Blogging my trip to Palestine 03/02/2015

Jonathan Chadwick’s trip to Palestine in February 2015

Blog entry One

So this is the situation.  I’ll try to keep you posted about my trip to Palestine.

The aim was to visit my colleagues in Gaza in order to pursue our project to create an original new Arabic stage adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace in Gaza.  Now it looks quite unlikely that I will get permission from the Israelis.  But I will still be going to the West Bank.

We’ve been planning our War and Peace project for some time.  We thought it would be relatively easy to get in and out of Gaza through the Rafah crossing via Egypt but after the army take-over in Egypt this is now impossible.

Theatre for Everybody in Gaza have produced a good Arabic translation of a stage adaptation that was produced in the 1950 in Germany.  We have presented two events as benefits to finance the work.  Both events were at Rich Mix.  One in September and the other in January.  At both these events there were readings of stage adaptations of Tolstoy’s works and skype conversations with our colleagues in Gaza.

The work in Gaza has been held up by the recent ‘war’ and the subsequent ‘peace’.  The situation there is dreadful.  We thought that if I visited Gaza and worked with Theatre for Everybody it would get things moving and it would help to break down the isolation they feel.

I was advised that there might be a way of securing permission to go to Gaza by meeting people in the Palestinian government in Ramallah so when Caryl Churchill said she would like to go to Palestine because she’d never been, I suggested to Ashtar Theatre that we go together and we could do a workshop on her recent play Love and Information.

We are going to the West Bank on Saturday 7th February and we will be welcomed and accommodated by the British Council and we are really looking forward to meeting friends old and new there and doing the work on this exciting and challenging play.  The British Council will not help with the trip to Gaza.  A trip there would be against UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office guidelines.

At first, I tried to gain permission to cross through Eres to Gaza by asking Theatre Day, a children’s company that operates in Gaza that is registered with the Israeli authorities and managed to get Steve Tiller into Gaza last year, if they could facilitate this.  They couldn’t help me.

I have subsequently asked the PLO mission in London and they have indicated they will do what they can to give me the necessary contacts in Ramallah to make contact with the Israeli authorities.  Their Cultural Attache responded helpfully.

I researched how permissions are granted by the Israelis and I have been in contact with the International Relations Department of the Israeli Ministry of Social Affairs.  I was pointed in their direction by an official of the Israeli Co-ordination and Liaison Administration to the Gaza Strip.  The CLAGaza have an online application procedure for people wanting to cross through Eres.  For this it is necessary to have an IVA number which you obtain on the registration of the applicant organisation by the aforementioned Department.  I have seen the Department’s Information letter relating to the application for registration and as far as possible I have supplied Renee Techelet, Director of the International Relations Department, all the required documentation about Az Theatre and my own passport details.

I have been told in a telephone conversation with an official, acting under instruction from Ms Techelet, that at the current time there were 12 other organisations applying for registration and that the usual waiting time was between 6 months and 9 months.  Also since there are about to be elections in Israel these registration processes were likely to take even longer because in this interim period there was no decisive ministerial brief to guide policy.  He advised me to get back in touch in April and to be prepared for a nine month wait while the relevant security inquiries were made about Az Theatre’s status as an international humanitarian organisation.

There is still a slim chance that I will be able to get permission through some contact the Palestinian government may have with the Israeli authorities.  I will keep trying.

So that’s about it.

Oh yes, as well as all this I have been asked by British Actors Equity Association to make contact with performing artists in Palestine because they are interested in supporting their fellow workers there.  I’m really pleased to do this.  I think it is a really great initiative.

I think it will be an interesting trip. I am going to write a progress report every two days.