Please join Compass Theatre Productions as we celebrate the 15th Anniversary of Deborah Ellis’ beloved story, The Breadwinner.

Compass presents the Canadian Premiere, Staged Reading of The Breadwinner, by Deborah Ellis, at SpringWorks: indie theatre & arts festival.

May 9th at 12:00 noon
May 10th at 4:00 p.m.
Venue: St. John’s United Church,
175 Waterloo Street, Stratford.

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Another interview

(Gush Etzion is a community of twenty-two settlements south of Jerusalem in the hills of Judea, inside the Palestinian territory of the West Bank.  the land was purchased by Jewish farmers back in the l920's, and communities were built there, later to be destroyed by the Arab League. From November 29, l947, the settlement village of Kfar Etzion was surrounded by the Arab League and cut off from Jerusalem.  The village surrendered the following May, after which 127 Jews were killed by the Arabs.  Other villagers were taken prisoner and their homes looted and destroyed.  When the area was taken back during the l967 war, the settlements were rebuilt.  Building and expanding continues to this day.

I met D and S, two sisters, in their home in the settlement.)

D. 12

My mother works as an organizer for seniors' programs.  My father had a heart attack three years ago and died.  So it's just the three of us.  We live in a settlement near Herodian, where King Herod once had a palace.  It's really nice here, like a small town, although it's bigger now than it used to be.  There are over 600 families here now.  We used to know everyone but it's getting a little too big for that now.

Mom says our settlement is like Mayberry from the Andy Griffith Show - a very quiet, safe, nice place to live. Other places can be more dangerous for kids.  There are more cars, more crime, lots of strangers, but here it is safe.  It's nice and easy.  We can just walk to school.  The school I go to has boys and girls in separate classes, so I have all girls in my class.

There's a little market here, so we can get a few things, but for real shopping we go to Jerusalem.  Jerusalem is only ten minutes away.  Here we are on the top of a hill.  There are hills and valleys all around.  You can see for a really long way, out across the desert.

My friends and I are really into cooking these days.  We like to cook almost every day.  We made chocolate chip cookies yesterday and spaghetti today.

T. 10

At my school there is a little farm, with animals to keep like sheep and chickens. Every class takes one day a week to take care of the animals and do all the chores.  This is training in case we want to be farmers one day

We also have time each week when we can do different things we want to do.  Whoever wants to do art, they do art.  Whoever wants to do sports, they go do sports.  You can do Israeli folk dancing if you want to.  I'm doing science.  It's great because we get to make stuff for the school.  The kids from the last session made a composter, and we'll be making recycling boxes.  A woman from an environmental organization comes every Monday and she tells us how we can save the environment.

D.   Ninety percent of the time, it's very quiet and normal here.  We come home from school, do our homework, we have supper, nothing unusual.  But sometimes things are a bit different.

In the war with Gaza over the winter, the Arabs sent rockets here and they exploded close to us.  We could hear the explosions and it was really scary.  We didn't know how many rockets would come, or when, or where they would land.  It was really bad.

There is an Arab village on a hill above us.  They sometimes come and throw rocks at us.  They have a riot and they throw rocks at Jews driving by.  One time a rock hit my mother and broke her arm.  Where she broke it, it still hurts when the weather is cold.

But that doesn't happen every day.  It's mostly very quiet and normal.  People are really good to each other, like in any close community.

When Dad died, people came together to help us through it.  A woman taught me about massage as a way to deal with stress, and now I think I want to become a professional masseuse.  My mother's family is all in the United States, so she really needed the neighbours and they came together for her.  We have really good people here.




Interview 20

(Kids for Peace has been bringing Israeli and Palestinian children together for dialogue and recreation for many years.  The children, along with their parents, spend eight months in workshops before the children board planes to attend Kids for Peace summer camps in North America.  I was in Jerusalem when Kids For Peace celebrated its tenth anniversary.)

T. 13   I am a girl from Beit Hanina, between Jerusalem and Ramallah.  My father's family came from the northern part of Israel and my mother came from Jerusalem.

