Act One

Scenes adapted from dialogues with peacemakers in Israel-Palestine

Notes on the play:

This is a work-in-progress, part of a longer work. The scenes and stories are adapted from my five research trips to Israel-Palestine (2003 – 2010) and recorded dialogues with Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers. These peacemakers generally consider the official, political “peace process” as dead, even dangerous, a cover for the deepening occupation, which began in 1967. Jeff Halper has described this occupation as a “matrix of control”—encompassing military, economic, political, spatial, legal, psychological, narrative, water, and other forms of cultural control.

The play focuses on the stories of nongovernmental peacebuilders who resist the occupation, work for human rights and civil society, believe they have a crucial role in holding their government leaders accountable to international law, struggle to end the occupation, and give their hearts and minds to the process of creating a just peace in Palestine-Israel. While these leaders share a passion for peacebuilding, they often disagree about how to end the occupation, disagree about why they are so passionate to end the occupation, and disagree about whether the end game after the occupation should constitute a one-state solution, a two-state solution or several stages of transformation.

In the play, a “delegation,” probably from North America or Europe, has come to Israel-Palestine in search of the best approaches or strategies for ending the Israeli occupation of Palestine. This delegation (audience) has invited a group of Alternative Tour Guides (Guides)—of which there are many—to present stories and strategies for ending the occupation.

The performance style reflects the dynamic interplay of past and present, narration and scenes, as well as the interplay of comedy, tragedy, farce, and absurd theatre. Ensemble member takes turns presenting specific stories which the rest of the ensemble assist in performing.

Act I celebrates the imagination and courage of nonviolent resistance to the occupation during the First Intifada, especially in Beit Sahour. But Act I also suggests the current challenges for finding a way forward. Ghassan declares: “Each generation comes with its own surprises. Usually, a massive resistance happens whenever a generation faces a wall. And this generation faces a wall. A complete wall.”

In later scenes, not included here, other peacebuilders respond to this challenge, tell their remarkable stories of ongoing resistance to the occupation, and their passion for a just peace.

—Robert Hostetter



An ensemble of Alternative Tour Guides:

Guides 1 and 2: Men, ages 30 – 60
Guides 4 and 5: Men, ages 20 – 50
Guides 3 and 6: Women, ages 20 – 50

Time and place:The present. Somewhere near the border between Israel and Palestine.


For a staged reading, performers may sit or stand in front of slide projections. Recommended images include:

  • the 25’ high separation Wall with one or more guard towers
  • a map showing the Occupied Territories, including the route of the Wall, the 1967 “Green Line,” settlements, and more

For a full production, a nonrealistic, unit set is most viable for quick and fluid scene changes. A unit set might suggest the 25’ high separation Wall, the remains of a Palestinian village, the bell tower of St. George’s Cathedral, and more.)

Summary of Scenes:

Act I: Illegal Cows: A Matter of Control

Scene 1: A Community Story

Scene 2: Resisting Control

Scene 3: Bingo

Scene 4: ID Cards

Scene 5: Survival Strategies

Scene 6: Illegal Cows


The script which appears here is designed for staged readings. Staged readings are convenient for conference and other settings where time and space are limited. For staged readings, I have included a narrator to suggest dramatic moments which otherwise might be revealed through performance, lighting and other means. Fully staged performances can be created by dropping the narrator and adapting his/her lines into theatre images.

The first staged reading of these scenes was presented at the Mennonite/s Writing conference at Eastern Mennonite University, March 31, 2012. The performers included Gabe Brunk, Lauren Friesen, Robert Hostetter, David Vogel, Heidi Winters Vogel, and Carrie Dengler Wenger.


ACT I: Illegal Cows: A Matter of Control

(As the audience assembles, the NARRATOR and six ALTERNATIVE TOUR GUIDES (GUIDES) also emerge. A SLIDE of the Israeli separation WALL appears. Middle Eastern music, such as Marcel Khalife’s “Fall of the Moon,” plays under audience sounds.)

Guide 1 (Organizer)
Guide 2 (Organizer, Ghassan)
Guide 3 (Organizer)
Guide 4 (Organizer, Butcher, various roles)
Guide 5 (Organizer, Officer, various roles)
Guide 6 (Organizer, Soldier, various roles)

(The GUIDES mingle with the visiting delegation/audience members, asking questions about where they are from, have they visited the Middle East before, and so forth.)

