How is the truce? 15/08/2014



Yesterday I wrote to Hossam and Jamal to ask how things were going during the truce. After sending an SMS yesterday evening, Hossam wrote this message:

Dear Jonathan
I was planning to reply tomorrow as I said in the SMS I sent you earlier tonight, as I am really tired and need to sleep but how can anyone in Gaza sleep with this noise above our heads? The drones?  Do you know what this is? Planes without pilots flying by remote control! The noise they make drives us crazy!
Let me tell you what it is like. Imagine an old noisy washing machine operating just beside your bed or a fly getting inside your ear and trying to get out or sleeping beside your car while the engine is on all the time! Can you sleep however tired you are?
I will answer: yes, you sleep exactly the same way a very sick man falls unconscious, this is how we sleep in Gaza. So instead, I decided to write to you, my dear, until I fall unconscious.
The 120 hours truce is good and very bad at the same time. Good because there is a possibility that there will be no bombing or killing, so people are moving; you walk in the town centre and you’d believe that there had been no war and life is normal but… but just move a little bit out of the centre, toward Shejaea, Khozaa and Beit Hanoon in the north of Gaza, or towards the Alnada neighborhood, east Bureij, east Maghazi, east Khan Younis, east Rafah, things are different. People there are cleaning the remains of their homes, moving rubble to rescue a mattress or a blanket or anything that could be useful; some are trying to clean up their homes, many others are moving around with empty jerry cans looking for some water. Complete streets totally destroyed and empty.
Back in the town center, at the present time more than 300.000 people are still in the schools (the shelters). For many of them their homes are not destroyed but they are afraid to go back as they don’t trust the truce or the Israelis; they have already lost a loved one, a son or a father or an uncle or a neighbor. They are afraid to go back, but also they have nothing at home, the shelter at least provides some food (never enough, only 2 meals a day, no breakfast) and some safety (although they know that 6 shelters have already been bombed).
The negotiations in Cairo!!! What is it about? Some easing of the borders to get some more consumables and some cement to fix some of what has been destroyed in this war, By the way, even today they have not finished fixing the homes destroyed by the Israelis in Rafah and Khan Younis in 2001 and 2002. What more? An extra 3 metric miles for fishing? We used to have this but it did not make our life better at all. The catastrophe in these negotiations is that they discuss humanitarian needs rather than human freedom. They are talking about the possibility of 5000 permits per month for people to leave Gaza (oh God, what about the 1.7 million people?)! It means we need 100 years until every Gazan will get the chance to leave Gaza!  What are they negotiating? To allow farmers to plant their lands near the borders?!  Is this to be negotiated for God’s sake ??? A farmer needs a permit to plant his land??
You ask me about the truce and what does it mean? We have a saying in our culture: having the catastrophe happen is much better than waiting for it!  People are terrified, my dear, they are completely exhausted; they can not bear any more bombing or killing. The war was never against Hamas; the war was never against the resistance or the armed resistance, the war was against Gaza and what Gaza has, against civilians first of all, against people’s dreams and their future, against everything alive in Gaza!
I am so tired, my dear, very sleepy, but this sound does not make it easy, it is driving me mad, as it does to every single one of us in Gaza.
You know how much I hate numbers my friend and you know why, but please allow me to share with you some numbers and please try to see what lies behind them. How many families will not have a place to go back to? How many dreams have been killed? How many memories assassinated? How many years of work and pain and building have been wasted? How many individual tragedies? How many children’s toys broken? How many parents’ presents destroyed? How many family photos lost or burned?
Unfortunately the table below only shows how much money is needed to rebuild the stones and the concrete!! Anyway it is a table from the UN agency. They can not and they don’t know how to calculate the other losses.
dear Jonathan,
I miss you a lot my friend
I will try to get some sleep if I can

In fact the table that Hossam sent didn’t come through properly.  

What world? 14/08/2014


14 August 2014

Message from Jonathan Chadwick to Theatre for Everybody:

Dear Hossam and Jamal,

I am thinking about you and wondering how you are.  How are your families?  What is life there like during the truce?  How are people coping?

When they announced the extension of the truce to a 5-day ceasefire, I had two reactions at the same time.

One was a sense of immediate short term hope:  the bombing may stop, you may have a period of peace to recuperate, you may have more time to spend with friends and family, maybe we can talk on skype, maybe Yara and I can do a guitar exchange skype, I am thinking of a song I would like to teach her!  Maybe life can return to normal!

The other was a sense of foreboding and sadness.  What does normal mean?  Will things return to blockade and siege?  Won’t things be worse?  Haven’t the Israelis destroyed schools, homes, hospitals, factories, roads, power stations, sanitation, water supply networks?  Haven’t they devastated whole townships? Haven’t the people of Gaza been squeezed into a smaller area?  But most importantly they have massacred and wounded thousands of people.  And they have, through the calculated arbitrary nature of the attacks, terrorised (I wont use the word traumatised) a whole population

What does the extension of the ceasefire really mean?

