Teaching our children to dream

A vibrant, and attractive Israeli woman born in Rome is capturing the hearts and souls of Italians. Her name is Edna Angelica Calo Livne and since the day in 1975 when she explained her imminent aliya to a packed auditorium of Roman Jewry, she has been living in Kibbutz Sasa.

Angelica and her husband Yehuda devote their lives to reaching out to children – children of kibbutzim; Israeli child victims of terrorism (bringing them periodically on vacations to Italy through Yehuda’s Beresheet Le Shalom Foundation); and Christian, Muslim, Druse and Caucasian-Circassan children of Kibbutz Sasa’s neighboring villages on the Lebanese-Syrian border. These children are the actors of the Rainbow (L’Arcobaleno) Theater productions, which focuses on pantomimed dance, and expressing emotions through body language.

“Bereshit” and “Anne in the Sky” are two of the latest productions performed at the Venice Film Festival and in Rome during the September Week of Jewish Culture. A two minute trailer of an animated three-dimensional Anne Frank film with Anne’s true face digitalized and superimposed, to be completed in 2006, was also shown. The audiences, coached into conversing with the actors after performances, were visibly moved.

“Bereshit” enacts the eternal cycle of birth, war, death and renewal. Masked actors begin as a formless mass of orange versus fuscia, clashing to the point of near annihilation until they begin to touch and love each other. Only then are all but two of the masks removed, because “some people will always be unreachable”, says Angelica..

“Anne in the Sky,” is a freely interpreted Diary of Anne Frank, conceived and written by Angelica Cal and Roberto Malini. While one Anne writes at a desk, another dances the story, and yet another off-stage girl’s voice recites a selection of Anne’s thoughts, attesting to her great talent and humanity – the Anne that became “the mother of all children” in Bergen-Belsen, the Anne “that would have become a great writer had she been permitted to live.”

Then comes the knock on the door – masked and rigid SS officers. Auschwitz is projected onto the screen. A sudden interruption and the children reappear, clothed in white, entering like snowflakes. They confide their dreams to the audience – “to find a cure for cancer,” “to become a midwife,” “to build a house .”

The knocks are heard again, but this time Anne’s voice commands, “No. Don’t open the door. We will not open the door.”

The play is dedicated “to Anne Frank and to all children who live in places where it is still difficult to dream.”

“We couldn’t restrict it to ourselves,” said Angelica in an interview with The Jerusalem Post. “In addition to Jews the Shoah exterminated gypsies, homosexuals, the mentally and physically infirm, Christians, even Muslims. Anne’s words of hope and belief in humankind are universal.”

Angelica recalls how her Arab students told their families the story and came back saying “It’s beautiful. But is it true? Who was Hitler and what was the Shoah?” Angela explained and then they said “We hope this never happens again. We are happy to be part of this mission.”

Angelica’s message wells up from inside her. In one breath she conveys a myriad of emotions: her untarnished faith in Israel’s founding ideals, (“After Yom Hazikaron commemorating the 20,000 victims of all our wars, my stomach churns. But in the evening we all dress in white to welcome Yom Hatzmaut, a gift of hope to our children”), her passion for peace that transcends politics (“We don’t want this war! I tell you, take everything you want so long as you let us live in peace”) her fears, (“We need the [security] fence because we have the right and duty to defend our children. Both Jews and Arabs become victims of bus explosions”) and her deep identification with the Shoah, (“When I saw the heaps of hair in Maidanek, I was right there with them”).

Angelica’s dream of peace and friendship extends beyond the theater. Some months ago, she brought 50 Israeli women across the frontier into a nearby village to make bread with 150 Palestinian women. Angelica has also been nominated for the Nobel Prize as part of a list of outstanding women worldwide, and has been showered with invitations to return to Italy with her show. She has four sons. Two participated in the Italian performances. The oldest just returned from military service in Gaza.

This article can also be read at https://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1126750764799&p=1077768895041

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