(The NARRATOR moves to a small table on the stage. The Guides arrange themselves on stools onstage. Lights come up.)

(The SOUND of cathedral bells.)

Narrator: Time: The present.

Place: Somewhere near the 25’ wall which separates Israel and Palestin.

Situation: A “delegation” has come to Israel-Palestine in search of the best approaches for ending the Israeli occupation of Palestine. This delegation has invited several

Alternative Tour Guides to present the best strategies for ending the Israeli occupation, the occupation of Palestine.



Guide 1: (To audience) We know you have come from many places—

Guide 3: with many hopes for peace in the Middle East.

Guide 1: We understand that you have asked for guides—

Guide 3: Alternative tour guides—

Guide 5: To take you beyond the tourist traps—

Guide 2: The wailing wall, the Dome of the Rock, Manger Square,

Guide 6: To show you the best ways—

Guide 4: the best strategies—

Guide 2: the best approaches—

Guide 3: for ending the occupation.

Guide 5: Look, we Israeli Jews in the peace movement have lots of great ideas for ending the occupation. But we can’t take the lead. We’re waiting for signals from Palestinians.

Guide 2: Our signals are in our stories, in our communities—

Guide 5: We need leadership—

Guide 2: You need to understand our community, because that is the source, the most important source of—

Guide 5: (Loudly.) Strategies?

Guide 2: If you will.

Various Guides: Go ahead. Speak. Please.

Guide 2: Like the keys to our homes, the keys to a just peace must come from the heart, the heart of the Palestinian community.

Guide 1: So, give us an example.

Guide 2: This is the story of Ghassan Andoni, professor of physics, and Director of Public Relations at Birzeit University—

Narrator: Guide 2 takes on the role of Ghassan Andoni.

Guide 2: At Birzeit Univeristy, I am responsible for all external relations, local and international. There are so many stories from my village of Beit Sahour.

Guide 1: Two years ago, I heard you tell the story of illegal cows in Beit Sahour.

Ghassan: Ah, you want that story again!

(The SOUND of cathedral bells.)


Guide 3: Before 1987, the Palestinian revolution survived in the diaspora, in refugee camps outside of Palestine. After the PLO was forced out of Lebanon—

Ghassan: —everybody was thinking, that’s the end of the Palestinian revolution.

Guide 5: Israelis control everything, and nothing can be done about it.

Ghassan: So, the first Intifada came as a complete surprise. Nobody knows why it came at that time.

Guides 4 and 6: (Speaking together.) 1987.

Ghassan: Triggered by one incident.

Guide 1: At the entrance to the Gaza Strip, an Israeli truck struck a group of Palestinian workers.

ALL: The truck killed twenty people.

Guide 3 (as Organizer 3): News reports said it was deliberate.

Ghassan: Suddenly, things went into flames.

Guide 5 (as Organizer 5): Because of so much pressure—

Guide 4 (as Organizer 4): Like a cookpot—pressure building until it blew up.

Ghassan: Inside the occupied territories, we decided to take responsibility and continue the struggle.

Organizers 5 and 6: (Together) Everyone was surprised—

Ghassan: Including me. We were entering a communal struggle, not the struggle of idealists, revolutionaries or guerilla fighters.

Organizer 3: Communities started organizing as communities.

Guide 1: (To audience) In Beit Sahour, next to Bethlehem, a group of people—

Ghassan: Including me—

Guide 3: Took the initiative.

Ghassan: (to Organizers) We have to set an example… of communal disobedience.

Guide 5 (as Organizer 5): Civil disobedience?

Organizer 6 (as Organizer 6): Defiance actions?

Organizer 3: Full civil disobedience?

Ghassan: Yes. The first thing is leadership.

Organizer 4: We already have family leaders—

Ghassan: No, no, we need a democratic model.

Organizer 3: Yeah, a different structure.

Ghassan: I suggest neighborhood committees. Divide our people into 25 neighborhoods and run elections for committees.

Organizer 3: Very grassroots.

Guide 1: (To audience.) The committees met together, and came up with a central committee—

Ghassan: —and I was a member of that central committee.

Organizer 3: Israel has closed all of the schools-- no kindergartens, no universities. We need a committee for education—

Organizer 4: For external relations and media—

Ghassan: Yes, but first, survival strategies—

Organizer 6: We don’t have experience with this kind of work.

