Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Revels With A Cause

AFTER that triumph (The Skies Are Weeping) at the Hackney Empire, it seems there's a couple more cultural events I have to tell you about. I'll start with two pictures.

FIRST, it was during the first Intifada, when Palestinian youth armed with no more than stones were challenging the Israeli army, which was ordered (by Rabin) to "break their bones". Sometimes the army just "fired over the heads" of crowds, so we were told. Amazing how many flying kids got killed this way.

There was a vigil on the steps of St.Martins le Fields to remember those killed. We carried lists of names, and some had red flowers. The lady holding flowers, in the foreground between two men with beards here was an Israeli called Arna. I had not met her before, but she seemed friendly if formidable, and Israelis and Palestinians seemed to know, like and respect her.

Born to a left-wing Jewish family in Mandatory Palestine, Arna Mer fought in the Palmach (pre-state commandos), joined the Communist Party, and later married a Palestinian, Saliba Khamis. Working with children, Arna Mer-Khamis was a dedicated campaigner for peace, equality, and a better future for all.

Arna quit the CP in disgust after witnessing the Soviet tanks entering Prague in 1968, but she remained a principled woman of the left, working in alternative education in the occupied West Bank . Among her achievements was a theatre in Jenin, which was intended to be a safe place for Palestinian children traumatised by war. During the Israeli army's assault on Jenin, Arna's theatre was destroyed.

At the conference of European Jews for Just Peace held in London in September, I met Dror Feiler and Yonatan Stanczak, Israelis now living in Sweden, who were selling DVDs of the film 'Arna's Children', and told us about their project to raise funds to rebuild Arna's Theatre. It is sometimes hard to see hopeful and cosnstructive efforts in the Middle East these days. This is one. Yonatan gave me the website address,

And on Tuesday night in Hackney, Esther, the daughter of two of my Jewish Socialist friends, gave me a leaflet for an event being held on Thursday, November 10 in Tower Hamlets. As part of a campaign to twin that
historic London borough with Jenin, and to raise funds for Arna's Free Theatre, they are showing the film "Arna's Children", with an introduction by Ghada Karmi. It's 7.30pm at the Genesis Cinema, 93-95 Mile End Road, near Mile End or Stepney Green stations. The entrance fee is £5.

I joked with Esther that Tower Hamlets and Jenin could exchange experiences of being blitzed. But jokes apart there could be some intersting resonances.

Viewing my second picture, you might recognise the guy on the end with beige jacket as comic Ivor Dembina, but who is that with Ivor?
OK it is Israel's WMD whistleblower and long-time prisoner of conscience Mordechai Vanunu, and the reason I pinched this pic from the Olive Co-op website is that the pair of them are linked with the next event.

This Summer there was a peace ride by bike to Jerusalem. Among those greeting the cyclists, was Mordechai Vanunu, who said:

"I am delighted to give my full support to the Peace Cycle. It is a movement of compassion and of hope. It allows people to do something positive about a negative situation. In these increasingly dangerous times, we must speak out against injustice and we must work to rid the world of the nuclear weapons stockpiled by Israel and other countries, which endanger all of mankind. I urge people of conscience to support the Peace Cycle in their efforts for justice and peace. Together, we will not allow our spirit to be crushed."

Mordechai Vanunu, Peace Cycle Patron, speaking in Jerusalem, 5th September, 2005. See

Well next year there is going to be anothe chance for peaceniks to get on their bikes to spread the word, and to help raise funds for this there is a comedy night at the Comedy Club, featuring: Mark Steel, Andy Parsons, who has been called "a comedy demi-god" and Ayesha Hazarika, winner 2005 Asian Women of Achievement Award, and even the "Sunday Express" finds "Very funny" . Ivor Dembina, only recently back from the Melbourne Fringe Festival where "he had the audience in stitches", according to ABC Radio, is compere.

That's Monday, 7th November 8pm
at The Comedy Store
Tickets: £15/conc.£10 or tel: 0870 060 2340

The Comedy Store is on the junction of Coventry St and Oxendon St, under the TGI Fridays restaurant.
Parking:Street parking is very limited. Strongly advise public transport.
Public Transportation:Nearest Tube: Piccadilly Circus / Leicester Square.

Any more listings and I'll be going into business. Only joking Ivor, we don't want the taxman.

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At 8:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 12:26 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hi Desert Peace!

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I wish you well, and all strength,

shalom rav,


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