I Heart Hamas and Other Things I’m Afraid to Tell You
A play written and performed by Jennifer Jajeh
Staged by the New York International Fringe Festival
At the Players’ Loft, 115 MacDougal Street, until August 24th
All tickets $15
Meet Jennifer, a young Palestinian-American whose connection with her heritage in the last years of the 20th century, before the Second Intifada, consists primarily of annual reunions of the U.S. Christian community from Ramallah in Palestine. She also frets over whether it’s appropriate for a Palestinian to own a Jewish cat (don’t ask!) and fantasizes about being chosen by the State of California to represent all Palestinian-Americans on “It’s Great to Be Palestinian” Day.
But then, almost on a whim, she goes to Palestine, which, she says, “is nothing like I thought it was going to be—it’s fun!” Partying in the clubs of Ramallah with young Palestinians is so much fun, in fact, that after her return home to California she decides to go back—and arrives in the fall of the year 2000, at the start of the Second Intifada. She’s just in time to become a checkpoint-watcher and see her partying comrades from her first visit become despairing prisoners in their homes and communities.
It’s the second trip that forever changes both Jennifer’s understanding of her identity and her political consciousness. In the end, she says, she “get[s] it”—she understands how someone would become a suicide bomber. And because she doesn’t want to be like that—and because, unlike her Palestinian lover Hakim, she can—she goes home to California.
That’s the story related in I Heart Hamas and Other Things I’m Afraid to Tell You, the somewhat autobiographical one-woman play written and performed by Palestinian-American writer-actor Jennifer Jajeh. Now playing in Greenwich Village as part of the 12th New York International Fringe Festival, I Heart Hamas is rich in sincerity but less so in theatricality, a frequent pitfall of one-person shows (which necessarily tend toward that antithesis of drama, telling rather than showing).
Paradoxically, however, even the sincerity is undercut by the play’s title. Jajeh has said that she called her play I Heart Hamas to be provocative, but the title also virtually guarantees that no one will see it who doesn’t already support the cause of justice and freedom for Palestinians. That said, for those of us who do, it’s worth the ticket price to get the rare glimpse of the Palestinian experience on a New York stage.
I Heart Hamas is playing through August 24 at the Players’ Loft (a.k.a. Venue 13 of the Fringe Festival), 115 MacDougal Street. For performance dates and other information, call (212) 279-4488 or see http://fringenyc.org or ihearthamas.com.