by: Edward Mast
February - March 1999
The Link - Volume 32, Issue 1
An old man enters, poking around on the ground with his cane, looking for something as he mumbles.
"This was Ibrahim El Khalil's house. This was Ahmad Khalil's house. So Asad Zidan lived . . . . . . . . here.
The Mukhtar's house must be in this area . . . or maybe . . . over there . . . Ah! Here it is."
A young man, Habeeb, has been sitting in the audience.
"What? The Mukhtar's house?"
"No. This is Abu-Adel's house. Your uncle."
"I always thought my uncle was from Haifa."
Grandfather (CONTINUES TO SEARCH THE GROUND):
"Your uncle is from Sahmatah. He will always be from Sahmatah. So are you."
"I'm from Sahmatah?"
"Grandpa, I never even saw Sahmatah."
"You're seeing it now."
"All I see is a hill covered with pine trees."
"We never had pine trees. They planted pine to hide the village."
The grandfather asks an audience member to move aside, since one of the buried homes is under that chair.
The audience giggles nervously. They think that the old man is idly puttering among old stones.
The young man in the play thinks so, too. In a little under one hour, the young man and the audience will come to understand that those scattered stones are all that remain of a village called Sahmatah, where the old man was born, where he married, and where he lived until the village was destroyed in 1948.
There are some Palestinians in the audience, many of whom have hardly ever spoken aloud of their history of exile. For some of them, this performance will change that.
Abu Soheil and his real life search through the ruins of Sahamtah became the basis for the character of Grandfather in the play written about the village's destruction by Israel on 1948. He is pictured standing atop the stones of the family home where he was born, baptized and married.