We’ve already talked, in our conversations about our War and Peace project, about the fact that in the current situation in Palestine ‘Peace’ is used as another means of waging ‘War’.

In the media they try to put across the idea that the ‘War’ has been between Hamas and the Israelis.  This is a lie.  It isn’t a war.  It is an attempt by the occupying power to destroy the population of the country they are occupying.  Anyway, the negotiations in Cairo are being conducted with the Palestinian delegation representing the unified leadership of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Territories.

I don’t want the bombing to start again but the war is definitely continuing.

Israel can play for time now and let their destruction have its effect on the morale of the Palestinian people of Gaza.  The Israelis are as dangerous during the ‘peace’ as they are during the ‘war’.

Please tell me how are people coping?  So much now depends on the spirit of resistance and resilience of the Gazan people!

In the midst of the bombing the cry went up from the people of Gaza; a demand for justice, for solidarity, for help.  It was a cry directed to the world!

I am in that world to which the cry was directed.  But I am led to ask two questions:

What world?

Can the people of Gaza depend on the world?

Of course it is to the ‘human’ world that the people of Gaza appeal for help.  But looking at the situation now, the people of Gaza appear to me to be isolated.  They appear to me to need the solidarity and help of the ‘human’ world even more during the time of ‘peace’ than during the time of ‘war’.

As these events have unfolded over the past month the world to which they appeal has changed.  I can only speak about what I witness.  I am going to try to explain what has happened.  The world has been transformed by the cry of the people of Gaza.  This is not to say that the world has successfully responded to this cry.

What is described as the international community has, by and large, succumbed to the basic story that there is or has been a war between Hamas and Israel, that there is some kind of equivalence involved in the ceasefire and that as a nation state Israel has the right to defend itself.  The international community is relieved when the truce is effected because the two sides can be brought together to talk and resolve their differences.

The international community that is talked about by the media, is neither international nor a community.  It is the dominant group of Western governments led by the US.  This loose alliance has totally failed.  It has disintegrated from a moral and political point of view.  It has as little basis in legitimacy as the claim that Israel has the right to defend itself.  International law is unambiguous.  Israel as the occupying power does not have this right.  See this article by Noura Erekat. It is the Palestinian people who through force of arms have the right to resist the occupation.

What seems to me to have happened is that a radical gap has opened up between the people of the world and these governments that collect themselves together and propose themselves as the ‘international community’.  This gap is mitigated by the action of five governments in Latin America: Brazil, Chile, Peru, Ecuador and El Salvador who have withdrawn their embassies from Israel.

The dominant governments, the most powerful public institutions in our world, are failing because they are fundamentally racist.  This racism is the inheritance of imperialism, the forced extraction of raw materials from the colonised countries of the world and in particular the reduction of colonised human labour to slavery and the forced transportation and trading in this human labour.  These dominant governments conform to imperialism.  Their idea of development is imperialist i.e. it rests on the robbery of the people of the world.

The specific instance in Palestine is the theft of the occupied land and resources through illegal settlement by the Israeli state.  This is their basic ‘peacetime’ activity.

It is for this reason that one of the most urgent international solidarity responses has been in South Africa.  Nelson Mandela asserted:

“We know too well that our freedom is incomplete with out the freedom of the Palestinians.”

It may be of small immediate comfort to the people of Gaza that the governments of the world with striking exceptions have completely failed them, that there has been a much more robust response from the people of the world and that the disjuncture between governments and people has widened further.

Anyway, these last assertion can’t be verified.  It is just a subjective observation.  And it really isn’t optimistic in the short term.  In fact it feels really dangerous.  Armed groups appear similar to nation states.  Nation states descend to the level of armed gangs and vice versa.  The racism which underlies the imperialist ‘theft’ project which was always underpinned by the civilising mission of religion is now replayed as the underscore of an horrendous fugue played out by so-called state and non-state actors.  The idea that a human society can be based on racially and religiously pure population is effectively the supporting ideology of an armed gang.  This form of human organisation originates within the poisonous corrupt greed of European imperialism and received its most devastating outing on the world stage when the suppressed imperialist ambitions of Germany turned itself inwards on its own population and sought out the Jewish population to subject it to robbery, slavery and extermination.

Have we passed beyond the stage of human history where a society can form a state which is based on anything other than exclusivity.







We will not accept 10/08/2014


10 August 2014

I have just spoken on the telephone to Hossam Madhoun and Jamal Al Rozzi in Gaza.  They are the directors of Theatre for Everybody with whom our company, Az Theatre, is in partnership.  Our latest project, conceived during the relaxation of border restrictions at the Rafah crossing to Egypt, is to create and produce an original contemporary stage adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace in Gaza.  It is based on international cultural interaction and we have an event organised at Rich Mix in London on Sunday 14th September when we are planning to present a live ‘skype’ exchange with Gaza focusing on the outcomes of a two-week workshop there.