Ghassan: So— we can be creative with all this.

Organizer 6: Most people are out of work.

Ghassan: So people have lots of time to be involved!

(Collective laughter.)

Organizer 3: We need to focus on a few things.

Ghassan: Yes—we have to stop letting the occupation control us..

Organizer 6: We can’t cooperate with the Israeli army

Organizer 4: Not voluntarily—

Organizer 5: Only if a gun is pointed to your head.

Organizer 6: How do we stop cooperating?

(A beat, then a bombshell)

Ghassan: We should stop paying taxes to the occupation!

Organizer 3: No taxes?!

Organizer 5: No taxes without representation.

Organizer 4: (Doubtful, hopeful) This is a very big step.

Ghassan: Our high spirits can make this happen.

Organizer 6: But our conditions are very bad.

Organizer 5: We have the ability to survive, to sustain ourselves.

Organizers 3, 4 and 6: (overlapping) Inshallah. God willing. Everything is possible.

Ghassan: We can defy the occupation—starting with a tax revolt.

Organizer 3: No taxes for the occupation!

Narrator: (To audience.) The next day, Organizers found these headlines in Israeli newspapers.

Organizer 5: Reading) Israeli prime minister: Israel can’t tolerate tax revolt.

Organizer 6: (Reading) Itzhak Rabin: I’m going to teach them a lesson,

Organizer 3: Rabin says: I’ll force them to queue up at the tax office.

Narrator: (To audience.) So Rabin started many raids against Beit Sahour—

Ghassan: (To audience.) Severe raids that continued for forty days—

Organizer 5: —towns were fully sieged,

Organizer 6: —curfews day and night,

Guide 4: —confiscation of property,

Ghassan: —a massive move of the Israeli government against our village.

Organizer 5: They feel totally free to act against us.

Organizer 3: They think the Palestinian people have no rights whatsoever.

Ghassan: What will they think of next?

(The SOUND of cathedral bells.)


Ghassan: (To other Organizers.) They are beating us, arresting us, and adding new procedures—

Narrator: An Israeli Officer appears and points to Ghassan.)

Guide 5 (as Officer, moves toward Ghassan) BINGO!

Ghassan: What?

Officer: Bingo—the bingo procedure. B-I-N-G-O! You give me your ID (Ghassan hands it over), I check my card— (Finds Ghassan’s name on his list), and BINGO! Since you are bingoed, we will arrest you.

Narrator: The officer looks around, points to Organizer 4.

Officer: You, too? (Checks ID) We will add your name to our list.

Narrator: The officer takes Ghassan away.

Guide 1: (To audience.) Hundreds of residents were on the bingo list.

Ghassan: (To audience.) When Israeli soldiers arrest you, they drive you to military headquarters. First, they tie your hands, blindfold your eyes, and throw you on the ground.

Narrator: Soldiers blindfold him, force him to the ground. The Officer is kicking him. A Soldier sits behind him, hitting him.

Guide 6: (As Soldier) You, you son of a whore.

Ghassan: (To officer.) Am I wanted for any offense—

Officer: Bingo doesn’t mean wanted for any offense—

Soldier: (Laughing) You are not wanted. You are just on the bingo list.

Officer: Meaning, we will treat you however we want, whenever we want— .

Soldier: As long as we want.

Narrator: Soldier and Officer keep kicking him.

Officer: To teach you a lesson.

Ghassan: This is collective punishment. This is illegal.

Narrator: Officer kicks him again.

Officer: For you, something extra— (Waves a green ID card in the air and thrusts it at Ghassan.) The green identity card.

Soldier: For dangerous people—

Officer: Dangerous to the security of the state.

Ghassan: There is no charge—

Soldier: But you are dangerous.

Ghassan: I did nothing—

Officer: But we know you are thinking of doing something.

Soldier: So, now, if any soldier catches you with this green card, then you receive double the bingo treatment—like this.

Narrator: The Soldier kicks him twice for good measure.

Officer: Now, you are not allowed to cross any military checkpoint. If any soldier sees you, you will be immediately arrested.

Ghassan: (To audience.) They hold you for eight hours or so and then release you—with a warning.

Soldier: Dozens of people have those green identity cards.

Ghassan: The army has so many tricks in the book—

Officer: Yeah, a thousand ways to punish you—

Soldier: and every village out control.

