Militants and fanatics: A Gaza twist to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

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Guess what! Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” has opened to audiences in the Gaza Strip, albeit with a distinctly Palestinian twist.

Instead of the forbidden love story of Renaissance-era European aristocracy, the star-crossed young couple in Gaza’s version of the play is divided by politics stemming from the deep internal Palestinian split between two rival movements.

Yousef, a son of a member of Gaza’s ruling Islamic militant group Hamas, falls in love with Suha, the daughter of a fanatical member of the rival Fatah party.

Dubbed “Romeo and Juliet in Gaza,” the performance has brought a rare taste of foreign culture to this conservative and isolated territory. But it is even more noteworthy for its critical look at the political rift that has crippled life in Gaza for nearly a decade.

“It’s a call for love; to give a space for love and for youths to dream of a beautiful future away from the current state in Gaza, especially the youths and their suffering,” said director Ali Abu Yassin.

In 2007, Hamas routed forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas and ousted his Fatah party in a week of deadly street battles. Since then, Abbas’ rule has been confined to the West Bank, while Israel and Egypt have imposed a blockade on the Hamas-ruled Gaza. The measures, which Israel says are needed to prevent Hamas from importing arms, have brought Gaza’s economy to a near standstill.

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