We are raising the money from institutions and individuals for this work.  In doing so we are emphasising that we receive no government money (no Arts Council, no heritage lottery) and that all Az Theatre’s work is on a voluntary basis.  All the money we raise goes to the work in Gaza.

We cannot tell at the moment whether this workshop in Gaza can take place there.  Hossam told us that contact with the theatre practitioners is difficult.  For example one of the actors has lost his brother and his brother’s son.

I wanted to make direct contact with my friends because the intensity of the Israeli offensive has abated and the Israelis are saying that their objectives have been achieved.  It is clear from all accounts that their aim was the wholesale terrorisation of the population of Gaza to get people there to reject the leadership of the resistance movement. Jamal told us that people are extremely tired and desperate.  At the beginning of the ‘war’ there was a widespread feeling of hope that at last the siege would be lifted and that there would be a beneficial outcome but now people, especially those who have been displaced, are humiliated and bereft.  People may not be able to see what has been gained after so much death and destruction. Half a million people from the outlying areas – some of which, like Khusaa, Shejaiya, Rafah, Khan Younis, have been devastated, have resorted to temporary shelters in or near the centre of Gaza City.  Hossam said: “It’s like the whole population of the UK crowding in to the London area. 170,000 are sheltering in UNRWA schools where you will find 20 families living in a room 8×4 sqm. No NGO or government department can meet even 10% of the needs of these people. And there are approximately 200,000 people taking refuge in the houses of relatives, empty buildings, wherever – because the UNRWA schools have no more space – all these people who have fled, ‘have come with nothing, only their souls’.”

This is putting an extraordinary strain on the resources of this area.  10,800 homes have been destroyed leaving 65,000 people homeless and Hossam told us that people are wondering whether to go back to these townships to rebuild their homes.

“This is how it is: you grow up, decide you want to marry, your mum finds you someone suitable or you meet someone at university – and you marry and you are happy – you have children and bit by bit you save enough money to start building a house – over years you are careful with the money – if your wife wants to spend a little extra on a new dress- she can’t, if your kids want a new game, they can’t have it – just so in the end you can build your house – penny by penny – and then in 30 seconds with a minute’s warning, it’s all gone”

This has happened thousands and thousands of times in Gaza over the last month.  It is very difficult to calculate what the social impact of this devastation might be.

The Israelis simply have to wait now.  They have destroyed the agricultural areas of the strip.  In large areas every living thing, sheep, cows, chickens are dead. There is insufficient natural resources of water.  Tens of thousands of people have been injured.  The children cannot do their school work.  They have been particularly affected and their ability to concentrate has been impaired.  There is no space to study.  Jamal told us that his family hover round each other and there is a kind of silence between them. The Israelis will occasionally bomb and when they do people will immediately return to a state of panic and fear. How will the children be able to return to school in September when they are full of displaced people or destroyed by the Israelis?

No attempt by a state to occupy another people’s land has ever succeeded.  In the long term the Israeli project is doomed to failure but what is the timeline here? Jamal told us:

“It’s the worst we’ve suffered! What do we do? What now? Just fall back into what it was like before? How can we? We are humiliated, undone. Fix our houses stone by stone and wait for them to be destroyed again in a year or two? Flee, emigrate? What? Yes, there are demonstrations in Chile, the UK, South Africa…”

Desmond Tutu at the large solidarity demonstration in Cape Town yesterday proclaimed that people are made for freedom. Hossam reiterated this.

“But really no one is OK. 450,000 kids are completely traumatised and 1.8million Gazans are completely traumatised. (Note: 43% of the Gaza population is under the age of 14 years, male 394,108/female 372,897 source: Index Mundi ) But people cannot live like slaves, it is a basic essential thing about being human. They can try to stifle their need for dignity and freedom but they cannot destroy it – ‘the only solution would be to kill us all’. You cannot keep people in a cage forever.”

Tomorrow he will be a part of a team getting a generator to the town of Khusaa in order to get the pumps working and restore some of the water supply.

Jamal told us that in a way it was worse now that the bombing had diminished.  At least then priorities were clear.  When the attack was at its most intensive the pity of the world was provoked but it feels like it is now that the Gazans need international solidarity more then ever before.


“There is a kind of calm. The killing has quietened down a bit, but everyone is gripped by a fear and panic, not knowing when the next hit will come. And the killing is still going on. A friend, a human rights activist, yesterday went home to Beit Hanoun to check on his family’s home and he was killed by a bomb walking down the street. It’s beyond words.

Every few years there’s a new reality and you have to cope. That’s what human beings do. When the (Palestinian) authority came things got better for a while, things opened up and we lived with that. Then there was the Second Intifada (2000) and the checkpoints and endless harassment and we accepted and coped with them. Then Hamas was elected and the blockade was put in place, and we coped with that. Then there were the attacks in 2008/9 and 2012 we lived with it although thousands of homes and institutions were destroyed.