Guide 1: (To audience.) They were very scared that what happened in Beit Sahour would happen in other villages.

(The SOUND of cathedral bells.)


Ghassan: (To audience.) Some of our actions were well organized. Others were hasty, rushed.

(Organizers speak over each other, rushed.)

Organizer 3: This bingo procedure is intolerable.

Organizer 1: No courts, no police--

Organizer 5: No disciplined army —

Organizer 4: No democracy—

Ghassan: (Shouting) First, first we must motivate the community, so no one can be identified and harassed. (Pulls ID card from his pocket.) We should throw away these ID cards. Turn them back to the military.

Organizer 4: Turn back ID cards— to the military?

Guide 3: The community will support this.

Ghassan: Gather people in front of the municipality for a public event—

Organizer 3: A big public event. (She ululates.)

Narrator: Everyone moves to the town square.

Ghassan: (Holds ID card high.) After twenty years of Israeli occupation, we say NO, NO to ID cards.

Organizer 3: (Throwing her ID): For all the mothers—

Guide 1: For all religious people in Beit Sahour—

Organizer 4: For all the taxi drivers—

Ghassan: For all occupied people in Palestine!

(ALL of the Organizers cheer.)

Guide 1: (To audience) Right away, an Israeli officer stepped in, picked out twenty-five people and arrested them.

Officer: (Shoving resisters.) Now, you don’t have identity cards, so you are no longer residents of this place.

Soldier: So we are going to deport you.

Officer: If necessary, we will cleanse the whole village.

Narrator: The Central Committee met again the next day.

Ghassan: After these arrests, we have to figure out several things—

Organizer 4: If those people are deported, it will be a very big blow to us.

Organizer 3: But we can’t take back the ID cards.

Guide 1: (To audience.) They managed to find an Israeli lawyer who wanted to work on the issue of deportation. He was from the Israeli Association for Civil Rights.

Guide 5: (As Israeli lawyer.) He said to the Central Committee, I have a few Israeli friends who would like to meet with you.

Ghassan: (To audience.) So we started the Center for Rapprochement, and met with Israelis— and anyone—who became part of our work.

Guide 5: (Goes to Ghassan.) The lawyer made suggestions to the Central Committee.

Narrator: And Ghassan made suggestions to the Officer.)

Ghassan: (To audience.) The municipality made an arrangement with the army and took back the ID cards—in the middle of the night.

Organizer 3: Some people accepted them back out of fear.

Organizer 4: Others did not.

Guide 1: The municipality kept the rest—as if everybody had taken them back.

Ghassan: (To Organizers.) I am realizing this was a hasty move. We should have waited for a better time….

Organizer 4: When so many have been beaten, humiliated, and invaded—what can we do?

(The SOUND of cathedral bells.)


Ghassan: (To his friends.) Because our community is under such severe pressures, we have to develop survival strategies.

Organizer 3: Provide medical support, deal with injuries—

Organizer 5: At least be able to save lives—

Organizer 6: Reopen our schools—

Guide 3: At the least, provide food and milk.

Organizer 4: That’s a lot of work.

Ghassan: Yes, but we can do most of that. Since we reject the occupation, we have to take responsibility for all community needs—

Organizer 4: Share the hardship.

Organizer 3: Support family members who get arrested, or shot—

Ghassan: Once we begin massive nonviolent resistance, we can’t go halfway.

Organizer 3: Once you jump, you cannot allow a retreat, a defeat.

Ghassan: Then our example collapses, and we’ll have no influence for changing things.

Organizer 4: If we fail, things will be much worse than when we started.

Ghassan: (Gets an idea.) No one is working and the universities are closed, so let’s open our own schools, with university students as teachers.

Narrator: Ghassan distributes school books to university students. After a moment, the Officer and Soldier appear. The Soldier takes flash pictures of Ghassan handing out books.

Officer: I ordered the schools to be closed. You cannot open schools.

Ghassan: Why would you oppose schools?

Officer: You must obey my orders.

Ghassan: (To audience.) That’s the logic of occupiers. But to ordinary people, it doesn’t make any sense.

Officer: The government believes that Beit Sahour is a dangerous example. So we are arresting you—

Ghassan: What for?

Officer: —For masterminding an independent Palestinian state.

Ghassan: In Beit Sahour—with 12,000 people? Inshallah!

