‘Well’ aims to provide perspective on conflict

In an effort to encourage Yale students to view the Israel-Palestine conflict from a new perspective and engage in constructive dialogue about possibilities for peace, several campus organizations are sponsoring a production of the three-woman play “By the Well of Sarah and Hagar” this Thursday night.

Produced by the Peace Tent Project, an Israel-based women’s peace group, and sponsored by campus organizations including Jews for Justice, the Dwight Hall Social Justice Network and the Muslim Students Association, the play features personal narratives by two women, one Muslim and the other Jewish, who relate their experiences pursuing peace and dialogue in a violent environment. “Well” focuses on telling their stories through the lenses of religion and gender.

Its sponsors aim to spark student discussion, starting with an open forum after the performance, Dwight Hall co-coordinator Lauren Jacobson ’08 said.

The play relates the story of Ibtisam Mahameed and her Israeli counterpart Dorit Bat Shalom. Mahameed, a Palestinian Muslim living in a village in northern Israel, works in Gaza as a mediator between Muslims and Jews. Shalom is an Israeli artist who became involved in peace activism after her brother was killed in the 1967 Six Day War.

Sponsors of the production emphasized the opportunity it presents for Yale students to gain a unique perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Jacobson said she thinks the play will inspire meaningful discussion about the conflict and can contribute to a more nuanced understanding by adding a new dimension to the debate on campus.

“It’s really important to put this on,” she said. “Israel gets talked about quite a bit, but it’s not always framed in a way that takes into account the issues on both sides of the conflict.”

Emphasizing a part of the issue often lost in traditional lectures and debates, Jacobson said the theatrical format of the play — which features film and slides depicting images of bloodshed and violence — will highlight the human experience of the people involved the conflict.

Jews for Justice member Aaron Littman ’10 said his organization wanted to bring the play to Yale so that students could engage the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a non-divisive manner. He said productive discussions can be difficult because of the passions involved on both sides.

“It’s something that often people have really strong feelings about,” he said. “We’re really hoping that [students] will sort of take a lot out of the play in terms of opportunities for peace-making in Israel and Palestine.”

Littman said Jews for Justice collaborated with the Union of Progressive Zionists to bring the production to Yale. They then invited other organizations, including the Muslim Students Association, to co-sponsor the event, MSA president Altaf Saadi ’08 said. She said the play stresses the role of women in leading peaceful dialogue about the Middle East because it is told from the perspective of two women.

“Well” went on tour in the United States in early 2006 and was seen by audiences in Boston, San Francisco and Berkeley, Calif. The play will be performed in New York this week as well.

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