Israel wants to make it so bad that people will blame the resistance, but they will not turn against the resistance. The resistance is in a critical position. They cannot to go back to the status quo – they will lose the people. Of course people are afraid that the Israelis will succeed in their goal: our giving in, our acceptance – and that the world will let them, indeed help them get away with it.

We are fed up with coping, we have nothing anymore and we won’t go back to the status quo, Israel wants us to just accept and cope. We will not accept.”

Our Gaza Drama Long Term project, started in 2009, is aimed at undermining the blockade and creating cultural exchange. And this is a personal thing.  It’s person to person, like theatre.  I can’t pretend that the contact that I have had with my friends, Hossam and Jamal, will have helped their resilience nor that the resistance of the Palestinian people to the occupation will have been advanced by our communication.  It is much more evident to me how much my contact with them helps me to live more vitally and fully in the reality of my world.

Read Hossam’s messages from Gaza. Next.


Last words from a father to his young child 08/08/2014


8 August 2014

We spoke to Hossam by phone yesterday.  I asked him to continue to send us writing.  He told me he was so busy he could hardly stand up.  The work for the Ma’an Development Centre in taking care of the displaced and traumatised people of Gaza is endless.  He sent me this photo of him at work.IMG_3094







We are continuing our preparation for our War and Peace Gaza-London event on the 14th September at Rich Mix, (hoping that Theatre for Everybody there in Gaza will be able to do their two-week workshop and join us in a live video link up).

Soon after our call Hossam sent me this piece:

Screen Shot 2014-08-08 at 11.13.34









Last words from a father to his young child

Go my son, go, don’t wait, no point any more in waiting, go and don’t look backwards because I won’t respond to your calls. No and I won’t respond to your cry and scream. Go because the tears in your eyes will not move me anymore, nor will the bloodshed on your face. I won’t respond, my beloved son, however you call, simply because I am not here any more.

I know that you see me, but this not me, this is only what remains of me and soon I will be nowhere. So go, my dear, go, and look forward, only forward, always forward.

And forgive me….

Forgive me my beloved son, I cannot hug you any more, I cannot wipe your tears, neither can I clean my blood from your head, face and chest.

Go and forgive me because I will not be with you any more.

Forgive me, I won’t be able to guarantee you food or clean clothes any more.

Go and forgive me, my precious, I won’t be there when you lose one of your teeth to convince you that it is the tooth fairy who took it and will compensate you with a better one.

Forgive me; I won’t be there when you have a fever to relieve your pain or to walk with you on your first school day or bring you your favorite chocolate.

Go my dear, just go away and forgive me…

I won’t be there to shout at you when I discover that you smoked your first cigarette, or to give you some of life’s wisdom when your heart is broken by some girl you believe is your first and last love.

Go …. Why don’t you listen? You always listen to me, why not this time?

This is not me. This is a hologram, something without life or soul.

Go! Just Go!

And when you grow up my son, don’t think about yesterday, only think about today and tomorrow.

And live, my beloved son, live happy, safe and sound.

Live life with all its beauty and more, I ask you to do this, I demand that you live.

Live my son, live for me and you… because I left so early.

And forgive me.


رسالة أب ميت لولده الصغير

اذهب يا ولدي، اذهب، لا تنتظر فما عاد هناك فائدة للانتظار، اذهب ولا تنظر خلفك فأنا لن أستجيب لندائك، لا ولن أستجيب لنحيبك وصراخك. اذهب فلن تحركني الدموع في عينيك ولا الدماء السائلة على وجهك. لن أستجيب يا ولدي مهما ناديت فأنا لمن أعد هنا يا حبيبي

أعرف أنك تراني ولكن هذا ليس أنا، هذا فقط ما تبقى مني وقريبا سأكون في العدم. اذهب يا حبيبي ولا تنظر خلفك. اذهب وانظر للأمام فقط للأمام دوما

وسامحني ….

سامحني يا حبيبي، لن أستطيع أن أضمك إلى صدري أو أمسح دموعك ولا أن أنظف دمائي التي سالت على رأسك وعلى وجهك وعلى صدرك

اذهب وسامحني يا ولدي فلن أكون معك بعد الآن

سامحني فلن أستطيع أن أضمن لك لقمة أو لباسا نظيفا بعد الآن


اذهب وسامحني يا فلذة كبدي، لن أكون هناك معك حين تفقد سنا من أسنانك اللبنية واقنعك بأنها جنية الأسنان قد أخذته وستعوضك عنه بسن لماع

سامحني يا حبيبي، لن أكون بجانبك حين ترتفع حرارتك لأخفف ألمك ولن أسير معك للمدرسة في يومك الأول

اذهب يا حبيبي…اذهب بعيدا وسامحني لأنني لن أستطيع أن أوبخك حين أكتشف أنك دخنت سيجارتك الأولى ولن أكون هناك لأعطيك بعضا من حكمة الحياة حين تكسر قلبك أول فتاة اعتقدت أنها حبك الأول والأخير

لماذا لا تسمع الكلام، أنت دوما تسمع كلامي فلم لا تسمع اليوم. هذا ليس أنا بعد. هذه فقط صورة طيفية لي لا حياة فيها ولا روح، فاذهب.