Guide 3: (To Officer, trying to intervene.) Please come to the Rapprochement Center and tell us how elementary schools can lead to a Palestinian state.

(Officer signals to Soldier.)

Soldier: You are both under arrest.

Officer: For eighteen days—or until we have control again.

(They leave. A pause. CentraLCommittee members, including Ghassan, sneak back together.)

Ghassan: During my eighteen days in jail, we all asked the question—

Organizer 4: --What is next for our civil disobedience?

Guide 1: The Central Committee was asking the same question.

Ghassan: When I returned from jail, people said,

Organizer 4: What do we do now?

Organizer 3: We should begin boycotting Israeli products.

Organizer 4: But most of our food comes from Israel.

Ghassan: Yeah, most of it. That’s the point. After Europe, we are the second largest food market for Israelis, so they will not allow us to build a food industry.

Organizer 3: So, we build an alternative economy.

Ghassan: No, we build a survival economy.

(The SOUND of cathedral bells.)


Guide 1: (To audience/delegates.) The occupation and the sieges got tighter and tighter.

Ghassan: (To Central Committee.) We have to think of more survival strategies—which things are most needed—

Organizer 4: Reopen the schools.

Organizer 3: Buy milk.

Organizer 4: We can’t afford it. Israel is our only source for that, too.

Ghassan: Exactly right. But the kids really need it. What if we establish our own cow farm in Beit Sahour?

Guide 1: (To audience.) So the Central Committee did some research.

Organizer 3: (Excited.) We found an Israeli kibbutz—

Ghassan: (Excited.) They will sell us twenty cows.

Organizer 4: Do they know the cows are coming to us?

Organizer 5: They don’t care. They will sell them to anyone with cash, and we will pay cash.

Organizer 4: How did you arrange—

Organizer 5: Through a middleman.

Organizer 4: Is this illegal?

Other Organizers: No, no, of course not.

Organizer 5: The cows are pregnant, ready to deliver calves.

Organizer 3: And ready to provide milk.

Organizer 6: We will have milk and a herd of cattle, too!

Ghassan: Now we have to collect the money from people. The people who are richer than others can contribute more.

(Organizers guide and herd cows onto trucks as they speak.)

Guide 6: People are willing to give as much money as you need—

Organizer 3: As much time as you need—

Organizer 5: As much hard work as you need—

Organizer 4: People are seeing that the government is crazy.

Ghassan: And, we can sustain ourselves.

(The women ululate. General celebration as Organizers move to the cow farm.)

Guide 1: They loaded the cows on trucks, and brought them to a place at the edge of town— a place with a lot of empty space.

Organizer 4: A local person—with very little experience—volunteered to take care of the cows.

Organizer 3: But the people who brought the cows were actually engineers and doctors and university professors.

(Organizers walk around the trucks, confused.)

Ghassan: The first problem is— how to get cows out of trucks!

(Organizers try to move cows out of the trucks—speaking over each other, coaxing, and shouting.)

Organizer 1: Please come down.

Organizer 3: You are so beautiful.

Organizer 6: Welcome to Palestine.

Organizer 4: (Shouting.) Stupid cows! Come down here.

Guide 5: Wait! I have a brilliant idea. Like this.

Narrator: He beats on the side of a truck.

Guide 1: (To audience.) The cows jumped out of the trucks and started running.

Ghassan: What a big mess!

Organizer 4: It’s dark. Why did we bring them at midnight?

Organizer 3: For security reasons—

Ghassan: (Shouting.) Run after the cows—

Organizer 4: But if they stop, what do we do?

Organizer 3: What if they run after us?

(The SOUND of morning prayers from the local mosque.)

Guide 1: Five hours later, during morning prayers, nearby villagers woke up, saw the mess, and rushed to help.

(Villagers help the Organizers move the cows toward the enclosure.)

Ghassan: (To Guide 1.) In an hour, the problem was solved. The cows were inside the ranch. And those villagers, former Bedouins, taught us how to care for the cows— how to feed them, where to find water. The place was not equipped with anything.

(He closes an imaginary gate.)

Ghassan: (To Guide 1.) Later, when the cows started giving milk—(gives milk bottles to Organizers) each neighborhood delivered the needed milk to each home, without price.

Organizer 3: The milk is free?