Beit Hanina is divided into two parts now, north and south.  It is separated by the Wall.  The Qalandia checkpoint is there.  I used to have to go through it to visit my grandparents  I didn't like it.  I always felt like I was going to be in trouble.  But now my grandparents live on this side of the Wall, so I don't have to go through the checkpoints anymore.

I got involved with Kids for Peace because my sister did it when she was my age and she really enjoyed it.  It's been a great experience so far.  You get to meet kids from other cultures and you can make friends with kids you might not meet otherwise.

When we first started meeting, we would play games to help us get to know each other.  Simple games at first, because we were all strangers.  We'd play games to learn each other's names, learn each other's favorite colors, things like that.

I went to a Kids for Peace camp in Atlanta.  It was so much fun!

Our leaders tell us that we should risk everything for peace, that it takes a lot of courage to say yes to friendship in the middle of a war.  They tell us that peace isn't something we get, like an object, that we get and then we can forget about.  Peace is something we have to keep practicing.  The more we practice it, the better we get at it.

But peace isn't just about being nice.  Of course we have to be kind to each other.  It's also about telling the truth and about hearing the truth.

In our discussion groups, after we were past the easy stuff like learning our names, we talked about serious things.  I talked about what it was like to go through the checkpoints.  The Jewish kids talked about knowing they would have to go into the army and wondering what that would be like.

It can be hard to tell someone that you are hurt, and it can be really hard to hear someone tell you that they have been hurt by you - not you specifically, but by what you represent.  We all want to be good people.  I've never killed a Jewish Israeli, but Jewish Israelis might not trust me at first because maybe someone in their family was killed by an Arab.  And the Jewish Israeli kids in Kids for Peace did not build the wall that kept me from my grandparents, but other Jewish Israelis did.

I would like to become an optician when I get older.  When things get hard, I sit and read, because that helps me to escape.


(C. is another girl I met at the Kids for Peace anniversary party.)

C.  I am thirteen years old, from Beit Safafa.  My father is from Yafa and my mother comes from Beit Jala.  I'm in the eighth grade.  Math is my best subject.  Grammar is my worst.

My teacher got me involved in Kids for Peace.  I really like it because I want to have peace and I want to have Jewish friends and Muslim friends and all kinds of friends.  I am Christian.  Many Arabs are Muslim, so I already knew a lot about Islam before joining Kids for Peace, but I didn't know anything about being Jewish because I hadn't met any Jewish kids.  There are no Jews in Beit Safafa.  We are right beside a settlement called Gilo, which is Jewish, but we can't just go there, and the kids from there don't come to where I live.

My grandfather lives on the other side of the wall.  We can go to visit him if we go through the checkpoints, but he can't come to see us because he doesn't have the right permit.

Talking is the thing I like best about Kids for Peace, talking and listening, when we sit in a circle and talk about important things.  Last winter, when the bombs were falling from Gaza, - and on Gaza - our leaders called us to come in for a special meeting so we could talk about our feelings.  One of the girls - a Jewish girl - has parents who were living near Gaza and she was afraid for them.  Other Jewish kids were afraid for their brothers and sisters in the army.  We talked about what the children in Gaza must be feeling.

Fifteen of us were picked to be in a film for Kids for Peace and I got to be one of them!  In the film we are all in a park.  It's a nice day.  We are in groups and each group is colouring a section of a heart, and at the end of the film we put all the pieces of the heart together and it's really beautiful.  And in between we all talk about what peace means and what it's like to make friends with other kids.

When I get older I would like to become a doctor for babies, and I would also like to continue my peace work, because there is a lot of work to do.



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interview 19

(R. is another child I interviewed in Gaza.  R. is a boy, 14)

I live in a town close to the border with Egypt.  I watched a man be murdered by a rocket as he was crossing the street by his house.  First he was praying, then when he was done, he started walking across the street, and that's when the rocket came and murdered him.