فقط اذهب

وحين تكبر يا ولدي لا تفكر بالأمس، فكر باليوم وبغد. عش يا ولدي. عش حياة سعيدة هنيئة آمنة. عش الحياة بكل ما فيها وبأكثر ما فيها جمالا. أنا أطالبك أن تفعل. عش يا ولدي لك وعش لي فأنا غادرت مبكرا


Read Hossam’s messages from Gaza. Next.

Singing louder than bombing 03/08/2014


3 August 2014

It’s nearly two o’clock on a sunny Sunday afternoon here in London.  Hossam sent me this five minutes ago:

We are doing the impossible.

During my daily visit to the shelters where we provide psychosocial support to children, the activator was just starting work. He formed the children in a circle, and they started to sing, more than 100 children, of all ages, from 4 years old to 13-14 years old, as if they were just waiting for this chance, to sing, to shout, to hold each other’s hands, to feel that they are together, that they are not alone, that they are not forgotten.

While watching this beautiful image, trying to take a photo with my mobile, suddenly, the terrible sound came, the lethal sound of bombing! 3 bomb attacks, louder than the 100 children singing. The target was a building nearby, not more than 100 meters from Ahmad Shawqi School which is hosting more than 1000 displaced people.

Our activator, Fouad, did the impossible, he kept in control, defied the bombing, he kept singing louder, encouraging the children to sing louder, yet more bombing, and then singing still louder, the children followed him singing louder as if nothing was happening outside, as if no building was crashing apart only 100 meters away, the children kept singing ignoring the smoke covering the sky with a gray curtain.

All the best and respect to all our activators!! Fouad is one of among 42 activators doing the impossible to support our children in this unjust assault.

Hossam Madhoun, Maan Development Center

Read Hossam’s messages from Gaza. Next


You can call it war if you want 03/08/2014


3 August 2014

We are getting messages from people saying they are reading these messages from Gaza.  For example, Caryl Churchill, the  playwright, wanted Hossam to know that she had just re-read all his messages:  “Please tell him I’m thinking of him and his family. And that so many people here are thinking about Gaza and doing what little we can”.  I have turned off the comments on this blog because we got so much junk but if you have comments you can email Az Theatre on

Hossam sent me this yesterday.  His daughter, Salma, is 13 years old.

Hi Dear
Finally Salma decided to express herself, and this is what she showed me.
For her, this is Palestine as she sees it today.
She also told me, you can call it war if you want.

Screen Shot 2014-08-03 at 11.16.07








Looking for water 03/08/2014


3 August 2014

Jamal answered my inquiry about his well-being:

Dear Jonathan
Thanks for your concern, and all friends in London and every where.
We are still here.. but it’s horrible and getting more scaring
Hope things change soon.
Can’t write more due to electricity absence.
Greetings from Gaza

Then Hossam sent this message:

For a few days I’ve been trying, looking for water, calling many people to secure some potable water for the building where I live (30 regional families and 42 displaced families are taking refuge with their relatives in our building – around 300 persons)
Finally today a water tank owner told me that he’d secured 2000 litres, he asked me to meet him at a meeting point 1km from my home as he did not know the address.
I went there, I met him to lead him to home.
On our way, people all ages carrying jerry cans urge us, begged us to give them some water.
It was impossible to say no
It took us one and a half hours to  reach our building with 400 litres, thank God.
Note: something that you may not know about the Gaza water situation in general
water scarcity is around 40%, the potable water in the aquifer according to the WHO standards is at only 5%.
The water in the tap is not drinkable, it is safe but very salty and people use it for domestic purposes only.
The water purification private station is a business in Gaza since more than 15 years due to the water problem.
It is normal to see water tanking in the street selling water to people at homes. Every single home in Gaza has a water storage tank
The Municipal water is reaching homes once every 3 days in the normal times through 250 public water well.                                                                                                             Today, more than 20 water wells have been destroyed by the Israelis
87 wells located at the east of Gaza, are not reachable
10% electricity remains in Gaza and we can not operate the remaining wells for more than few hours, those remaining wells are connected to only 40% of the population
More than 1000.000 million Palestinians in Gaza have no access to water now.
The Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) yesterday announced Gaza as a water humanitarian crisis and that they are not able to run the water and sanitation system any more.
I am not going to talk about the massacre happening in Rafah since early morning until now and still going on until ….  who knows, so far more than 100 civilians killed including many children, more than 400 injuries, …. other places in Gaza also bombed and people are killed and injured in many other places.
Help please

Then he sent me this piece 20 minutes later:

Rafah city under heavy bombing from sky, sea, land, tanks
The only hospital in Rafah evacuated completely with orders from the Israeli army who said that they want to bomb it, all types of injuries are without treatment, no place, no fridges to keep the dead bodies.
Abeer’s sister with her husband and five children trapped in Rafah, evacuated their home and went to another relative’s home inside the city,
Abeer is in panic, worried for them.
My friend Jawad Harb whose post I shared also trapped with more than 50 members of his family in Rafah.
I am in panic, worried for all of them
God help!


