On Wednesday evening, Carleton’s department of Middle Eastern languages sponsored a semi-biographical show by performing artist Ibrahim Miari at the Weitz Center.
Titled “In Between,” the one-man performance revolves around Miari’s difficult experience going through Israeli airport security upon his return from a trip to the United States. Miari is regarded suspiciously due to his complicated identity: born to a Muslim, Palestinian father and a Jewish, Israeli mother, Miari is subjected to a grueling interrogation at the airport about who he is and what his place is in Israel.
Miari himself, jumps backand forth between the past, mired in memories of his inherently contradictory heritage, and the problems anticipated in the future once he and his Jewish-American fiancée are married.
In the present, Miari finds himself literally trapped in between worlds; he remains detained in airport security until he can justify his existence to Israeli authorities. First, though, he has to come to terms with himself: is he an Arab or an Israeli? Are they fundamentally incompatible identities?
As Miari recounts his life experiences, the audience is treated to both comedy and darkness. At the Jewish primary school he attended, he was Abraham, but when his father transfers him to an Arab school, Miari becomes Ibrahim, given a new name and a new identity. It’s a change that is, alarmingly, as easy as changing school districts.
In one scene, Miari adopts the persona of his future mother-in-law, a smothering American-Jewish stereotype who overwhelms him with superficial approval while simultaneously demanding that his future children be raised in the Jewish faith.
In another scene, it is 1991 and Operation Desert Storm is underway. Miari wears a gas mask while performing a Sufi dance, whirling endlessly as an eerie siren sounds in the distance.
The irony of Miari’s identity is especially poignant here: the President of Iraq promises to launch missiles into Israel despite the heavy presence of Arabs in certain regions of the country. Saddam Hussein is quoted as saying, “I will not sort lentils.” At the brink of war, for once in his life, Miari’s identity was much too simple to define.
As Miari bowed and applause filled the room, Brooke McManigal ’14 expressed her overall surprise.
“Ibrahim Miari came to my Arabic class earlier today and he was really funny and witty, so I expected this performance to be more light-hearted,” she said. “I still liked the show a lot.”
Other Arabic students were excited by how seamlessly Miari had transitioned between English, Hebrew, and Arabic during the performance.
“I could definitely understand some of the Arabic!” Kit Pavlekovsky ’15 said.