Ila Haifa is based on the short story of the same name by Ghassan Kanafani. It tells the story of a young couple, Said and Safiyye who are driven from their home and separated from their daughter Leila by the Israelis during the Nakba of 1948. Forced into exile, the couple attempt to rebuild their lives, but struggle to integrate abroad, and are constantly tormented by the memory of the little girl they had to leave behind. Many years later, when they are finally granted permission to return to Haifa, they return to their old home, to find an Israeli woman living there. Hardly daring to hope that Leila might still be alive, they ask the fateful question and are stunned when she walks in, a grown woman, and an Israeli soldier…
The production was conceived and choreographed by all members of Al Zaytouna, who worked in teams to create different elements of the show, selecting the music and devising the choreography that best represented their given part of the story. The scenes and dances they created were then pulled together, with much lively debate and discussion, to form Ila Haifa.
The brief for all was to bring Palestine and the Palestinian story to life through dabke, and to revitalise dabke itself through the introduction and interplay of different dance influences and traditions. Al Zaytouna’s members worked tirelessly to realise this ambition, devoting evenings, weekends and any spare time they had to the creation of this show.
Ila Haifa was their way of celebrating Palestine, ensuring its culture was not forgotten, and remembering all those who have suffered throughout its recent history.