Read Hossam’s messages from Gaza. Next.

Normal 01/08/2014


1 August 2014

We asked Hossam and Jamal via email this morning how the truce was holding up.  Hossam sent me this message:

What so called truce? It collapsed. Another soldier captured by the Palestinian resistance and the Israelis went crazy; they are shelling and bombing and attacking and striking randomly everywhere.
More that 50 persons killed during the last hour, more than 300 injured and still going on.
Again the fear and panic parameter raised up .
Attached something I wrote last night…..

I never believed that I will have such conversation with my daughter.

Salma, my 13 years old daughter (the three wars old), is finding her way to escape as much as possible from the war noise; she stays most of the night awake and sleeps most of the day.

–        Hi dear,

–        Hi

–        It is 2 after midnight

–        So??!!

–        Go to sleep

–        Oh, please no I don’t want to sleep

–        But tomorrow’s the feast

–        What feast?!! You want to celebrate the feast??!!

–        No, not celebrating, but visiting your grandma at least, we did not see her since the start of the war

–        We could not see her because it is dangerous to move

–        Yes, but it is the feast, most probably there will be a cease fire, the United Nation called for a one day cease fire for the sake of the feast and Hamas accepted it

–        Yes and what if the Israeli refuse the cease fire?!

–        Hopefully they will

–        Ok.


Well, here we are, day 24 of the war, nothing special, nothing new.

War, as you know it, bombing, people killed in pieces, not easy to find a complete body, not easy to farewell or give a kiss to a dead son or daughter or father or mother or brother or sister.

Normal. As you know it, war

Sounds of explosions every single moment, people, and I say people in general not only children, getting panic with every sound, normal

400.000 people displaced into schools, into hospitals, into empty factories, into the homes of relatives, friends, incomplete buildings, normal,

Schools, hospitals, homes, factories, incomplete buildings are bombed and destroyed, normal, it is war, and you know what I mean

Lines of hundreds of people at the bakeries looking for some bread, waiting for hours and hours to get some bread for one day or two, a crowd that could be an attractive target for a pilot in his IF16 military airplane to bomb, normal

Crowds fighting over some water to drink, that also happens in wars, you know that

Garbage accumulated in the streets, everywhere, every place, who can think of collecting garbage, especially because the land-fill is at the border line (which means in the battle field). This might cause health hazard?? Who cares about health, environment and hygiene now, it is war! No time for these little things

What? Pregnant women give early birth because of the stress of the fetus, so what? Give me a break; it is war time, that’s normal

What did you say? So far 1440 people killed, and 8700 people injured? That’s not an issue in a war; it is not even a big number, that’s even less than normal.

Oh, you want to say that most of them are civilians, and at least 350 children under 15 years old among the killed, and more than 2500 children among the injured?! Never mind, we can call that collateral killing, that’s normal in wars.

You know what? Listen: Arabs have too many children, that they can’t feed, believe me we are doing them a favor by killing some of their kind.

What do you mean after what? What after? War will finish and everyone will go home?

Oh, yes, those 40.000 families who lost their homes! Europe and US will rebuild their homes, don’t worry, they always do, they are always ready to pay the bill for the destruction made by the Israelis.

By the way:

The Israelis refused the cease-fire, the bombing continues….. Destruction continues…… killing people continues….. Killing children continues ….. suffering continues…. Agony continues …..

Gaza bleeding.

Read Hossam’s messages from Gaza.  Next




In the dark 29/07/2014


29 July 2014

The work to organise our event is coming together.  Caryl Churchill has sent us an original piece specially written for it.  I haven’t had time to read it yet!  This means that we now have pieces from Hassan Abdulrazzak, Caryl Churchill, Haifa Zangana!  I saw Ahmed Masoud, the other writer we have asked to contribute, at Reem Kelani‘s concert at Rich Mix (which is where our event will be on Sunday 14th September) and he apologised for not getting something to us but he comes from Gaza and his family is there. No hurry, Ahmed.

I got these sms messages from Hossam last night:

Hi dear, I am very worried.  This night is different.  Heavy bombing in West Remal where I live. Same as the night of Shejaiya.  We left our bedrooms and we lay down in the kitchen.  Away from windows.  I am panicked, Abir and Salma too. Moreover, we are in the dark here. In the dark that we see nothing and in the dark that we know nothing, where they bomb? Why they bomb? I want you to know that I have been honoured knowing you and co-operating with you.  Love H, Gaza.

