Peace, My Friend – Shalom Sahbity

19 03 2009


At the All Angel’s Church, on the Upper West side of Manhattan, two girls from a Middle Eastern background gave a moving and mesmerizing performance about the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Shalom Sahbity (or Peace, My Friend) is a theatrical performance with only two actresses: Israeli-American Simnia Singer-Sayada and Egyptian-American Catherine Hanna. The two girls had first met in a class at New York University while doing their Master’s degrees in Educational Theater. Gradually, they became best friends with a common goal. In this performance they bring almost all the problems we have in this conflict, from frustrations to violence to experiences,  and finally to finding that simple common ground.

They wore black sweat-pants. Simnia had put on a light blue sleeveless tank top and Catherine wore the same one but in red. With their curly hair and slender bodies, they looked more alike than you’d expect. They danced, moved with grace, talked, argued and laughed. They handled themes like violence, immigration, culture and even food. It is refreshing to see them perform together and come together despite what we’re told to believe from childhood.

Some of my favorite quotes were those that Simnia uttered while Catherine acted.

“When it comes to war,” Simnia said, “we’re not talking about people, we’re not seen as people.”

As Catherine flipped through newspaper pages and said with frustration that Gaza had been under siege, Simnia said, “It’s like they were looking for who had the right to kill.”

 “The violence ,” she said, “is being played in my and my family’s name.”

This performance takes you on an emotional ride. From light to serious to light again. At the optional workshop that the girls held after the performance, we worked together to create something similar to Shalom Sahbity, with movement, sounds and storytelling.

I said this there and I say this now, you would be surprised at how well people can tell your story if only you let them. In so many times, people can tell your story better than you can, even if they come from the “opposite” background. So share your stories and experiences and believe that people can always understand you if you give them the benefit of the doubt.

Catherine & Simnia



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