Palestinian children to go on theatre tour

By Jonathan Kalmus, March 24, 2011

Jewish children from Liverpool could meet Palestinian children from the Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon as part of a theatrical project.

Twelve Palestinian schoolchildren are to travel to Liverpool in two weeks as part of a scheme help them out of the "squalor" Palestinians are forced to endure in Lebanon.

On Thursday, the children, aged 13, will arrive to perform their play Croak, the King and a Change in the Weather, which tells of the downfall of a monarch living an indulgent lifestyle at the expense of impoverished subjects. It is to be shown at the Gateshead Sage music venue on April 2, as well as the Liverpool Community College Theatre and in Edinburgh. It is the work of the Shatila Theatre Project, partly funded by the British Council which supplied some of the £45,000 was needed for a UK production team to work in the refugee camp from February onwards.

Playwright and organiser Peter Mortimer, from North Shields near Newcastle, said the project was not political and welcomed the idea of Jewish children meeting his Palestinian cast.

"I'm more interested in the positive than any blame game. I'm just as willing to work with Jewish or Israeli young people. I try to have a positive effect," he said, declining to comment on Israel's role in the plight of the refugees.

But Mr Mortimer, who lived in the camp for two months, said the children will be forced to return to "squalor" after their visit and believes the media has forgotten to tell the story of Palestinians in Lebanon. "The media tend to concentrate on the West Bank and Gaza, but there are 12 refugee camps in Lebanon and others in Syria.

"Palestinians don't normally have passports and aren't able travel so we have to send special requests to UNRWA," said Mr Mortimer

According to UNWRA, the UN organisation which provides welfare to Palestinian refugees, Lebanon's Palestinians have the highest rate of poverty in Lebanon.

They are not allowed state benefits such as healthcare and are banned from attending Lebanese schools. Palestinians are still banned from being doctors, dentists, lawyers, engineers or accountants.

"I am fairly critical of that," said Mr Mortimer, "They can't own property and are fairly second class citizens."

Last updated: 12:56pm, March 24 2011