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News posted in January 2016

Features

Forward - In Chicago Theatre, The Play’s the Thing for Both Sides in Israel-Palestinian Conflict

by Aimee Levitt

Ken Kaissar was born in Ramat Gan, Israel, and grew up in a right-wing Jewish household in Indianapolis. His father fought in three Israeli wars—1956, 1967, and 1973—and growing up, Kaissar was told that Israel was in perpetual danger and that, as he put it, “the Arabs wanted to kill us and destroy us.” As he grew older and left home, he found that other people understood the Middle Eastern conflict much differently. In that version of the story, it was the Israelis who were the oppressors.

Kaissar is a playwright, and so he thought he would work through his feelings about these two vastly disconnected narratives by writing. In 2008, he took a research trip to Israel and decided he would listen to anyone who would take the time to talk to him. He spoke with Jews and Palestinians, with teachers and workers, and activists from the group Combatants for Peace.

“It struck me,” he said, “that though we can’t find a way out, everyone agrees the situation is screwed up and we need to find a way out, and we need to do it now. Everyone I talked to wanted two states. Israeli and Palestinian, they have the same cause. But they don’t know how. They all said, ‘What do you want me to do?’ It was like theater of the absurd. There’s a need to move, but no one can move.”

The result of that trip was a play called “The Victims”. It intersperses realistic scenes based on Kaissar’s interviews with scenes of two characters who live in a garden that would be idyllic except that the owner comes to beat them every day.

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