. I need to feel proud when I say I belong to this ministry. But sometimes I feel that I am not proud.

  • Which international audiences do you feel are most important and influential here?

    I remember something about the Americans. Once I did a show and people came from the American Embassy to watch, and they said, "Oh you were in the States? How was the audience?" I said, "Lady, they were the most ignorant people I ever met." And she was shocked. I said, "You are always concerned with yourself. You are not concerned that we are suffering. This is your life; this is the way you think." Now, after Osama bin Laden, America suddenly became concerned about the Middle East and they want to make democracy in the Middle East. Before if you told somebody you were from Palestine or even Jordan he would say, "Where is that?" I was in America with my friend and we were walking. She saw an American friend of hers passing by in a car and she said, "Hi! She came from the Middle East." And he said, "Ahh, she came from Iraq?" They think the whole Middle East is Iraq. It's horrible for me to perform for an ignorant audience, it's like a knife in my heart. I don't know, maybe the Canadians are more open than the Americans. Maybe the Americans see only Iraq and they don't see anything else. Maybe also people who are living in conflict like us, like Ireland. It was also important when we did the show in America because sometimes we changed the improvisation to be about Black and White, and sometimes about drugs, because it is a large problem there. When you do the show you have to manipulate it in a way that makes it relevant for the audience.

  • Which international audience do you think can do the most here?

    I think maybe the Europeans are more concerned. I think the Europeans are more related to us; they are nearer than the Americans.

  • What are the biggest misconceptions, things that people who are not here do not understand?

    The problem is that we are facing the Israelis who have a history of Auschwitz and the Nazis, and they are using it. Europe feels they are responsible for what has happened in history. Nobody feels responsible for what happened to the Palestinians, even England—and they are largely responsible. But the funny thing is in Europe they inherited the money but they did not inherit the pain they created for others. What do you mean? For example, England inherited England, the prejudice and all this, but they did not inherit the pain they caused for other people like in Kashmir, like in Palestine, and in many areas. When you inherit something, if you inherit your grandfather's estate, you inherit his house, his money, and his friends, whether they liked him or not. If he has a payment he didn't pay, you have to pay it. But this is not true for Europe, except in the case of Israel. They still feel they are responsible for what the Nazis did to the Jews. But Israel is doing more than the Nazis here. They are doing more. They want to burn us? They are burning us with their F16s. An F16 dropped a shell here and my daughter was in a back room. The whole front of the house was blown out. I was in America at that time and I was having a meeting with Jews, ironically, with Jews and Christians in America. We were doing tri-faith groups. I was having a meeting with them and my daughter called me and she was crying and she said, "The house, there is no house!" They put up blankets and slept without a door. My daughter was lucky to be in the back room. If she had been in the front she could have been killed. Our neighbor, a ten-year-old kid, was injured sitting in the garden. I interviewed her once for the television. I asked her, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" She said, "I want to be a lawyer." I said, "Why?" She said, "I want to defend my people's human rights," she said, "What did I do to the pilot? I didn't do anything. I was studying and sitting in my garden. Why did he do that to me?"

  • What would be one thing you wish you could tell people?

    I would tell them that there is no eternal enemy. I would tell them to keep hope and when you work with the enemy... they call us enemies, Nomi and I call each other "sister enemies..." you have to be courageous, but before courageous.But before courageous you have to be smart if you do co-production work with Israelis and Palestinians. I don't like it when people look for someone who forgets all his ideology and history when he works with Israelis. You will become more convinced of what you are doing. For example, I didn't used to pray, I am not a religious person, but through my work with the Israelis, with the Jews, I saw how they keep Shabbat, and certain rules. I said to myself, "Why are they keeping that and I am not? I am Muslim and I should also be proud of my religion, so I started praying and fasting because I saw them fasting. I was proud and they respected that. So on the contrary, you want to let the other know that you have a religion, that you believe, that you have a Prophet, that you pray.1 Imagine, this is a change. I wasn't born religious at all. My father is not religious at all, but I started praying, fasting, giving money to the poor, all the rules of Islam, except I do not wear the Hijab, the head scarf, because I am not convinced about that. And also you are always accused when you are working with the Israelis that you are a normalizer.

