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Jennifer Jajeh: Actor and Filmmaker Debuts "I Heart Hamas: And Other Things I'm Afraid to Tell You" at New York International Fringe Festival

posted on: Aug 24, 2008


Actor and filmmaker Jennifer Jajeh uses her art to inspire audiences to contemplate new ways of seeing the world. Born in San Francisco, she has acted since childhood. “I was the kid who always made my family gather around the living room to watch my latest production,” Jajeh says.

Her new one-woman show, “I Heart Hamas: And Other Things I’m Afraid to Tell You,” will debut at the New York International Fringe Festival in August. The play is Jajeh’s answer to the question “Where are you from?”, when the answer is both San Francisco and Palestine. On stage, Jajeh explores her Palestinian identity and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The show, she says, is designed to “play with the popular mythology of who Palestinians are” and to make people consider “what radicalizes people.” She recognizes the title is controversial, but delights in giving pause to people who “do not expect such a viewpoint from a Palestinian Christian.”

Written and performed by Jajeh, the play reflects her experience in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where she lived in 2000 at the outset of the second Intifada – the Palestinian uprising for freedom from Israeli military occupation. “Being subjected to constant occupation and suffocation,” she says, “can radicalize people and is probably a natural reaction.” Developed by Jajeh in a writing workshop, she says the play has been “like a runaway train… There has been a real hunger to hear the Palestinian experience.”

Jajeh grew up in San Francisco within a large Palestinian Christian community from Ramallah. She studied history and philosophy at UCLA before pursuing acting at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Conservatory in New York City.

Jajeh has also successfully explored film – with award-winning short films “Fruition” and “In My Own Skin: the Complexity of Living as an Arab in America” – as a medium toward self-expression. She describes “In My Own Skin” as “a meditation on the complexities of the Arab American experience through candid interviews with five young Arab women living in New York in October 2001.” The film was met with immediate interest and Jajeh quickly embarked upon a national speaking tour that took her to universities, schools, and community centers up and down the East Coast. The film was screened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and by PBS.

Jajeh has embraced her Palestinian identity and is determined to continue exploring it in order to stimulate discussion among both Americans and Palestinians. “I’m not just here to tell the Palestinian story, but to create dialogue within the Palestinian community on how we want to move forward.”

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