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Palestinians "act out" in Finland

Young Palestinian actors have brought their territorial struggle to the stage in Finland. Their production frames the Palestinian strife in a famous Samuel Beckett play.

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Image: Yle

The Jenin refugee camp is one of the bleakest places on the West Bank, and for the past six years the Freedom Theatre group has attempted to breathe some life into the settlement experience. The group suffered a major setback last year when its Israeli-born director Juliano Mer-Khamis, who dreamed of a joint Israeli-Palestinian state, was gunned down.

"We felt it was all very meaningless -- to shoot someone who brings art, culture and equality to a place," said Udi Aloni, director of Freedom Theatre.

Mer-Khamis' young actors are now putting on a play at the Finnish National Theatre. While Waiting, their adaptation of Irish playwright Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, not only takes a stand on the situation in the Middle East, but also on the position of women.

"Maybe the two wanderer clowns today are two women from the Jenin refugee camp. Women that are persecuted by the Israeli oppression -- and by their own society," he said.

Art under pressure

Making art in a refugee camp isn't easy. The Israeli army has raided the theatre's premises several times and actors have been arrested. The local community has also been suspicious of the venture.

"No one accepted the idea that a girl and boy are together on the stage," explained actor Mariam Abu Khaled.

While Waiting draws attention to individual rights.

"It's probably dangerous to make art in places where art can change. Probably in the West it's less dangerous but it has less power," Aloni surmises.

The Freedom Theatre concludes its two-day visit to the Finnish National Theatre on Tuesday.

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