    • 1Ihsan is referring to the Prophet Muhammad, the holy prophet of Islam. According to the religion of Islam, Muhammad received the word of God through a series of revelations in 7th century Arabia. These utterances of the word of God were later compiled to form the Qur'an. The five pillars of Islam are: shahada, profession in one God and Muhammad as his prophet; salat; prayer five times a day; zakat, alms to the poor; sawn, fasting from sunrise to sundown during the holy month of Ramadan; hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca to be taken at least once during Muslim's lifetime.

  • Who accuses you of being a normalizer?

    Your friends who don't like your work, they are not supporting you. I have some friends who are doctors and they said, "Oh you are courageous to do that, I couldn't do it." To go to the other and talk to him. They said, "You are not afraid?" I said, "No, I am not afraid. Do you think they will eat me?" You know, the fear between the two sides, everybody is afraid of the other. But I just broke the taboo of fear.

  • How do you think you were able to "break the taboo of fear?"

    I don't know, maybe because I went through the process, I told you it was a tough process. But now I broke the taboo and I am not afraid anymore. Even when the army attacked us in our house, I talked to them. I gave them lectures about peace; I was funny with them. We chit chatted. I learned that when the enemy is outside and you are inside, he does not know who is inside, but you know who is outside. So who is more scared? The soldier! So when they were banging on the door, I called out, "Yes, please hold on a second," in English.

  • How do you think fear impacts this conflict?

    Yes fear, yes, yes, fear. I feel the Israeli have more fear than us, although we have our fears. I feel they have fear more because they are the occupiers. If somebody steals something from somebody he will always be afraid that the person will come and take the thing back. So I feel fear belongs to them more because they are the occupiers. They stole the land and the land has to come back to its people. I always tell them, "You are afraid because you are the occupier—give them their land and you are not going to feel afraid." It is like an equation, they have to understand that.

  • What do you think are the roots of the conflict?

    The roots? I will sound like a politician in the Palestinian parliament. I don't like to work in politics. I prefer always to be an artist, because I can express myself more. I would be a parrot and I don't like to be a parrot. Other causes of the conflict? Many things on both sides cause the conflict. First the extremists in Israel, the settlements, the wall. They are making things very complicated.

  • Do you think religion plays a role in the conflict?

    If we are going to talk about religion, in our religion it's an eye for an eye and a tit for a tat. And the Jews have an eye for an eye and a tit for a tat, in Christianity no. If they slap you on your cheek, give them the other. So Muslims and Jews have the same religious roots, we are from the same Abraham. We are not going to deal with the Jews like Christianity, giving them the other cheek. No, an eye for an eye and a tit for a tat. But for how long, for how long? I believe in religion if somebody takes something from you it's your right to take it back. Whether it is by force or by negotiation. But there are rules. If you want to get it by force, in our religion they say they have to have a lot of force to be ready to do that. But it's a state thing, it's not like you and I can determine it. I am against the death education, I don't like it. We are wasting our lives for nothing.

  • What do you mean by "death education?"

    Death education, I don't like it. What is it? There is a kind of death education, sacrificing yourself for the land. I am not for this. I call it death education, and I am not for it. I say God gives us life. He gives you a mind to think and find ways to live better, and not to kill yourself- kill yourself for whom? For these rich people to be richer, for the government to be more powerful? Why do I have to lose my child and cry? Why don't they send their children!1 No, I don't believe in it, because afterwards these politicians will kiss each other and have a glass of whiskey on the table, and sell what they sell and give what they give, but our children will not return to us and we will be crying for them for years. I am a single mother and I have suffered to raise my son and I would not send him anywhere to die for anything. I saw this in Lebanon. In fifteen years of war many, many beautiful people I know were killed, and their mothers are still crying for them. Now Lebanon is peaceful. After all their killing each other, at the end there has to be peace, so why do I have to lose my child? For whom? Maybe I am just one person by myself; I am not talking about community work or something. But I am a mother. I am a mother, this is the first thing. For me, my son is better than all Palestine, to see him alive. How could I be happy if they gave me all of Palestine and my son was not in it?

