The Etty Hillesum Israeli Youth Theatre

Voice of Youth – “Kol Ha’Noar”

A message from a JFMD funding recipient

Each year a group of 75 teens, Jews and Arabs, come to the Youth Theatre up to five afternoons a week where they receive a hot meal and learn writing, directing, acting, voice development, costume and mask design, lighting and sound. The classes are taught by some of the best theater teachers in Israel. These studies enable at-risk youth, some in the process of dropping out of education frameworks, to be on stage, to be heard, to be seen and to integrate through theater tools and skills. During the Covid-19 Crisis, the city of Jaffa has been declared a “red city” in terms of rate of infection. It was very challenging to continue a regular theater program during this time. This led to maintain studies in capsules and adding more teaching hours. Despite the uncertain and difficult situation, the theatre continues activities with the students in Jaffa abiding to the Health Ministry restrictions and guidelines. It is a very sensitive time for the youth, their families, and the teachers, yet the theatre decided to continue to meet with the students in the afternoons, opening three new classes during the daytime at high-risk high schools as well as delivering food to the families twice a week due to difficult financial situations as a result of the lockdowns.

Some of the Youth Theatre students have acting roles in movies; this year they received numerous calls from film and series talent hunters, inviting the students to auditions. Auditions were scheduled, contracts were signed and the youth received salaries. The social coordinator accompanied them, advocating their rights as well as motivating them. Since then, 13 of the youth considered have been accepted to parts in films and TV series. This vocational channel that was opened is exactly what completes the association’s agenda. Theater studies and participation in the ensemble is a tool to teach at risk youth how to exit the cycle of poverty and violence while developing employment skills as contributing members of society.

A Personal story: The story of A.

About four years ago A’s father murdered his wife, A’s mother and since then has been serving a life sentence. A. lives with his older brother, his wife and children but he is forced to take care of himself. Two years ago, he entered the Youth Theater’s ensemble and since then he claims his life was transformed for the best. At the ensemble, A. receives daily hot meals, acting lessons with the best teachers, and  there is always someone to listen to his needs and difficulties. He discovered his talent in the ensemble where he gains praises for his roles. He won first place in a dialogue competition at the “Autumn Theater Festival,” and first place in the “Jaffa Talent Competition,” and has already appeared in two movies. The future is looking bright for him.

“I began my experience at the ensemble as an insecure child with nothing to do in the afternoon, without friends and even without any talent. I studied in the ensemble for almost two years and I feel like my life has changed completely since I joined. I now feel confident, I have friends and I discovered an acting talent and I am part of a group with endless support from my team. Thanks to the encouragement, support, and time that was invested in my personal development and the caring that I received, as well as standing in front of the camera and being applauded by people I don’t know. It feels heavenly and just makes me happier and more eager for my next challenge.”