Noa Baum speaks at "A Palestine and an Israeli at Lunch Conversation with Mohsen Mahdawi (LU '22) and Noa Baum" on Oct. 23. Baum is an award-winning storyteller, educator and public speaker.

Noa Baum explores perspectives on Israeli-Palestinian conflict through acting

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Noa Baum performed her one-woman show, ‘A Land Twice Promised,’ portraying the diverse experiences of people impacted by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Packard 101 on Oct. 22. 

Baum is an award-winning storyteller, educator and public speaker who travels internationally to share her stories and lead workshops. Her audiences have included The World Bank, prestigious universities and congregations, festivals, government agencies, schools and detention centers.

Rabbi Steve Nathan, director of Jewish Student Life and associate chaplain, helped to bring Baum to two other schools where he has worked, besides Lehigh. He said the Chaplain’s Office and the Office of Jewish Student Life were the main sponsors for this event.

Nathan said her perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was important to bring to campus to help people better understand the issue.

“It’s important to not only know our own narratives, but the person we may see as the ‘other,’ to hear and to see their narratives as well,” Nathan said. “The only way to have a constructive dialogue is to do that.”

Baum acts as several women, telling their respective stories. This narrative includes her own story, the story of her mother and the experience of Juana and Juana’s mother. Baum and her mother represent the Israeli perspective, while Juana and her mother serve as the Palestinian perspective. 

“The history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is elastic — it changes dramatically depending on who is telling it, and where they start the story,” Baum said in a pamphlet. “Therefore, it is important to note that a historic timeline of events concerning this conflict is always difficult to present in an objective manner.”

The performance opened by telling the story of how Baum met Juana in the United States, and the hesitations they had becoming friends, because Baum was Jewish-Israeli, and Juana was Palestinian. After spending some time together, each woman slowly began to open up about her respective childhood. 

Nadine Clopton, ‘19, ‘20G, said she enjoyed the show. 

“I kind of knew what I was getting into, but I didn’t realize the degree to which she would go into the other person’s perspective,” Clopton said. “I thought she did a really good job of standing in the shoes of her Palestinian friend, and her Palestinian friend’s family, as well as her own family members.”

Throughout the performance, Baum acted out her childhood, which consisted of fear that Nazi’s would rise again to come and take her and her family away, or that the Palestinians would come to kill her. 

Juana and her family’s story spoke of the fear of the Israelis coming to kill their family.

“I felt it (the show) de-politicizes the issue, which is very hard to do, especially with it being such a sensitive, polarizing subject,” Clopton said.

Sydney Berkowitz, ‘23, said the show made it clear that people — who are born into families who teach them certain things are right and wrong — cannot always avoid having biased opinions. 

“Noa and the Palestinian woman both grew up learning to hate one another, and learned to become friends because it was not really their opinions, but their families’,” Berkowitz said.

Nathan said Baum’s is effective in portraying both sides of her story with the Israeli and Palestinian perspectives. He said as a result, people should learn to hear all sides of every story.

Ally Kornberger, ‘19, said the event exceeded her expectations and she learned more about herself through the event.

“Story-telling and better listening help us open these paths of compassion and dialogue with others,” she said.

With human connection being lost nowadays, Kornberger values the importance of face-to-face interaction and storytelling.

Nathan said he looks forward to having more events centered around discussions like ‘A Land Twice Promised,’ and upon receiving feedback from students, he is looking to plan more in the future.  

Jisu Choi, ’21, contributed to this story.

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