Then after I replied today via sms (‘Sending you and your loved ones love more powerful than bombs (I think!). Not sure of anything except that you are in my heart.  Love, j’) this message came:

Thanks, dear.  We passed that night safe.  My family displaced at my home from the North also safe.Then suddenly we made contact on the telephone. He was at work at the Ma’an Development Centre.  Hossam told me that yesterday the Centre director asked him to take care of some children from his family and neighbours that had come out of the Khozaa district.  Israeli troops invaded the area and occupants were asked to leave their houses at gun-point.  Hossam played with the group of children for an hour or so.  One two and half year old boy told him that an Israeli soldier had pointed a gun at him and told him to raise his hands in the air.  The boy told Hossam that he had to explain to the Israeli soldier: ‘I have nothing.  I have nothing’.

Hossam told me that people were being herded, through random threats delivered by telephone and aerial leaflets, from outlying districts to the centre of Gaza. He asked me to post a piece of writing by a friend.  You can read this below after this message from Hossam:

Do you know how it feels when someone puts a gun to your head and starts to squeeze the  trigger?
No dear, you don’t know, only those who live the experience for real know what it means.
Can you imagine a whole nation is living this experience?
This is how we live for 24 days
But yesterday, it was different. Yesterday we could feel the bullet, we could touch, it, we heard it moving out, hot, sharp, ready to take souls.
Yesterday night the Israeli air force conducted 75 air strikes, firing 140 missiles, targeting different locations in Gaza Strip. Israeli forces fired approximately 879 tank shells and the navy fired approximately 430 shells toward Palestinian territory. During the attack, 44 houses were destroyed. 67 Palestinian fatalities and 294 injuries.
Add to it more that 2000 flash bombs causing the same sound as an explosive rocket, it was a terror night, no one slept, no one could sleep.  They meant to terrorize us, to terrorize our children, they make it clear that no-one is safe, any one in Gaza is a target, they proved it, by bombing hospitals, schools, shelters, playgrounds, group of children playing in a playground in beach camp celebrating the feast (Eid).
What to say? Humanity has no space to think about Gaza?!
God is busy and has no time for Gaza!
Alright, we will try to manage.
Thanks, humans, you helped enough.
Our father in the sky !!!!!! Stay there.

Message from Jawad Harb.  Hossam asked me to post it:

Does anyone hear us on this god-damned planet?
Yesterday, I made a tour of the shelters where displaced people fled to during the massacres.
Eight hours of speechlessness, I have decided to put in writing what those people have been through. Tens of stories, a huge amount of painful feelings: anguish, victimization, helplessness and anger.
People feel abandoned, left alone and deserted by everybody, people are unable to know who to blame, who to ask for help.
“I stopped complaining to anyone except to Allah, he created us and he would definitely stay with us to overcome this misery” said a man surrounded by his children.
“How long do we have to wait before my kids feel safe and in peace, how long do we have to cry and suffer? I am becoming more confident that being a martyr is more comfortable than what we have been suffering each and every moment of the day” said his wife, peeping over his shoulder.

These people, caught between danger at home and loss of identity in inappropriate shelters, chose to be in shelters.
“ I am here only to keep my kids alive” said a woman, as I was staring astonished and speechless, wandering all over. My god, it looks like a volcano of people rushing at you from every corner.

The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees defines a refugee as any person who:
‘owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.’
Ironically, this definition does not include displaced persons who have not crossed an international boundary nor does it include those who fled, internally to get out of the way of war or civil strife.
The situation of the displaced Palestinians in the UNRWA Schools are not even properly described and included in international law.
What is going on now, as I am writing this blog, is another massacre in different areas of the Gaza Strip. More people are trying to escape this horror leaving everything behind, even the most precious things they worked forever to save.
The whole world is in a deep coma, as if no children’s blood is being shed every moment. I am hearing the crying of children from here all over and around, and this is what kills me more than the horrible death itself.
Those children who were lucky to survive the holocaust, are suffering flashbacks, nightmares, emotional numbness, bed wetting , anxiety disorders , episodes of outbursts of crying and nervous breakdown.
Who cares? Who is thinking of those kids? I couldn’t hold back my tears watching them today with eyes full of deep pain and faces full of horror.
We know that the wounds from war are not confined to the battle field. Refugees from Shejaiya and Khozaa have evidently continued to experience trauma from house demolitions, bombardment, airstrikes and loss of loved ones.
Psychological distress from this experience is harmful to the displaced children who witnessed the brutality and blatant violations of their rights by the Occupation forces.
Now, where are we going to with all these crimes, how many more people do we have to lose, how many children does the occupation have to kill in order to bring the attention of the world?
What kind of world are we living in, watching the bloodshed and the screaming of children and no one cares?
Jawad Harb  July 29 2014

Read Hossam’s messages from Gaza. Next.

We love life 27/07/2014


27 July 2014

On the 25 July Hossam sent this photo with the message:

Did I not tell you that we love life whenever we can!

Screen Shot 2014-07-27 at 18.35.22













Thinking about war and peace:

A couple of days ago I asked Hossam and Jamal from Theatre for Everybody in Gaza, how they felt now, in the midst of the current military violence, about our plan to develop a stage production of War and Peace in Gaza.

