The Israeli government this week launched a series of interactive and forum theater events and reenactments to commemorate the nation’s founding in 1948, with the military, police and settlers reprising the roles of gangs that forcibly displaced Palestinians, while broadcasting the events in full HD to the world.
Israel picked the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah for this week’s show, but organisers were initially thrown off by the refusal of Palestinians in the area to play the role of quiescent citizens living under a racist, colonialist apartheid regime and leave their homes without protest.
This prompted showrunner and Nobel peace prize nominee Benjamin Netanyahu to order the taping of unplanned scenes with live and rubber bullets, tear gas, stun grenades and water cannons.
Israel’s culture minister said these productions were important to familiarize youth and populations that had recently normalized relations with Tel Aviv with the country’s history.
“We have to be proud of our identity and heritage so our friends can see us as we really are and love us for who we are regardless of the roles we reprise,” he said.
Noam Baha’im, a professor of psychology at Tel Aviv University, said these theatrical reenactments offered a safe space for Israeli settlers to express themselves boldly and let out any negative feelings they have towards the other.
“It’s also a way for them to reconnect with their ancestors and understand their plight, so they can stop blaming them for allowing a few Palestinians to stay through learning how difficult it is to erase an entire people,” he said.
Local editions of the live show were launched this year in a number of cities and towns including Haifa, Jaffa, Lod, Nazareth and Acre, but the landmark performance will once again take place in Gaza, where producers have perfected the use of stunning visual and sound effects to create a spectacle, hoping that it might be optioned by Netflix.