Ghassan. Yes. For now, it’s free. We arranged this whole thing to raise people’s spirits—not to raise money. (He hands out keffiyehs to two young people.) And to add more punch, the young people will wear keffiyehs and masks— (hands them out) and deliver the milk by 4:00 in the morning.

Organizer 6: But there is a curfew every night.

Ghassan: So delivering the milk is also part of the resistance. (A beat.) So we have to develop a guard system for the whole community— to identify where soldiers are, what they are doing, where they are heading. (Whistles.) You have to know the community—

Organizer 4: (Whistles.) You have to be careful—

Organizer 6: (Whistles.) --Know where the soldiers are.

(Guide 5, as Officer with a powerful flashlight, searches for curfew breakers.)

Organizer 3: Families wake up and collect the milk. For families with small kids, it is solving a problem.

Ghassan: For everyone, it is very spirit lifting.

(A pause.)

Guide 1: (To audience.) Then, the military governor of Bethlehem found out what was happening, and tried to break the spirit of the community.

Officer: One morning, he paid a visit to the cow ranch.

Soldier: He came with dozens of soldiers.

Organizer 4: The only one in the place was the night caretaker. He phoned, and a few of us went there.

Officer: (Yelling at Soldiers) Find the ID numbers. Every cow from a kibbutz has an ID number. Look for the branding place.

Soldier: (Pushing and screaming—at people and cows.) You bovine bastards! You Arab assholes!

(Soldiers take flash pictures of the cows from different angles, looking for the IDs branded on the cow’s ears.)

Ghassan: Why are you doing that?

Officer: (Furious.) Who gave you a license to build a ranch here?

Ghassan: There’s no need for a license. In the eastern villages here, each home has three or four cows—.

Organizer 3: And some sheep.

Officer: (Staccato.) Everything in this area has to be licensed by me. So, this is an illegal act, anact that threatens Israeli security. (Escalating.) I demand the evacuation of the cows— immediately.

Ghassan: These cows threaten Israeli security?

Officer: The act of bringing the cows is an act of resistance. This act is a security threat.

Ghassan and Organizers. (Overlapping.) How come? What security is in cows? Or a cow farm? Or milk?

Officer: (Shouting and screaming). Who bought the cows?

Ghassan and Organizers 3 and 4: We bought the cows.

Officer: Who paid for them?”

Ghassan and Organizers 3 and 4: (Gesturing around the circle.) We paid for them.

Officer: Why did you do that?

Ghassan and Organizers 1, 3, and 4: (Answering all at once.)
To start a ranch.
We want to have cows.
To build a milk factory.
What’s the big deal?

Officer: (Furious.) Ok, all of you must come to my office tomorrow morning at 8! (Hands out letters.) Here is the order. (A beat.) I want the cows to be out of this place in 24 hours.

Ghassan: Move them closer to town?

Officer: I want them out of the area.

Organizer 4: This is impossible.

Organizer 3: Where?

Ghassan: If you want, we can slaughter them. But to move them— where to move them?

Officer. I will arrest you. (Fury building.) No, I will send you all to the Negev desert. (Circling them.) Better yet, administrative detention—for six whole months—you can rot—

Ghassan: This is crazy! (Being reasonable.) Look, you need to give us time. What you are demanding is not realistic.

Organzer 3: Even if we move them, you need to give us time.

Ghassan: (Prodding.) Otherwise, we would bring them to the Church of the Nativity, and put a sign on them: WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE.

Officer: (pacing, buying time.) You Palestinian idiots. You have only two hours.

(Organizer 4 produces the SOUND of a loud moo.)

Officer: (Pacing.) OK, forty-eight hours.

(The SOUND of more mooing.)

Officer: (Shouting.) No, twenty-four hours or I will shoot them.

(Officer and Soldier leave.)

Organizer 4: He doesn’t know what to do.

Organizer 3: I think we have some time.

Ghassan: Let’s ignore him, and continue the work.

Organizer 4: He will realize how stupid this move is, things will go as normal.

Guide 1: (To Audience.) For a couple of weeks, the Officer did almost nothing, except to call organizers to his office to shout and threaten them.

Organizer 4: The cows started delivering calves and milk. We had more workers to take care of everything.

Organizer 3: At the same time the curfews were going on.

(The Officer appears and orchestrates arrests.)

