Arab actor portrays Holocaust survivor

How can young Arab man play Jewish child who survived Nazis? 'Everyone who knows me accepts it. My humanism is even more important to me than acting,' says Elias Matar of northern village of I'billin

Standing on the stage at the Children's Museum in the Ghetto Fighters' House is one child who is actually three: Rami'le, the Zionist kibbutznik from the valley, Avrahamale, the orphaned Holocaust survivor, and Elias Matar, a Christian Arab actor who portrays the two of them in the show "Avramale – the Boy from Over There."


Matar, 23, who was born in the northern village of I'billin, doesn’t get all excited when he is asked what a young Arab man has to do with these two children, who are so far away from him.


Perhaps it's because he is a graduate of the Center for Humanistic Education (CHE) at the Ghetto Fighters' House and serves as an instructor at the center for groups of Arab and Jewish youth, and mainly because he was educated to understand everyone, regardless of anyone's color, race or religion.


"The Holocaust or any other event which damages humanity are against my humanistic ideology," he says. "I will play any story which could may people live differently and accept the other, even if it is very far away from me. Any harm caused to Jews and Arabs hurts me.


"I arrived at this show very mature to play the other, the different, although the need to understand the different here is fading away, unfortunately. I am different too, like the children in the play, and I bring this complexity to their characters. The moment you release your pain and you're not constantly absorbed in it, you can also understand the pains of others, and that's what I do."


"Avramale – the Boy from Over There," written by Amit Gur and directed by Hava Cohen, complements the new exhibition at the Children's Museum in the Ghetto Fighters' House, "My Childhood Began Here," which presents the tales and rehabilitation of the Jewish children who survived World War II.


Matar, an actor at the Beit Hagefen Arab-Jewish Cultural Center in Haifa, has been part of the museum since he arrived there as a curious 16-year-old. Since then, he has obtained a bachelor's degree in social theater from Haifa University, acted at the Akko Festival and Children's Theater Festival in Haifa, joined a Haifa dance company, volunteered at the ELEM association for youth in distress and participated in international conferences on the Arab-Israeli conflict through social theater. He also writes songs for singer Miriam Tukan.


You must face many questions – from your side too – about the decision to participate in such a show and work in a museum commemorating the Holocaust.


"Definitely, but whoever knows me, on my side too – the Arab side, knows that this is who I am and accepts it. The play takes place in 1948, and I can obviously understand – just like the Holocaust surviving child or kibbutznik – what is war.


"That date sends shivers down my spine too. My family fled to Lebanon in 1948 and I have not seen them to this day, not even my 98-year-old grandmother, who is very excited over the fact that I'm an actor. When I hear the sire during the show and I'm afraid as Rami'le, I immediately see my grandmother. And when I say that it must be hard growing up without a family, without a mother and father, I think about my mother."


That’s the power of theater.


"Absolutely. We're not doing an avant-garde show. That's not the intention. The fact that I'm an actor who does such roles allows me to get a better sense of the strength and magic in theater. If this spell works on me, it will work on the others as well.


"My humanistic place is the most important thing for me, even more than the creation, and that’s not just jabbering. It's my ideology, and I feel that I live for that."



פרסום ראשון: 12.17.13, 14:30
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