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Wednesday, 31 July, 2002, 05:33 GMT 06:33 UK
A Palestinian's odyssey
Palestinian men file past Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint between Hebron and Yatta
Hebron is a city under strict curfew
BBC correspondent Claire Marshall met Palestinian actor Raed al-Shiokhi, who described how a trip from Hebron to Gaza City, which in peaceful times would take less than an hour, turned into an epic six-day journey.

"It was like a nightmare - very hard, very difficult, very miserable," Palestinian actor Raed al-Shiokhi's description of the journey from his home town of Hebron, in the West Bank, to Gaza.

In normal times, the 40 kilometre trip would take less than an hour, and cost just a few dollars.

But that was before the Palestinian uprising began 22 months ago, and the ensuing Israeli military clampdown on Palestinian territories.

When Raed travelled from Hebron to Gaza City last week to attend a theatre workshop, it took him and his three actor friends six days and cost nearly $1000.

The first challenge for them was to get out of Hebron.

Stopped by soldiers

It is a city under a strict curfew, with Israeli soldiers patrolling the streets.

No Palestinians are allowed out of their homes. And the local Palestinian authority would not help Raed leave.

Neither would an ambulance drive him to the outskirts of the city.

So, in the end, he called on his brother Mazin, who is a journalist and able to travel freely.

In the middle of the journey, they were stopped by around seven or eight military jeeps full of Israeli troops.

"It was the most difficult 15 seconds for me. A thousand thoughts came to my mind: If they see my identity card, they'll say: 'This is not a journalist'. They'll take me, they'll shoot me," Raed said.

But Raed's brother jumped from the car and started pretending to film the soldiers - and they drove on.

Long route

Their journey had just begun. The Gaza strip is completely sealed off - no Palestinians can enter or leave.

So to attend their theatre workshop, the four actors had to sleep in the desert for five days to cross in to Jordan.

A Palestinian on his donkey  passes  Israeli soldiers at a road block in Hebron
Usually, the trip from Hebron to Gaza City takes less than an hour

Then they took a flight to Egypt, and finally entered Gaza.

At each border, frustrating hours were spent waiting at checkpoints. They nearly gave up.

"Many, many times we said, 'We are going back, we don't want to go to Gaza'."

But the actors persevered, and made it to Gaza City.

Theatre workshop

The company which invited them to attend is called Theatre Day.

Jackie Lubek jointly runs it. She says it is impossible for anyone else to imagine what is going on.

Organising a theatre workshop for people under occupation is extremely difficult.

But she carries on trying.

"We can always be trying to make the days different. And those different days will stick out. So for them we make a little change".

Raed fears that they will have the same ordeal on their way back. But he keeps dreaming. Now he wants to open a theatre in Hebron, "to give fun to the people - because the pressure of occupation is going to kill them".

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See also:

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