Last Sunday, I went to a local production of Jennifer Jajeh’s solo show “I Heart Hamas.” The show’s site gives a pretty good synopsis:
With the current ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, the threat of global terrorism, and the never-ending negotiations and hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed by all of the bad international news. That’s exactly how Jennifer Jajeh feels. And to make matters worse, Jennifer is Palestinian. Well, Palestinian American. Or more precisely: a single, Christian, first generation, Palestinian American woman who chooses to return to her parents’ hometown of Ramallah at the start of the Second Intifada.
Join her on American and Palestinian soil on auditions, bad dates, and across military checkpoints as she navigates the thorny terrain around Palestinian identity. Weaving together humor, slides, pop culture references and live theatre, Jajeh explores how she becomes Palestinian-ized, then politicized and eventually radicalized in a fresh, often funny, searingly honest way.
I really enjoyed the performance. Jennifer’s wit when talking about her Jewish cat Judah or preachy Palestinian audience members made the evening fly by. She’s a wonderful performer, and it showed in both the show’s comical aspects and its serious ones. Her performance and the show’s vivid audio brought her life in Ramallah into startling perspective.
It was comforting and refreshing to hear someone address the, “No, where are you really from?” question. Though I’m Iranian and Muslim, I related to so many of Jennifer’s experiences as a Christian Palestinian trying to figure out where she fit in America. She spoke about feeling confined and uncomfortable in the small Palestinian American community, but being completely alienated from Palestinians in Ramallah. She talked about her frustration with trying to find a place for herself within mainstream American life, sharing examples from elementary school and her attempts to find work as an actress. She spoke about making people uncomfortable just by virtue of who she was—wishing aloud that she could be “ethnic, but without the baggage.”
If you get a chance, you should definitely see the show. She’s currently doing a college tour and will be in Los Angeles early next year—watch for updates at her website!