When the bombs fell, if we had warning, if we had time, we would go into the tunnels to hide.  We are lucky because people dig tunnels to bring things into Gaza.  The tunnels are round, like a dome, and they have wooden or cement floors.  They are not fancy.  We stay down there a long time.  There's nothing to do to pass the time.  The tunnels are dark, they are not nice places.  We passed the time thinking that we would soon die, deep in the dark ground.

We were not able to get into the tunnels every time a bomb came because they came so often.  My sister is twelve years old.  She got hurt by shrapnel in the left side of her chest.  She's still in bed.  She's alive but it is taking her a long time to get better.  One of my teachers got hit with schrapnel, too, in the legs and in the stomach and in the head.  May God take care of him.

From the time the war started until now, there has been no electricity in our house.  Sometimes it comes on for an hour, but it never lasts long.  We can't do anything.  We can't watch television, we can't listen to music, we can't use the computer.  Nothing.

Sometimes before the Israelis bombed somebody's house they would drop leaflets from the sky, warning that they were going to drop a bomb so everyone should get out and run.  People would run from the house and try to find a safe place.  Their house would be bombed and all they had were the clothes they were wearing.  They had to go to other people and say, "Do you have any food?  Do you have anything to help us?"

Being afraid takes away our appetite.  Our food supplies lasted longer than they should have because everyone was too scared to eat.

When the time came that there was no food left and someone had to go out for food, we would all look at each other.  The one who left might be the one who got killed.  Always we would hear about people driving in their cards and getting a missile shot at their car.  If any supplies go short, the person who goes out to get them probably won't come back.

We would talk about anything, just to pass the time.  We would talk about random things - sports, weather, this thing or that.  We knew the helicopters were ready to come back at any time to bomb us.  When we go to sleep we just hope that we will be alive to wake up again.

Sometimes we would scream because we were afraid.  Sometimes we would fight because we were cooped up with each other and we were angry about everything going on.  But through everything, we have good respect for each other.  As hard as it is for us, I think it is even harder for our parents.

Sometimes we would be out playing football and we'd hear the bombs that were coming again and we'd just keep playing.  Playing football gave us hope.  And by that point we were feeling like we would all be killed anyway.  If we were going to die, we might as well die doing something we love.

In the tunnels there would be little kids, and no matter how scared I was, if there were younger kids I tried not to show it.  If you plant fear in children it stays in them their whole life, so we had to make younger kids feel that there was hope - that the night would pass, that the bombs would stop, that everything would be okay.  When a little kid comes up to me and says "I don't want to die" then I have to act older than I am and make them feel better.  It's hard when it's night time.  There are no lights because there is no electricity, and darkness creates fear.  At least during the day you can see if there is a safe place to run to.

The Israelis want us to feel small and afraid, and yes, I was afraid during the war, but I did not feel small.  I felt like all of us in Gaza must be very important and very powerful for the Israelis to send so many bombs to us.  I felt like I was already dead, so if I lived, I could do anything and not be afraid.

I don't think about Israeli kids.  What's the point?  They should just leave us alone.

What do I think the future will bring?  Ask me after the next war.


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Interview 18, from Gaza

(The Gaza Strip is a narrow strip of land bordering Egypt to the south, Israel to the east and north and the Mediterranean Sea to the west.  It is part of Palestine even though it is physically separated from the West Bank.  The government in Gaza is under the control of Hama, a political party elected by the people but is considered a terrorist organization by many nations, including Israel.  Since 2009, Gaza has been under a maritime blockade - ships trying to bring cargo to the area are turned away by the Israeli navy.

Gaza is almost completely cut off from the rest of the world, save for a few tightly-controlled gates.  Almost half the population is under the age of fourteen.  There is high unemployment.  Most people rely on aid from the government and from humanitarian organizations.  Although Israel has lifted embargos on food and consumer goods, items that could have duel use - such as construction material that could also be made into bombs - is not allowed into the area.  Such items get into Gaza through illegal tunnels under the border.  During the recent war between Israel and Hamas, many of these tunnels were destroyed.

