Wednesday, May 03, 2006

 

West Bank Story, A Musical Drama, By Israel Zwick

West Bank Story, A Musical Drama, By Israel Zwick

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a series of short, musical plays about values and life in the Israeli territories. The first was titled “Farmer Without a Roof” and can be found at http://www.isralert.com/archives/2005/05/farmer_without.php. Though the following story is fictitious, it was inspired by actual events. The main inspiration for this story came from articles by Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook on the website www.pmw.org.il. While the details in the story have been fictionalized, they are based on factual information obtained from a variety of sources. The main source was the article http://www.pmw.org.il/schoolbooks.html about the Palestinian school curriculum. The songs were adapted from “West Side Story,” music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.


WEST BANK STORY
Inspired by “West Side Story,” originally directed by Jerome Robbins, with music
by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

CHARACTERS:

MOTHER, Arab woman about 40 years old
AHMED, Arab boy, 12 years old
TEACHER, Arab man about 45 years old
CHILDREN, five Arab boys and five Arab girls, about 12 years old
POLICEMAN, about 30 years old
PSYCHOLOGIST, woman about 30 years old.

SCENE 1
TIME: early morning, the present
SETTING: A simple Arab home around Jenin, in the Israeli territories. The scene takes place in the kitchen. There is a small table with four chairs, simple cabinets, basic kitchen appliances, and a small radio on the shelf.

MOTHER: (An Arab woman, about 40 years old. She is dressed in modest, casual attire, with her hair covered by a traditional Muslim hijab. She is preparing a simple breakfast consisting of pita bread, chickpea spread, feta cheese, and olives. As she prepares breakfast, she sings)

Adapted from “Something’s Coming”
Music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Could be!
Who knows?
There’s something due any day,
I will know right away,
Soon as it shows.
It’s only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Under a tree.
I got a feeling there’s a miracle due,
Gonna come true,
Coming to me.

Could it be? Yes, it could
Something’s coming, something good,
If I can wait!
Something’s coming, I don’t know what it is
But it is
Gonna be great!

The air is hummin’
And something great is comin’
Who know?
It’s only just out of reach
Down the block, on a beach.
Maybe tonight.
Maybe tonight.

AHMED: (Arab boy, 12 years old, walks into the room. He is dressed in a simple T-shirt, cotton slacks, and sandals.) Mommy, do I have to go to school today? School is so boring! Shakir and his friends are going to the Hamas training camp to watch the new fighters practicing their drills. Can I go with them?

MOTHER: No, my son. If you want to learn how to resist the Zionist enemy, then you have to go to school first. There you will learn how the Zionists invaded Palestine, drove us out of our homes, and occupied our lands. Then you can learn Shahida and grow up to be like your brothers, Waleed and Youssef.

AHMED: Mommy, why did Waleed and Youssef have to die? I miss them so much. Waleed was teaching me how to play soccer and Youssef always made me laugh with his funny stories and jokes. Now all I have left are a few little sisters.

MOTHER: I know you miss them. I miss them, too. But you should be proud of your brothers. Waleed completed a successful martyrdom operation in a restaurant. Nine Zionist pigs were killed and 65 were wounded.

AHMED: But, Mommy, I saw pictures of the wounded on the Internet. One boy my age lost both his legs and will spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. Another woman has shrapnel in her spine and lives with excruciating pain. Another boy just got out of a coma but he is brain damaged and will have to spend the rest of his life in a mental health facility.

MOTHER: Ahmed, you shouldn’t feel sorry for them. You should rejoice over their misery. They would all be Israeli soldiers. Waleed prevented them from killing and oppressing the Palestinian people.

AHMED: But what about Youssef? He didn’t kill any Zionists. Why did he have to die?

MOTHER: Youssef was learning how to assemble Improvised Explosive Devices. He was killed in a work accident. That happens sometimes during a jihad. We have to understand and accept that.

AHMED: Mommy, am I going to die like Waleed and Youssef? I don’t want to die. I want to learn how to play soccer and travel around Europe with soccer teams.

MOTHER: No, my son. You won’t have to die. Hamas now has new Katyusha rockets that they can shoot over the separation fence. So soon it won’t be necessary for so many of our brave boys to become shaheeds. Besides, you shouldn’t be afraid of death. Your brothers are in a better place now, with Allah in heaven. They are enjoying their existence there. You’re too young to appreciate it now, but when you get older you will realize how much satisfaction your brothers are having in heaven. You should be proud of your brothers and aspire to be like them. Now go off to school, it’s getting late.

SCENE 2

TIME: later that morning

SETTING: A simple schoolroom. There are five boys and five girls around 12 years old. The teacher is sitting at a desk in front. A United Nations emblem is hanging on the wall and a Palestinian flag is on the side.)

TEACHER: (Arab man about 45 years old. He has a neatly trimmed beard and is dressed in casual clothing) Children, I have good news for you. The new textbooks that were ordered for us by the United Nations have finally arrived. They were purchased from funds donated by the Europeans. What does that teach us? Ayyat, can you tell us?

AYYAT: (Arab girl dressed in simple cotton dress and sandals). It means that not all infidels are bad and have to be killed in a jihad. Some of them do good deeds and should be spared.

TEACHER: That’s very good. Now tell me how you feel about America.