We’ve been working in partnership with them since 2002 and since 2009 we have committed ourselves to sustaining a creative cultural exchange called GAZA DRAMA LONG TERM.  This has been through a number of phases: Gaza: Guernica, Gaza: Breathing Space, Gaza: Opening Signs.  Much of the work so far has been focused on work with young people and those whose lives have been adversely affected by organised violence.

When the border crossing with Egypt was opened during Morsi’s presidency we thought we could undertake a closer collaboration and we decided to undertake a project that could engage a wider section of Gazan society.  With the army takeover that has led to Al Sisi’s presidency in Egypt we had to admit that our Gazan partners would not be able to get out and we would not be able to get in to Gaza.  So we started planning to develop the production by holding parallel events here, in London, and in Gaza.  When the move towards a unified government was undertaken by Hamas and Fatah things looked even more propitious for work of this kind of scope.  So we are working towards a video link up event at Rich Mix here in London and the Institut Francais in Gaza on Sunday 14th September.

Hossam responded: “Regarding War and Peace, for the time being the only thing I can say: I believe in doing it now more than any time before”

For the time being we are sticking to our plans.  But the question remains for us too.  How does it feel to be continuing to work for this production of a unique Arabic stage adaptation of Tolstoy’s great romantic and philosophical novel?

We have been using the brilliant stage adaptation by Erwin Piscator and colleagues at the Schiller Theatre in Berlin in the mid-1950s.  Hossam has created an Arabic translation of this adaptation and it will be this text that will be the starting point for the work on the Gaza production.  In London we have also engaged with a number of writers: Hassan Abdulrazzak, Caryl Churchill, Ahmed Masoud and Haifa Zagana, asking them to make responses to this work.  These new texts will be given staged readings on Sunday 14th September along with a new Arabic translation of Caryl Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children that Hossam Madhoun in Gaza and Hassan Abdulrazzak in London have undertaken!

When we conceived this phase of our project we thought it would be inspiring for audiences in Gaza (and elsewhere!) to see what stage artists in Gaza made of this epic novel about themes that those artists would be thoroughly experienced in.  Also we had noticed that artists in Gaza were generally asked to make art directly about their situation.  We thought the optic offered by Tolstoy’s description of the war between the French army led by Napoleon against the Prussians and the Russians, the second movement of which involved the occupation of Russia, the taking of Moscow and the French army’s subsequent defeat would, through reflection,  enhance thinking about the current situation.  And of course the love story that drags apart and draws together the three main characters Natasha Rostova, Andrei Bolkonsky and Pierre Bezukhov would be recognisable in all cultures.

We were particularly encouraged when we saw how Tolstoy’s attempt to create a portrait of a whole human society through descriptions of family ‘mini-cultures’ was so relevant to the family-based character of Palestinian society.  Also, the intergenerational scope of the novel, set over a the opening years of the Nineteenth century, involving two wars and two ‘peaces’ touched on current themes in Palestine.  The contour of the events described by the book felt similar to the movement from the First Intifada (1987) to the return of the Palestinian Authority after Oslo (1995-6) and the second Intifada (2000) without the similarity being anything other than comparable.  Somehow these perceptions brought to our minds the kind of movements of history that Tolstoy is so keen to evoke in his novel.

We started, in our conversations, to consider how Tolstoy’s book draws out a distinction between different types of warfare, between the ‘set piece’ battles of the Moravian campaign climaxing with the Battle of Austerlitz and the formal peace treaty that followed, based on the mutual acceptance of the outcome of the battles, and the subsequent war involving the Napoleonic army’s occupation of Russia with its eventual defeat by ‘guerilla’ detachments.  This new kind of people’s war was also encountered by the French in their invasion of the Spanish peninsula (about which Goya  produced his Disasters of War) and these two campaigns, and to some extent the campaign in Prussia, was the basis of Carl von Clausewitz re-theorisation of military strategy that has had the most profound impact on thinking about these matters.

We started to think about the kind of perspectives that this historical overview could give.  The situation for the Palestinians seemed to be characterised by an occupation that was constantly disclaimed, by a power that itself had undertaken terrorist armed resistance against the former imperial power, Britain.  The process of occupation and colonisation was continuous.  The war was called pacification.  The peace seemed like the pursuit of war by other means.  War and peace merged into one another.

Apart from the novel being a deep exploration of the human spirit it couldn’t achieve this without raising broad questions about the nature of conflict and different types of military activity.

Of course, we can’t really predict the outcome of the current intensification of armed violence in Gaza and our partners’ lives are being reshaped in circumstances that are being transformed but we are committed to continuing this deep cultural, artistic exchange that is now thoroughly permeated by love and friendship.

Our effort is to create a space where thinking and the imagination can dance together creatively.  That’s theatre.

Note by Jonathan Chadwick

Read Hossam’s messages from Gaza. Next.