Editor’s Note: Oud player and actress Reem Anbar grew up in Gaza City and attended the Said Al-Mashal, first as a student and later as a performance teacher for groups of children and youths. From Britain, she reflects on what the theater represents, and why it became a target of a Zionist bombing.
By Reem Anbar
The Said al Mashal is one of our main cultural centers in Gaza, the soul of our community. A place of music, of theatre and poetry. My work at the center focused on traditional Palestinian music but I also worked in the theater, performing there for over 10 years at concerts and all kinds of events.
The theater became a kind of university, for myself and for the groups of children who would come and sing, play instruments, dance, and act. The occupation didn’t just bomb the place, they dropped bombs on my memories.
The last time I was there was in October 2017 and I took my niece Fufu. I knew I’d be leaving Gaza soon but I wanted her to be part of it. I could see how important it was for children. And after I left she went back to the theater and danced dabke with other kids. She’s only 6 years old and now she’s as upset as I am about what the Israelis have done.
When many places were forced to close due to the occupation and bombings, the Said al Mashal stayed open. Everything I learned about what I wanted to do in music, I learned in this theater, a place of love, peace, and ideas.
We did everything there, bringing people from all over Gaza to get together. I played there as a solo performer, with bands, poets, actors and taught children about Palestinian and Arabic culture. There is no place like this in the whole of Gaza.
I ask myself why they would bomb this place. They are aiming to destroy our space for performance. We need these places, Palestine needs culture, a way to learn and to express our heritage. Music, poetry, and performance are all part of who we are. The occupation claims to be going after Hamas but this is a war against our politics, civilization, and art.
This is not a war on terrorism – they are targeting our culture and heritage. This is political. Israel wants to destroy our social activity and force young Palestinians to leave, despite their strict border agreements with the Egyptians. They want to stop us singing. Actually the opposite will happen. Palestine will always be a place of art, history, and sumud. Wallah, we will have our concerts in the street if we have to.