CHILDREN: (Singing)
Adapted from “America”
Music by Leonard Bernstein, Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

BOYS: Skyscrapers bloom in America
Aeroplanes zoom in America
Explosions boom in America

GIRLS: Everywhere grime in America
Organized crime in America
Terrible time in America

TEACHER: Very good. Now children open your history books to page 48. Who would like to tell us how the Zionist Jew pigs came to Palestine? Ahmed, can you tell us?

AHMED: In the 1940’s, the Jews were making trouble in Europe so the Christians expelled them. They came to Palestine, and with their enormous wealth they bought modern weapons. They destroyed over 500 Arab villages and drove our people out. Since then, they have been occupying Palestinian lands and oppressing our people.

TEACHER: That’s very good. Now open your math books. Nabil, can you do the problem on page 67?

NABIL: (Arab boy) There were 115 Zionist monkeys sitting at a Passover Seder, singing and rejoicing over the oppression of our Egyptian brethren. 29 are killed in a resistance operation. How many Zionist monkeys are left breathing? 86.

TEACHER: That’s very good. Because you children did such a good job, we’re going to have an extended recess. We’re going to switch the roles that we had yesterday. The boys who were crawling under fences with rifles will practice throwing rocks today. The boy who throws the biggest rock for the longest distance will get a prize. The girls who were filling sandbags yesterday will collect rocks today. Now go outside and take your positions.

SCENE 3

TIME: Later that afternoon.

SETTING: Same as Scene 1.

AHMED: (carrying toy rifle) Mommy, can I go outside and play? Tomorrow in school I get to crawl under the fence with my toy rifle. The boy who crawls the furthest gets a prize. Can I go out to practice?

MOTHER: OK. But stay away from that separation fence; it’s very dangerous there. And make sure to come back for dinner.
AHMED: (Steps outside and sings)

Adapted from “Tonight”
Music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Tonight, Tonight
Won’t be just any night
Tonight there will be no morning star,
Tonight, tonight
I’ll see my love tonight,
And for us, stars will stop
Where they are.

Today
The minutes seem like hours,
The hours go so slowly,
And still the sky is light
Oh moon, grow bright
And make this endless day, endless night.

(Two hours later, Mother is working in the kitchen preparing dinner. She hears four gunshots in the background. She is startled, but ignores it because gunshots are so common in her neighborhood. A few minutes later, there is an announcement on the radio.)

RADIO: Breaking news now: A 12-year old Palestinian boy was shot and killed by an Israeli border policeman near the security fence. A toy rifle was found near the boy’s body. No charges were filed against the policeman. A Hamas spokesman called the incident a “crime against the Palestinian people” and vowed to avenge the boy’s death. The UN Security Council will meet tomorrow to consider sending a peacekeeping force to protect the Palestinian people from Israeli violence.

(Mother runs out of the house quickly)

SCENE 4

TIME: The next morning

SETTING: Same as Scene 2, schoolroom

TEACHER: Children, I have very sad news to report. Ahmed is no longer with us, he is with Allah in heaven. Yesterday, he was brutally murdered by an Israeli policeman. Four gunshots tore apart his little body. The policeman who committed this horrible crime was allowed to go free. They will probably give him a promotion for killing a little boy with a toy rifle. This is why we must continue our resistance to liberate our land from the Zionist murderers and oppressors. You are all dismissed to attend Ahmed’s funeral.

SCENE 5

TIME: Later that afternoon

SETTING: ( Police Department, Psychological Services. A female psychologist sits at a desk. A policeman in uniform sits in front of her).

POLICEMAN: (Man about 30 years old, dressed in uniform. A pistol and police mobile radio are attached to his belt.) I don’t think I can take this anymore; I need to apply for a mental health leave of absence.

PSYCHOLOGIST: (Woman, about 30 years old. Dressed in a white blouse with police emblem, navy-blue skirt. Also wearing a belt with a pistol.) You mustn’t blame yourself. It wasn’t your fault. You were cleared of all wrongdoing.

POLICEMAN: But he was only 12 years old. I have a little nephew that age. Just yesterday, I was playing soccer with him.

PSCHOLOGIST: But if he was really a Hamas terrorist, then it would have been your chest that was torn apart.

POLICEMAN: I should have known something was wrong. The first three shots missed and he didn’t fire back or run. He just stood there.

PSYCHOLOGIST: It all happened so fast, you couldn’t have known.

POLICEMAN: I’ve seen too much death and violence. When is it all going to end?

(The psychologist holds his hand and together they sing)
Somewhere
Music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

There’s a place for us,
Somewhere a place for us.
Peace and quiet and open air
Wait for us
Somewhere

There’s a time for us
Some day a time for us,
Time together with time to spare,
Time to learn, time to care
Someday!

Somewhere.
We’ll find a new way of living,
We’ll find a way of forgiving
Somewhere…

There’s a place for us,
A time and place for us.
Hold my hand and we’re halfway there.
Hold my hand and I’ll take you there.
Somehow
Some day,
Somewhere!

(Police and ambulance sirens are heard in the background. The policeman’s radio buzzes. He picks it up and puts it to his ear.)

RADIO: Central Bus Station, Tel Aviv. At least 10 dead, scores wounded.

(Curtain)

THE END

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