Ghassan: (To audience.) The military governor began arresting many of us—sometimes it was a day arrest procedure, sitting in front of his office for twelve hours. (He moves to another place.) One time I was sent to the Negev desert. (He moves again.) But most of the time, I was sent either to Bethlehem, or to a military detention camp near Hebron.

Guide 1: Israeli laws allows the army to arrest anybody for 18 days without any legal procedures.

Ghassan: So they used that against me repeatedly: 18 days, and then released. Two days later, arrested again.

Organizer 4: We thought he forgot about the cows, but he was obsessed with them.

Guide 1: The officer paid another visit to the cow place.

Organizer 4: First, he came to that farmer, and stopped the water we had arranged. So, we bought a small Jeep, filled pots with water, and every morning we brought the water to the

ranch, so the cows would not die of thirst.

Guide 1: The military governor started a procedure against the caretaker.

Ghassan: They arrested him for 48 hours and then released him. The next month they went again and arrested him.

Organizer 4: So it was very tough for the guy. But he took it. He didn’t quit.

Ghassan: He continued until we realized it’s not fair for him to take all of the punishment.

Organizer 3: So we started searching for a good hiding place. We found a place where a local butcher used to put his cattle—an ideal cave, with tunnels.

Organizer 4: Even if you enter there, you wouldn’t see it. There isn’t enough lighting, so you won’t see it narrowing, you think it’s closed. But inside is a huge yard.

Ghassan: (To the Butcher.) What about hosting them here?

Organizer 4: (As Butcher.) Well, what if I’m caught?

Organizer 3: Say you bought them from us, and you want to butcher them, and sell the meat, because this is what you do for a living.

Butcher: I’m not really comfortable…. But, you can’t say no to the community. So, ok.

Ghassan: So at midnight, with a guarding system, we managed to get the cows into trucks again. This time they cooperated. It was a nice relationship. (SOUND of mooing cows.)

The mission was done in a very smooth, quiet way.

Guide 1: The next morning, the military governor came to the other place, and found no cows.

Ghassan: He went crazy. He went nuts.

Organizer 3: As if a big thing happened.

Organizer 4: As if a crime had happened.

Officer: (Bunched up, angry.) He thought, at least I can locate the twenty cows, the “terrorists” brought to this town. Now the terrorists are hidden, and more dangerous.

Guide 1: So he called the organizers again, shouting, threatening and arresting people.

Officer: All of you are terrorists.

(Organizers, having fun, speak at once.)

Organizer 3: We obeyed your orders, so why are you so angry?

Ghassan: You said to get rid of them, we got rid of them!

Organizer 4: We solved it.

Officer: (Voice rising.) You are lying. You are still distributing milk. (He waves in the army.)

Narrator: Suddenly, the Israeli Defense Forces made a big raid on the town, with hundreds of soldiers. Helicopters flew around the little hills looking for caves and looking for the cows.

(Officer, Soldiers, Ghassan and Organizers fly around in a wild, stylized dance of hide and seek, flying helicopters, and waving pictures of cows. Organizers are thrilled and fearful.)

Organizer 3: It was crazy. Ask the people of Beit Sahour.

Organizer 4: Each team of soldiers had photographs in their hands.

Narrator: The Officer and Soldiers approach audience members, showing photographs of cows and ID numbers.

Officer: Have you seen this ID number?

Soldier: Have you seen this one?

Ghassan and Organizers: (As villagers.)
Well, the photo is not clear enough.
Can you show me another one?
Yeah, but the nose is different.
Soldiers: You are joking, but we are serious.

Narrator: They continue looking for cows—a choreographed ritual—showing pictures, entering homes, looking in caves.

Guide 1: Then a group of soldiers arrived at the butcher place. They went into the cave.

(Lights dim.)

Guide 1: (To audience.) They went in and out…. (The SOUND of a cow mooing.) So they went back in and searched again, until eureka—they found the cows. The military governor came rushing to the place. Now he identified the cows. He looked at their numbers and realized that it’s a bigger group, because now there are baby calves. .

Officer: How come those cows are here?

Guide 4: (As Butcher.) Well I bought them.

Officer: Why did you buy them?

Butcher: Well I’m a butcher.

Officer: Why don’t you slaughter them?

Butcher: Most of them are pregnant and I’m waiting for them to deliver. To make a profit.

Officer: (Speechless at first, shakes his head yes, then no, then threatens the butcher.) You

have to slaughter them— or else. (He leaves angrily.)

