April 21, 2009

Witness Theater – Tell in Order to Live

A therapeutic and educational project for Holocaust survivors and high school students

Over a third of elderly Israelis are classified as holocaust survivors, yet despite this, few Israelis know about their personal stories and the stories of their families. Survivors often feel like they lack a safe space in which they can share and without being able to share, much of the trauma goes untreated and their tales of survival become lost.

Israel’s adolescent population, many of whom are the grandchildren, nieces and nephews of survivors, are under-educated about the Holocaust. Rather than seeing the Holocaust as something that happened to them and their families, many see it as some sort of distant historical event that has very little impact upon their own reality. These stories, shared as part of the Witness Theater and coming from those who lived them serve as a means to bring these two generations together.

Begun in 2003, Witness Theater is an 18-24 month-long process where survivors and teens from a variety of backgrounds meet in theatrical workshops that utilize drama-based therapies, special improvisational and role-playing games to relive the survivors’ stories, allowing them to revisit their tension and anxiety about their pasts in a safe space. This process continues through the writing of a play based on survivor stories, rehearsal and performances before the community, where students and survivors together dramatize these personal memories.

Through reenactment, survivors are able to process and confront painful memories while youth participants gain an understanding of the Holocaust at an emotionally visceral level.

Currently, there are Witness Theater groups in 22 locations across Israel and because of the educational opportunities inherent in the program plans are being considered for the integration of the program into the Israeli school system country-wide.

Witness Theater
Igniting the next generation to be the memorial candle

Official website (in Hebrew): www.edut.org.il 

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