    • 1Palestinian teenagers have increasingly been involved in suicide attacks inside Israel over the past several years, not as orchestrators of the attacks but as the ones who blow themselves up. See Ian Fisher. "2 Suicide Bombers Fulfilled Their Fathers' Worst Fears," The New York Times, 14 Aug. 2003. Also, Greg Myre. "Israel Says Children Enlist Children as Suicide Bombers," The New York Times, 13 June 2004.

  • That's different from what your husband said-- whether you should die for your country.

    Yes, I am different from him, I am different. Maybe also that time was different. In my husband's time we were at war and it was difficult. But now we are in a process of peace. We already started a process of peace, now we have to continue it. Why do we have to lose souls and people? If we want Palestine, we will get it with papers that they sign, not with souls.

  • You said that it was difficult when you first started doing cooperative work. What was difficult? What were you struggling with?

    Because it was the first time I sat down with Israelis. I heard a different language I didn't understand. The common language between us was English. We really lived together, working together in the workshop, it was every day and we even ate together. I just felt different, like a pigeon in a different cage. My Palestinian friends who were with me were already in a process with the Israelis, so they already knew them personally. Even if I came to a new Palestinian group for the first time I would be a bit nervous, because when you don't know the people—any people, it's not only the Israelis—if you go with any group you will feel like a stranger if they know each other better before. So the group I came to work with had been working together already for two years, and I came and I feel like "Oh God what's that!" It was really hard, and sometimes we fought about the [theater] scenes. Sometimes the Israelis try to make simple scene. They don't like the really tough scenes, and me I like the toughest. We fought about that but then in the end we became friends. We are very good friends.

  • Is there something you have to give up to do the work you do?

    Of course there is a price, because some people don't respect what you are doing and some people respect and encourage you. Some people don't understand how difficult it is to do it. Although I feel like before the first intifada they told me that Palestinians were working with the Israeli and they had good communication with each other. But after the first intifada the Palestinian Authority came and then the second intifada, and many things changed. But many people said we were living well together. Sometimes I hear that, and this is very strange; I wasn't living here, so I don't know. They said, "We were going to them and they came to us." So what's the change now? I don't know, I don't know.

  • What do you think it would take to be able to do the show here in Ramallah?

    To be able to do it inside? I would like to do it, but how do we convince a kid when everyday he is throwing stones and he is attacked by the Israeli army? How do you convince him about peace? There has to be a little of it on the ground, if there is a little hope the people will feel it. In Israel it's not every minute that a bus is blown up. They can live their life, but for us, every minute, every second you feel like something is happening. The day before yesterday when they [the Israeli army] came to Ramallah to go into the banks and steal the Palestinians' money,1 it felt like, I don't know what, like cowboys in the Wild West, like bank burglars in America, I don't know. So they don't feel it. How can we tell them... how can I go convince my child that we are for peace? He will be getting out of school and the Israeli army is coming and, you know, teasing them. How can we convince them? How, when everyday there are people killed and houses demolished-- how do you convince them? It's more difficult.

    • 1Just Vision could not find references to support this claim.

  • You go to schools in East Jerusalem? Is that experience closer to what it would be like in the West Bank?

    Yes it's closer, it's difficult and they ask very difficult questions and sometimes I feel I can't answer. I say to my Israeli friends, "Please answer!"

  • Where are your kids now?

    My daughter is at work, she lives here, and my son is in America. He is coming in two months. He works in America with his cousin. He went there one month before the intifada. After Camp David was broken up I felt like something dangerous was going to happen so I took my son to the American Embassy and I said, "Go visit your cousins." Because I felt like something was not OK, like we came to a dead end with no hope. So he went there and the trouble started, the war started, the intifada started, and he stayed there. Now he has a green card and he's coming to visit. He lives in Texas and he speaks like the Texans... I hate it. I say it's not English. He says I don't speak English, I say I speak English more correctly than him. You know he was very lazy in class, I can't imagine he speaks very good English. Now he is learning Spanish, he speaks Spanish because his wife is Spanish. Is she coming to visit too? No, she is scared, so I said, "Stay there, habibti, it's war, yes. Stay there." She is the same age as my son, she is studying business administration.

  • Do you feel you can stand behind the show, you are proud of the show?

