Photo essay: Freedom Bus tour teaches cultural forms of resistance

Text by Decca Muldowney

Carrying giant puppets, Palestinians of Al-Walaja, together with Palestinian, international, and Israeli supporters organized by the Freedom Bus campaign march through the West Bank village of Al-Walaja to protest the Israeli separation wall, September 28, 2012. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)
Carrying giant puppets, Palestinians of Al-Walaja, together with Palestinian, international, and Israeli supporters organized by the Freedom Bus campaign march through the West Bank village of Al-Walaja to protest the Israeli separation wall, September 28, 2012. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

The Freedom Bus, an initiative of Jenin’s Freedom Theatre, uses interactive theatre and cultural activism to bear witness, raise awareness and build alliances throughout occupied Palestine and beyond.

A Freedom Bus ensemble performs interactive playback theatre in Aida Refugee Camp, September 27, 2012. (photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)
A Freedom Bus ensemble performs interactive playback theatre in Aida Refugee Camp, September 27, 2012. (photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

From September 23-October 1 2012, Palestinians and allies from around the world took part in a 9-day solidarity ride through 11 communities in the West Bank of occupied Palestine. During the ride, Palestinian actors and musicians used playback theatre to perform the personal accounts of various community members. Enactments were based on real-life stories on the realities of life under Israeli occupation. The stories we heard underscored the rich Palestinian history of steadfastness, creative protest, and popular struggle.

An audience of Palestinians with international and Israeli supporters watches a performance of the Freedom Bus next to the separation wall in Aida Refugee Camp, September 27, 2012. (photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)
An audience of Palestinians with international and Israeli supporters watches a performance of the Freedom Bus next to the separation wall in Aida Refugee Camp, September 27, 2012. (photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

The ride was inspired by the Freedom Rides of 1961 in the USA, which saw civil rights activists travel through Southern states challenging segregation, and the Australian Freedom Rides of 1964 and 1965, which raised the issue of indigenous rights. Embracing this radical inheritance, the Freedom Bus promotes cultural resistance using concerts, university seminars, playback theatre performances, community visits, hip-hop, and giant puppet shows.

Carrying giant puppets, Palestinians of Al Walaja, together with Palestinian, international, and Israeli supporters march through the West Bank village of Al-Walaja as part of the Freedom Bus campaign. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)
Carrying giant puppets, Palestinians of Al Walaja, together with Palestinian, international, and Israeli supporters march through the West Bank village of Al-Walaja as part of the Freedom Bus campaign. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

The Freedom Bus visited some of the most besieged areas of the West Bank, including Nabi Saleh, where weekly protests are held against the confiscation of Palestinian land, and villagers suffer military violence from the Israeli army; Faq’ua, where residents are denied access to water resources that irrigate Israeli fields on the other side of the separation barrier; and At-Tuwani, where villagers nonviolently resist harassment from settlers and the Israeli army by continuing to work their land.

The Freedom Bus ensemble performs in solidarity with Faq’ua village near the West Bank city of Jenin, September 23, 2012. The people of Faq’ua shared personal stories about daily life under Israeli occupation. The Freedom Bus ensemble turned each story into a piece of improvised theater. (photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz/ Activestills.org)
The Freedom Bus ensemble performs in solidarity with Faq’ua village near the West Bank city of Jenin, September 23, 2012. The people of Faq’ua shared personal stories about daily life under Israeli occupation. The Freedom Bus ensemble turned each story into a piece of improvised theater. (photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz/ Activestills.org)
In the shadow of the Israeli separation wall, youth from Al Walaja play drums under a Handala figure, a symbol of Palestinian refugee rights, during a march and cultural event as part of the Freedom Bus tour in the village of Al Walaja, September 28, 2012. (photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)
In the shadow of the Israeli separation wall, youth from Al Walaja play drums under a Handala figure, a symbol of Palestinian refugee rights, during a march and cultural event as part of the Freedom Bus tour in the village of Al Walaja, September 28, 2012. (photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)
The Freedom Bus ensemble performs in the old city of Nablus, September 24, 2012. Local residents shared personal stories about life under Israeli occupation and the Israeli invasion of 2002. The Freedom Bus ensemble turned each story into a piece of improvised theater. (photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz/ Activestills.org)
The Freedom Bus ensemble performs in the old city of Nablus, September 24, 2012. Local residents shared personal stories about life under Israeli occupation and the Israeli invasion of 2002. The Freedom Bus ensemble turned each story into a piece of improvised theater. (photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz/ Activestills.org)
Carrying giant puppets, Palestinian, international, and Israeli supporters march through the West Bank village of Al Walaja during a Freedom Bus event, September 28, 2012. (photo by: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)
Carrying giant puppets, Palestinian, international, and Israeli supporters march through the West Bank village of Al Walaja during a Freedom Bus event, September 28, 2012. (photo by: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)
The Haifa-based reggae group Ministry of Dub-Key performs at a finale concert for the Freedom Bus tour in Beit Sahour, October 1, 2012. The Freedom Bus, an initiative of the Jenin Freedom Theater, traveled throughout the West Bank using cultural activism to bear witness, raise awareness, and build alliances throughout Palestine and beyond. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)
The Haifa-based reggae group Ministry of Dub-Key performs at a finale concert for the Freedom Bus tour in Beit Sahour, October 1, 2012. The Freedom Bus, an initiative of the Jenin Freedom Theater, traveled throughout the West Bank using cultural activism to bear witness, raise awareness, and build alliances throughout Palestine and beyond. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Decca Muldowney is the Communications Director for The Freedom Bus.