To support and develop the Palestinian arts in general, and the theater in particular; to act as a cultural and artistic platform that provides the grounds to develop strategies and activities that upscale the theatrical and artistic works on the national level
The Palestinian National Theatre El-Hakawati
لمسرح الوطني الفلسطيني الحكواتي
Organization TypeNongovernmental Organization (NGO)
Areas of Work
Culture, Arts, and Music,
Location of Work
Inside the wall and inside the Israeli municipal boundaries of Jerusalem,
El-Hakawati is the leading performing arts and cultural center for Palestinians in Jerusalem. El-Hakawati troupe was founded in 1977 and for its first six years it had no permanent home. In late 1983, the troupe rented the former Nuzha Cinema building in the heart of East Jerusalem. The building had an unfortunate history: it was hit by an air missile in the June 1967 war and then torched by religious fundamentalists who believed that it showed erotic films. Left as little more than a shell, the abandoned site became a dump. After months of grueling work by the members of the troupe themselves, the building reopened as the El-Hakawati Theatre on May 9, 1984.
For decades, the theater—a pillar of the Jerusalem community and of Palestinian arts more generally—has provided a space in which workshops and seminars can be held; its cultural and artistic activity supports Palestinian artists to develop strategies and activities that advance committed Palestinian artistic and theatrical work. Its yearly output and reach are extensive. Its stories combine various elements such as mime, carnival, allegory, and satire, and often include a fair amount of impromptu improvisation.
The troupe has also traveled and performed widely abroad, especially in Europe. The closure of the occupied West Bank and Gaza, the permit regime, and the Separation Wall have all made it nearly impossible for audiences outside the city to enjoy El-Hakawati shows. In order to overcome this, the theater developed a mobile theater; working with artistic and cultural institutions around Palestine, it takes theater to Palestinians wherever they live in the country.
The theater has also experienced its fair share of interference from the Israeli authorities. In 2008, the Israeli police were deployed at the theater to stop it holding a festival called “Jerusalem, the Arab Cultural Capital for 2009.” In June 2013, its 19th annual puppet show was forcibly closed down by the Israeli Public Security Ministry, which claimed that the show was being organized under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority (PA). According to Israeli law, the PA is banned from operating inside the Israeli boundaries of Jerusalem.