    Yes, sometimes there's a lot of trouble and I interfere. Like they might say to one of the Palestinian actors, "What are you doing here?" Everyone says, "Who is he, where does he come from?" For example, I say, "I am Ihsan and I was raised in Lebanon but my parents are from Jaffa." So my friend [another one of the actors] comes and says, "My mother is from Poland, my father is from Romania and I was born in Jaffa," and another says, "My mother is from Cuba and my father is from Argentina and I was born here," for example. So how do you convince these kids... everyone is coming from someplace and we are the native owners of this land and we do not have the right to live in it. Why? And one time they said to one of the Israeli actors, "Go home, go home, go back to Romania, what are you doing here, you are making peace? What peace are you selling us, go to Romania!" I came and I said to them that I should intervene. I said, "Okay, he was born here, but it's not his fault that he was born here." I felt the same when I was raised in Lebanon, I was very attached to the place where I was raised, although my parents came from another country. So sometimes I feel like I am in the same situation, you know, a little bit. There is what you call a very small moment where I felt I was in the same situation as the Israelis whose parents are from different places in the world, that they are like me when I was in Lebanon, with my mother and father being Palestinian. I was born in Lebanon, for example, and it was "Go, go-- go liberate your country," that's what they were saying to me, "Go, liberate your country, go back to Palestine!" You know, you feel sometimes... there is a moment when I feel like I can't speak... it's not his problem, it's his parents who were running away from the war, from the Nazis. But they don't have the right to create war for my people. You have the right to go everywhere but not to take the land of the other, not to humiliate the others. Don't you know, don't you understand in one way or another? I think it's interesting that you could identify with both sides at once. Yes, and sometimes [the other actors] say, "Ihsan, help us!"

  • How do you identify yourself?

    I am Ihsan Turkie, I am a widow of war, I am an actress, I am a mother of two nice kids, and I raised them alone. I feel like I am a self-made woman, nobody else made me. I am not like any other woman, especially in my society. I did not inherit what my husband was doing, I made my own history. His history is for his kids, not for me, so I made history for myself. I am a bit of a narcissist. Narcissistic? No. Yes, I feel that I made myself. I am proud because I came here and I didn't have a blanket to sleep on, I didn't have anything but I started. It was a very tough life, it was very hard to come here—you feel like you don't belong. You belong but you don't belong. Because I lived in a one society with a different mentality, and I came here to a different society... even if they are Palestinian they are a different society, different mentality, different traditions. I managed slowly, slowly, and now everybody here knows me. I am like a public figure. Everybody knows me, and if you tell a taxi driver "Ihsan on the TV," he would bring you to my house.

  • Is there anything else you want to talk about?

    I will write a book one day. It will be full of terrible things and funny things. You will cry and laugh.

  • How many times a week do you do the show?

    Sometimes five times a week. It's tiring... you die! Sometimes it takes 3 hours going and 3 hours to come back and you work for 5 hours... I'll go to sleep at 8 o'clock and I wake up at 5 or 6 o'clock in the morning the next day. I have to take three-hour trips standing at the checkpoint, and walking.

  • Do you have family here?

    My family? No, all of my family is in Jordan and Lebanon. I have friends here. And I have my family, my aunt my uncle and my grandmother, they are in Gaza. Have you been able to see them? No, for 3 years I haven't gone to see them. It's difficult, my grandmother is dying, she is an old lady. I didn't go to see her, it's not possible, and also I am scared to go there... what if they impose a closure and I can't come out and I have work to do?1 I haven't even seen my parents for six months. I called my mother yesterday and she is sick and she asked me to come, "I want to see you," and I say I am busy when I finish my work I will come, maybe during Passover because I have vacation. Where is she? In Jordan, in Amman. And my father is there also. My father speaks very good Hebrew, and English. Also he speaks Urdu, Pakistani, because he works in the Arabian Gulf.

    • 1For general information on the seizure and closure of Palestinian areas, see the "Freedom of Movement" section at B'Tselem (The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories) http://www.btselem.org/.

  • How long does it take you to get through the checkpoint?

    It depends upon the soldier's temper. What kind of ID do you have? Palestinian passport [issued by the PA]. How do you cross? The Peres Center gets me a permit.1