Centred around a German language course in Berlin where a Syrian,
three Palestinians and an Israeli meet, Yael Ronen’s play “The
Situation” gives an intimate portrayal of how immigrants to Germany
feel.

Berlin (dpa) – They are Syrians, Palestinians an Israelis – and since
they were little, they have been taught that they are enemies. In
Yael Ronen’s new play “The Situation,” worlds and worldviews collide
in the middle of Berlin.

The play, by the award-winning Israeli director, which premiered last
Friday paints a portrait of immigrants to Germany from the Middle
East.

On the stage stand three Palestinians, a Syrian and an Israeli (the
only woman of the group) – and as is usual with Ronen, she mixes
fiction with the real life events of the actors.

Ronen says the title of the play comes from fact that whether as an
Israeli or an Arab – in Hebrew or Arabic – when one alludes to the
current political circumstances in the Middle East one refers to “the
situation.”

The five characters who know “the situation” first hand get to know
each other at a German language course in the Berlin neighbourhood of
Neukoelln, or as the character Amir refers to it “this wonderful
Palestinian village of Neukoelln.”

Amir is played by Yousef Sweid, an Israeli Arab actor who appeared in
Khatufim (Prisoners), the Israeli television series upon which the US
series Homeland is based. He is also married to Ronen.

Their German teacher Stefan (played by German citizen Dimitrij
Schaad), formerly Sergey, is himself an immigrant, coming originally
from Kazakhstan – and as a “masterpiece of integration” stand for the
role of Germans in the debate around refugees and immigrants.

Stefan simply wants to help, and lets Syrian filmmaker student stay
at his apartment, but is fully unprepared for problems suffered by
his new Syrian roommate (played by Syrian actor Ayham Majid Agha who
until 2012 – a year after the start of the civil war was a junior
professor at the University of Performing Arts in Damascus).

Stefan learns from the Syrian what the civil war is like for those
who suffer under it. “You can die at least five times a day. That is
normal,” he is told. And Islamic State fighters at one point demanded
that he cut off the head of a soldier fighting for the government, in
order to prove that he was on their side. And he did it.

Ronen’s play turns on the human side of world politics, showing what
war, expulsion and homelessness are, and how identity, trauma,
Islamophobia, xenophobia, and as well as Germany’s accounting for its
past and the hopes of fleeing people for freedom all interplay.

The Middle East allusion is even a part of the set design, which
designer Tal Shacham reduces to a wall reminiscent to the one built
by Israel around the West Bank. The wall in the play however is
rebuilt as a staircase that the characters can move upwards to a
better future.

At the end of the play one is left wondering whether there is
actually hope for such a future. But there was no doubt that the play
itself was a moving experience. The audience at Friday’s premiere
gave Ronen and her team a long and hearty applause.