I was unable to obtain permission to get into the Gaza Strip.  Through the assistance of the Tamer organization, I was able to talk with children there via a video link-up.

F. is a girl, one of the children I spoke with.   Remember, these interviews were done in January and February of 2013, before the current round of war.)

F. 14  

I live in Gaza City, right by the hospital.  I saw everything that happened there during the recent war.  And the war before that.  I saw everything and I put it on Facebook and Twitter so that others would know.

On the sixth day of the war, at one in the morning, I went to the window and saw a woman in a doorway shouting, "What will I do after you, my son?"  Her son had just been killed and she did no want to keep living without him.

There were lots of bombs.  The Israelis dropped so many bombs on us.  It was awful.  The sound of a bomb exploding is awful.  I pray you never have to hear such a sound.  When you hear a building explode you know there is a person inside it, maybe a family.  Maybe they are sitting together, saying to each other, "Don't be afraid, we will be all right."  And then the bomb comes and they explode apart with the building.

The sounds are awful.  The bombs, the planes, the helicopters, the screaming, the crying.  I'll never get those sounds out of my head.

Do I ever think about the Israeli kids on the other side of the border?  Think about them in what way?  Do I think they are human beings?  Of course they are human beings!  This war is not happening because the Palestinians don't think the Israelis are humans - of course we think they are humans.  They are like us - they laugh, they cry, they go to school, they want to grow up.  Just like us.  We know this.  That is not why this war is happening.

It doesn't help us to know the Israeli kids are human,.  Knowing that does not stop the war.

When I see bombs falling on Israel from Gaza, of course I feel sad for the Israeli children who are feeling afraid.  But they do not suffer as much as we do.  Israeli kids have everything granted to them.  They have good shelters to hide in.

When Gaza bombs Israel, we do it to protect our land.  When Israel bombs Gaza, they do it because they want to punish us for being Palestinians.

We have had to readapt to life quickly after the war.  No therapy.  After witnessing the horrors of war and oppression, we had to go back to our lives as if everything was normal.  It's a non-normal normal.  Why should it be normal for us to live this way?

We really felt the value of life during the war.  Our life could go at any second, so we don't want to throw our time away.

War meant fear for our loved ones and friends.  We use Facebook and Twitter regularly like any teen, but during the war we were concerned to wake up and use it to see who was still alive after a night of bombing.  We learned to hold loved ones really close because they could be killed at any moment.

I know so many people who got hurt.  A girl in our group lost both her grandparents in the bombing, and her father got hit in the leg.  My best friend's cousin is a journalist.  His house was destroyed, seventy percent of his body was burned and his wife and child were killed.  The doctors have him on heavy drugs because of the burns.  Every time he wakes up he asks about his child and his wife, but no one has the heart to tell him that his family has died.

Time was funny during the war.  Sometimes it would speed right up.  I'd look at the clock and three hours would pass but I would think it was only one hour.  And, sometimes, like when it is night and dark and you just want the morning to come, every minute crawls by so slow, it feels like an hour.

We all stayed in one room during the war.  If a family member had to leave the room for a few minutes, everyone was scared that they would be killed and we would never see them again.

I wish I could get to know the feelings of the Israelis who are in the planes dropping the bombs on us.  Do they have any feelings for the people they are dropping the bombs on?  Do they ever think about us?  Even butchers who kill animals for meat have feelings about taking the animal's life.  Do the pilots dropping the bombs think about us at all?  This is something I would like to know.

Israel is fighting a losing battle against us.  Palestine is our land and we won't leave it.  Even if Israel makes things one thousand times harder for us, we will stay and we will fight.

In the future - if I get to decide my future - I would like to be an architect, so that I can rebuild Gaza.  And when I rebuild it, I will add a special place where girls can go to play sports.  We like to run around as much as the boys do, but it is hard for us to find a safe place to play.

We have every right to keep our amazement over things and to love being alive.  We are still young.  We should be able to enjoy that.


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