Guide 1: He waited for the cows to be slaughtered, but the cows were not slaughtered. So he came up with this brilliant idea. He came to the butcher and said,

Officer: You bought the cows?

Butcher: Yes.

Officer: If you have that much money to buy all of those cows, how come you don’t pay taxes?

Guide 1: And he arrested the butcher for tax purposes—arrested him for 48 hours, released him, and arrested him again.

Ghassan: Again we realized that it’s not fair for one person to take the whole burden. So once again, we loaded the cows onto trucks, took them to them to nearby villagers.

Guide 3: We said, help your community.

Guide 1: The next day, the Officer returned to the cow farm.

Officer: What happened to the cows?

(Organizers gather.)

Organizer 3: We sold them.

Officer: To whom?

Organizer 4: Many people came and bought them.

Ghassan: He wanted that as the end of the story. But we kept buying the milk and distributing it. The story sort of ended. People joked a lot about it in town. Everybody was both sad, and at the same time happy, because they realized the occupiers are stupid.

Organizer 4: They are not smart people.

Organizer 3: Then how come they control us? And why has the occupation lasted so long?

(Organizers retire.)

Ghassan: (To delegation.) Two or three years later, after I thought this story ended, I was summoned to Beit El, headquarters of the Civil Administration. I went, because if you don’t they can arrest you. They brought me to a big office. When the door opened, I saw the military governor.

Guide 1: Apparently, because of his heroic action against the cows, he was promoted from military governor to be assistant head of the Civil Administration—it’s called Civil but all of them are army.

Officer: The officer said, Can I ask you a question?

Ghassan: I said, yes.

Officer: He said, where did you send the cows? Where are the cows now?

(Ghassan laughs.)

Ghassan: I thought, He still wants to know what happened with the cows! This guy is obsessed. I said, Look, this story has ended. The cows are in nearby villages. So what is your concern about the cows?

Officer: He said, Not the cows—control. You cannot defy our orders.

Ghassan: I said, sorry I didn’t see that as defiance. I saw that as a natural right—that I don’t need to consult with you about buying cows.


Guide 1: Did the nonviolent resistance in local villages produce the Oslo process or did Oslo curtail local resistance?

Ghassan: That’s still in dispute. Some people blame Oslo for ending the Intifada, which could have achieved more. Others would say Oslo came when the Intifada was actually slowing down. Regardless of which one is true, I really stood against Oslo.

Guide 1: Because—

Ghassan: Oslo didn’t stop settlement activities. It isolated highly populated areas, under the Palestinian authority, and left everything else for the Israelis to deal with.

Guide 1: Is anything clearer now?

Ghassan: No. More vague. Things are worse. More ambiguous. None of us can talk about strategy. I think what we are trying to do is minimize the losses.

Guide 1: What you call sumud or steadfastness?

Ghassan: Yes. We’re used to cycles, cycles of going up, and then coming down as if there is no hope…. (Pause.) The next round will be fully influenced by a new generation. Each generation comes with its own surprises. Usually, a massive resistance happens whenever a generation faces a wall. And this generation faces a wall.

Guide 1: A complete wall?

Ghassan: A complete wall. For now, we are waiting for the next cycle, the next round, the next generation, the next set of surprises.

All: For now, we are all waiting.

Guide 1: But despair is a luxury we can’t afford. Others have found ways to go on, to go on resisting the occupation. (To delegates.) Their passion cannot wait.

(The SOUND of cathedral bells.)

(End of ACT I.)

About the Author

Robert Hostetter

Robert Hostetter (Ph.D.) teaches dramatic writing at North Park University in Chicago, where he is chair of the Communication Arts Department, Director of Performance Studies, Director of the Conflict Transformation Studies Program. For more than thirty years, he has worked at the intersection of performance and peacebuilding, including a doctoral dissertation on “The American Nuclear Theatre, 1946-1984” (Northwestern University), and a dozen plays and screenplays, including Cheyenne Jesus Buffalo Dream (on European/Native American conflicts, 1978); Crossing Borders (a screenplay on peacemaking in Nicaragua, (1988); and The Longing (based on oral history interviews with Palestinian refugees, 2000). Since 2003, he has returned to Israel-Palestine five times to record more than sixty-five dialogues with Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers. He is currently adapting these dialogues for a book and for Passion, a play.