Manhattanville Reid Castle In the Spring

Maggie Goff ’14 Spends 10 Days on a Freedom Bus Ride Through the West Bank

MaggieGoffFor 10 days this fall, Maggie Goff '14 gave up her comfortable and traditional freedoms in America to travel to the West Bank of Palestine for the 2012 Freedom Bus Ride organized by the Jenin Freedom Theater.

Goff and 22 other members travelled to 11 cities and refugee camps in the West Bank from September 22 to October 1. They participated in playback theater, an original form of improvisational theater in which audience or group members tell stories from their lives and watch them enacted on the spot.

"Engaging in processes of collective memory as a community is really important," the self-designed Youth Advocacy major said. "These communities are so small and violence is such a normalized part of their lives that everyone knows what happens to each other, but as a community, as neighbors and friends, they don't spend time talking about how it affects them. Playback theater really creates a space for that".

The Jenin Freedom Theater is a cultural center in the Jenin Refugee Camp; it is the only venue for theatre and multimedia in the West Bank of Palestine. After opening in 2006 the organization continually develops and expands to help build a better future for their society.

Maggie Goff 2"They are so thankful that you are there to share their stories beyond the wall that separates them against the world. There is value in people's stories being honored and recognized."

In order to travel to Palestine in the middle of the semester, Goff worked with her advisor, professor Elizabeth Cherry, to turn her trip into a for-credit independent study. While traveling with the Freedom Bus, Goff spent time conducting sociological observational research, and reached out to all of her professors to make sure it would be okay for her to take the trip. With their support she was able to prepare for her trip and her research.

"It was really powerful. I witnessed really extraordinary things," Goff said. "The incredible resilience I saw in the Palestinian people; a large part of Palestinian resistance is surviving, is living and staying on their land, continuing their culture – that was a really powerful thing to see."

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict began with the colonization of the Palestinian land by Jewish Zionist in the 1880s. In 1947, the United Nations intervention led to the separation of Palestine to create a Jewish State, now know as Israel. The many wars that followed Israeli independence led to the formation of Hamas, the Palestinian Resistance Movement, in the late 1980s. The conflicts between Hamas and Israel continue to take place and have become a concern for the international community. The refugees caught by the conflicts of this war have lost many basic freedoms.

Goff is currently working with The Friends of Jenin Freedom Theatre, Inc., a non-profit in New York that helps support the Jenin Freedom Theatre, to organize another youth bus over Spring Break in March. Though she will not be able to attend this trip, she knows those 10 days were not her last in Palestine.

"Two weeks in Palestine is not enough," she sad. "I will definitely be going back."