Visit Bethlehem

Osama Al Azza
Creative Destruction and Osama Al Azza
The Vaults (vehicle venues) Leake Street
to

We should all go to Bethlehem. And we couldn't hope for a more entertaining guide than Osama Al Azza. If you haven't got the time to get there and back, go join him on an imagined tour of Bethlehem around the Leake Street entrance to the Vault Festival.

“Everyone is welcome,” he tells us and then hesitates with concern for vegetarians as he mentions the city’s name means “house of meat”.

Speaking of Palestine, he points out, “we are famous for our hospitality... we now have another country in ours.”

That sarcastic edge returns many times in this humorous, engaging performance that takes us to the infamous wall built by Israel, a road with checkpoints at either end and the Al Azza refugee camp.

On route, he introduces us to the sort of dress style you might wear when you are protesting some rude incursion from the Israeli military. A volunteer from the audience illustrates the kit, consisting of the black and white keffiyeh (scarf), an onion handy for the tear gas and, in case you want to engage more passionately with the military visitors, there is the catapult. You will hear why one such event prompted Usama’s ambition to perform as a clown.

Our first stop is the wall, loved by Trump who wants one of his own, despite the UN General Assembly voting by 144 to 4 that it should be removed. All the same, it has its attractions, he tells us. There is the brilliance of the Banksy artwork.

We finish the tour at the Al Azza camp, which became the home to generations of refugees crowding the houses. “I am a third generation and still a guest… We live so close I can tell you when they have their second child.” The camp’s hospitality includes wonderful tasting food (should you want it) and a Palestinian dance I never quite got the hang of.

This imaginative, occasionally moving walkabout is never dull, always amusing and one I enjoyed enough to take twice. We should all visit Bethlehem, though given my public opposition to apartheid I doubt Israel will let me anywhere near it.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna