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Seven Other Children: a theatrical response to Seven Jewish Children

No children appear in the play. The speakers are adults, the families and if you like teachers of the children. The characters, time and child are different in each scene.

1.   1948, Courtyard, Palestine

Ask him if he’s happy.

Ask him what he wants to be.

Ask him, don’t frighten him.

Don’t ask him things he doesn’t know.

Ask him to say a word in English.

Ask him if he remembers the English.

Don’t ask him why they’ve left, don’t ask him things that we don’t know.

Ask him to be careful.

Ask him if he likes the game, how to tell who’s bad in the game.

Ask him what they say at school.

Ask him what the schoolbooks say, about the other side.

Ask him if he knows them by their look.

Ask him how lucky they are, that it happened, to bring them here.

Ask him if he’d like to draw a picture.

Ask him for a picture of his home.

Ask him to draw that.

Ask him to remember that, ask him always to remember that.

2.   1948, Post-Statehood of Israel, New House, New Town

Ask him if he still thinks of his mother.

Ask him not to sing.

Ask him if he knows why we don’t sing.

Ask him if he understands the Naqba.

Must we ask him about the Naqba.

Ask him if he knows he’s loved.

Ask him if he knows he’s not wanted.

And ask him why we have no friends.

Ask him if he likes his new room.

Ask him why he has a new room.

Don’t ask him to play next door.

Don’t ask him not to make new friends.

Ask him who plays tricks on him in school.

Ask him who’s the sneaky one, the greedy one.

Ask him who hides behind stones and trees.

Ask him where his friends are now.

Don’t ask him if he misses them.

Ask him where his home is now.

3.   1950s, Palestinian Café

Ask him where their money’s coming from.

Ask him about money from New York.

Don’t ask him what he thinks of money.

Ask him why we need money too.

Ask him what he thinks of Stalin’s purges.

Ask him about conscription.

Ask him why not.

Ask him why not sign up.

Ask him if he knows the other side have all signed up?

Ask him does he know he must sign up.

Don’t ask him not to be a boy.

Ask him not to listen to his mother.

Ask him if he thinks differently now.

Ask him if he wants to be a hero.

No, please don’t ask him that.

Ask him if he’s heard of the IDF.

Ask him if he understands that what they grab, they cling to.

Ask him if he knows they cannot help it.

Ask him what he thinks of the IDF.

Don’t ask him why they’ve started fighting back.

Ask him what it means to share.

No, don’t ask him that.

4.   1960s, Palestinian School

Ask him why we hate them.

Ask him why so many hate them.

Ask him what they do with children’s blood.

Ask him if he thinks of tribes, or if he thinks of them as one.

Ask him what he thinks of, when he thinks of them.

Ask him not to complicate it.

Ask him if he knows he’s stateless.

Ask him to know his enemy, to say their name as often as he can.

Ask him if he understands why they have always been despised.

5.   June 1967, Gaza Home, Post-Six Day War

Ask him if we had to lose.

Don’t ask him why we lost the land.

Ask him why we lost yet more land.

Ask him to name one friend.

No, never ask him to name a friend.

Ask him when it’s going to change.

Ask him if they’ll ever leave.

Ask him of their swimming pools, what he sees on TV.

Ask him where the water’s gone.

Ask him why his mother can’t get clean.

Ask him to describe the filth.

Don’t ask him what we’re told to make him do.

Don’t ask him what the teachers ask of him.

Ask him what he knows of Paradise.

Ask him if he knows we’ll miss him.

Ask him if it’s time.

6.   2000, Second Intifada, Gaza Office

Don’t ask him if we can win.

Don’t ask him if we are winning.

Ask him how it feels to win.

Ask him as a winner.

Ask him how we cannot win, with so many listening to us.

Ask him what to show the camera.

Ask him to ask, where’s the Warsaw ghetto now.

Ask him how many dead children he’s seen.

Don’t ask him how many dead soldiers.

Ask him to give thanks he has this chance.

Ask him if he knows the way to the bus stop.

Don’t ask him to be careful.

7.   2009, Open Place, Gaza

Ask him if he knows about our friends.

Ask him if he knows they have no friends.

Ask him if he knows about our friends in Europe.

Ask him if he knows what they say.

Don’t ask him – he knows.

Ask him what he thinks they think of him.

Ask him how they think he is oppressed.

Ask him what he really thinks they know.

Ask him if they know anything.

Don’t ask him if this makes him happy.

Ask him not to look so happy.

Ask him about liberty. Ask him if it matters. Ask him if they have the right to tell him what he does not want to hear.

Do not ask him that.

Ask him, ask him if he’s proud to be a fighter, proud to be a man. Ask him about the old people’s home, ask him to recite their names, if he wants to be the only one who doesn’t shout their names? Ask him if he knows they’re dead, ask him if he saw their blood? Ask him if he’s sure, got to be sure, good to be sure. Don’t ask him to be ashamed. Ask him whose fault it is they’re dead, ask him if they ever had a right to live here, ever had a right to live. Ask him if he doesn’t see they’ve always played the victim, glad to do so now, a self-fulfilling prophecy, a chosen people asking him for death, ask him if he’s sorry for them, don’t ask him to feel sorry for them, ask him not to feel suffering for them, not to feel anything for them. Ask him to cloak himself, to hide in the fog, to stay concealed, to keep on killing until he feels safe, ask him if he knows when we shall be safe, ask him if he really thinks we shall have friends, don’t ask him to ask for friendship, we have friends where we want them, where we need them, and ask him not to think of anything but how to keep people behind us, to ask not tell, to ask not tell, to ask most softly how else are we to survive, how else are we to win. Ask him if he will not join with me in laughing at the body of the hook nose teacher, ask him if I would care if we rubbed them out, took them off the map, the world will thank us, they are ready to thank us, ask him if he can ever do better than this, better in the world’s eyes, ask him to look at the body of a child on their side and ask him what he feels? Don’t ask him what I feel, ask him to give thanks it is not him.

Ask him this.

Ask him to be glad.

Ask him if Hitler had the wrong idea.

Copyright Richard Stirling 2009

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