Bethlehem, Palestine: An Unexpected Teacher of Community
Bethlehem, Palestine: An Unexpected Teacher of Community

My journeys in Palestine have plunged me into new territories of community, acting as a loyal and loving but demanding teacher. The first day I crossed the checkpoint into Palestine in 2012, I felt a bit nervous in the taxi. How did the taxi driver know where to go? I had not told him. He was on the phone with my local contact who I had only known through email. How did they know each other?  Where was I even going? No one had explained anything to me. I was dropped off in Beit Sahour, a village right outside of Bethlehem. The Bannoura family comprised of grandparents, fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters all greeted me in the dark of the night on the porch. They were dressed up and all talking at the same time. A Canadian woman staying with them told me not to be overwhelmed but that they have been waiting on me to go to a wedding reception. I quickly changed into a skirt and squeezed in the back of a car with three other people and a child laying on our laps. We headed to the wedding reception for a neighboring Muslim family. The Bannouras became my local family, and I have stayed with them for at least part of my four extended stays in Bethlehem. I look back and laugh at that night. Of course the taxi driver knew the organizer! Of course we were going to a wedding the second I landed! Of course I was not given any information because they knew exactly what was going on even if I didn’t! Community is large there. Community trumps convenience. Community reigns high above the individuals’ wants and needs in Palestine. My first trip to Bethlehem left me in a desperate desire for such a close knit community. I had no idea that it was just around the corner waiting for me: at church, through intentional community living, future collaborations in Palestine, and in an inter-cultural relationship. As an American who loves calendars and to-do lists, community itself can often times feel like a culture shock. I initially went to Palestine to witness the reality of a conflict on the ground and to better understand the theology of the land. I continue to go back for the community.

by Elizabeth Malone

Elizabeth

Elizabeth Malone was born and raised in a small Texas town. She received her BFA in Drama from New York University and MFA in Acting from Columbia University in New York City. During her time in NYC, she acted Off-Broadway with Magis Theater Company and Atlantic Theater Company amongst others. Along with professional acting, she was a teaching artist in NYC​taught drama to at-risk youth in Montana​, and worked as an Assistant Professor of Theatre at California Baptist University​. She ​often travels to Palestine.  She has created two theatre pieces with the Diyar Dance Theatre in Palestine titled “palesTime” and “Me and my Grandma | A Night of Intergenerational Theatre.” 
​Elizabeth performs in and creates theater with autobiographical tones including  Something About that Name, ​ an original piece exploring 5 musician/actors relationship with the church growing up and present day.​  With the Mad St. Arts Collaborative, Elizabeth co-directed VOZ as apart of Dia de las Artes, a festival celebrating the Casa Blanca community in Riverside ​, CA.  Her other volunteer work has included teaching English to Muslim women at a language center in Brooklyn, as a Crisis Counselor for a Pregnancy Center in Sandpoint, ID, and a Volunteer for Hospice in NYC. ​Elizabeth is now ​finishing her studies with The Drama Therapy Institute of LA and working in Drama Therapy with adolescents in treatment, adults with eating disorders, and incarcerated men, sharing the power of theater for self-transformation. 
Posted by Debbie Wright