By Shirley Serotsky
The evening of Thursday, March 17 was a significant night for Theater J. We presented the first public showing of FALLING OUT OF TIME, American artist Derek Goldman’s new adaptation of Israeli novelist David Grossman’s memorable work. We welcomed members of the Parents Circle—Families Forum to speak before and after the performance. It was a moving and memorable experience.
Robi Damelin is an Israeli mother whose son David was killed by a Palestinian sniper in 2002. Bassam Aramin is a Palestinian father whose daughter Abir was killed in 2007 by Israeli border police. The pair was visiting the States from Israel to attend an event in Texas. When we realized that this visit overlapped with our production, we jumped at the chance to bring them to DC.
Grossman’s transfixing novel—which combines poetry, dialogue and prose to tell the story of what happens when several sets of parents navigating the loss of a child come together to find strength in each other and in the power of storytelling—was a natural fit with a conversation with the Parents Circle. Grossman wrote the novel after his own son Uri was killed during the second Lebanon war. His articulation of the experience is at once theatrical and authentic.
Our pre-show conversation that evening was moderated by Howard Sumka, member of the American Friends of the Parents Circle board, Director of the USAID Mission to West Bank and Gaza, and expert in post-conflict reconstruction and development. He introduced the work of the Parents Circle, which involves some 600 Palestinian and Israeli families and includes education programs for young people and adults; public appearances; media campaigns to promote peace; and sponsors support groups for those who have suffered the loss of a loved one.
The post-show talk was a deeply emotional one. Both Robi and Bassam needed a moment to process the impact of the performance, and when they did begin to speak they were adamant about the need for people to take action towards promoting peace both in the Middle East and in other conflict zones in the world. The take-away is this: the pain that a parent experiences when dealing with the loss of a child transcends all other markers of identity. In a situation where it is preventable—where an attainable peace can be reached and young people no longer need to be on the front lines either as combatants or as civilians—we should make any and all efforts to achieve this peace.
It is our duty, our calling, our need as human beings to–as Bassam articulated it–“see the humanity of the other” and then treat them with compassion.