Sarah’s War

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Interfaith Community United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP) sponsored a benefit performance in Hollywood of the nationally acclaimed play Sarah’s War. The play is the project of the Levantine Cultural Center in Los Angeles.

The nationally acclaimed production is a fictionalized account of the activist life and death of Rachel Corrie in 2003. As a member of the International Solidarity Movement she went to Gaza motivated by a strong sense of empathy and identity with the people of Gaza. In the opening scene she tells her favorite uncle about her plans. She meets his objections with answers that show naivete -yes – , compassion and unmovable determination. Even if one did not know Rachel’s story, one would know that this young women would not be dissuaded from her desire to protect the people of Gaza from Israeli force.

The play is set in several acts, not necessarily in chronological order and in a simple stage setting. There are a minimum of props, and a screen in the background helps set the tone. The acting and the dialogue give the play its considerable force.

Sarah’s War opens with pictures of Sarah — one is tempted to say Rachel  – as a young child juxtapositioned with scenes of destruction in the occupied territories.
In a bow to realism, the play also deals with the feelings of her survivors and the emotions that play out within her small family group after her death. Indeed death, particularly violent death, plays havoc with the emotions of the survivors, and here the play is stark in dealing with this issue.

There are scenes of Sarah facing an Israeli guard tower, meeting an ISM translator, being gently chided by a more sophisticated ISM activist, and even being snubbed by a Palestinian woman who finds her naivete tedious. Sarah cannot believe that her small group is in danger from Israeli fire because they are sitting under a banner that proclaims them to be international observers. As if to truly secure her safety, she dons a dayglo jacket that would announce her status to the world.

Perhaps the most poignant scene takes place after Sarah’s death. We see her mother sorting out her clothing and reminiscing. Sarah talks to her – she often addresses the audience – and causes her to remember her own student days during the Vietnam war. Her mother longed to be an activist but held back. Gradually Sarah brings out her mother’s memories. Did she see herself in her daughter – will this mitigate the loss of her child – a loss which is life’s one inconsolable grief?

Sarah’s War is beautifully acted, expertly directed and presented. Its message is strong and uncompromising. It is intimate as well as realistic.

Abica Dubay as Sarah heads a fine cast in Valerie Dillman’s play. Matt McKenzie’s direction gives the audience an edge of the seat performance.

“Seeing this play makes me relive Rachel Corrie’s death” said a young woman, not without tears in her eyes.

The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) is the nation’s largest civil liberties and advocacy organization. CAIR promotes the understanding of Islam often by building coalitions. CAIR promotes justice and mutual understanding.

For questions about CAIR, please use the following address:

The Interfaith Community United for Justice and Peace (OCUJP) is a dedicated group of clergy and lay persons representing different faiths. All are united in their espousal of justice and civil liberties for all. For further information, please access them at:

The Levantine Cutural Center, now entering its 11th year, seeks greater understanding of the Middle East and North Africa through artistic and educational programs. The Freedom Theatre West is a project of the Levantine Cultural Center.

To access the Levantine Cultural Center, please use the following address:


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