Community theater builds trust and healing in Israel


Creation of Yifat Bahar Recalla community theater organization 10 years ago because studying theater when she was younger changed her life.

Yifat Bahar, founder of Curtain Call. Photo courtesy of Curtain Call

“I was a very insecure girl,” she says. “It was very difficult for me to stand up for myself, to express my emotions and to talk to people. My father was the opposite. He used to tell me: ‘There’s no point in keeping everything at bay. interior.’

When Bahar was 11, she heard about an after-school drama class and wanted to attend. His mother asked, “How are you going to perform on stage?” You are so shy.

But Bahar went to that first lesson and “for the first time, without thinking too much and without being afraid of what other people will think, or how it will sound, I played.”

She remembers coming back from class “feeling happy and free”.

Healing at the group level

Bahar continued with acting classes and studied theater arts at Tel Aviv University, where she

learned about community theatre.

“I didn’t realize it was a practical tool for social change,” Bahar said, that it “empowers communities and provides a platform for personal, group and community expression.”

She started leading theater groups for children and the elderly and saw how “closed and insecure people became confident people”. She said it was “healing at the group level”.

That’s why she started Curtain Call.

In Hebrew it is called “Hishtachvaya”, a combination of the Hebrew words for “bow” and “experience”.

Curtain Call Connection Theater Workshop. Photo by Ephrat Specktor

The organization works with children and young people at risk, the elderly and people with special needs.

Eight staff and 14 instructors work in a structured program with approximately 60 groups involved in Curtain Call’s year-long programs, primarily in outlying areas from the far north to the Bedouin settlements in the south.

Some groups bring together people whose paths may never cross, such as religious and lay women.

Curtain Call participants create their own original shows based on local issues, conflicts and stories. Participants present meaningful, honest and thought-provoking shows that aim to “break down prejudice and build a sense of community,” Bahar said.

Curtain Call theater group for Ethiopian women in Yokne’am. Photo by Ephrat Specktor

“And when it’s the curtain call and the attendees bow and hear the applause and audience commentary at the end of a show, there’s nothing quite like it,” Bahar said. “I see people’s faces light up. In fact, they look bigger.

Thousands of people have taken the organization’s acting classes and thousands more have seen the performances, creating a ripple effect of change.

Promote tolerance

Curtain Call won the Knesset Speakers’ Quality of Life Award for 2021 for its work promoting tolerance and mutual understanding.

Bahar was selected by the US Embassy in Israel to travel to the United States in August as part of a delegation of entrepreneurs from around the world involved in social change through culture and the arts.

This community theater troupe is aimed at young people in Kiryat Gat. Photo by Ephrat Specktor/Curtain Call

Curtain Call receives funding and support from Israel’s Ministries of Education and Social Welfare. It also raises funds through private donations.

“Every day we receive calls from municipalities to create theater groups,” Bahar said.

Women performing at Rishon LeZion. Photo by Ephrat Specktor/Curtain Call

In the Arab community, theatrical performance is not well understood, according to Soheir Khateeb Kabaha, director of the Arab theater department at Curtain Call.

When she first applied for a teaching position at age 22, she had no theatrical experience. But she was so enthusiastic that she convinced Bahar to hire her.

Soheir Khateeb Kabaha, director of the Arabic theater department at Curtain Call. Photo courtesy of Curtain Call

When Kabaha, who lives in the town of Barta’a, told her father that she had gotten a job at Curtain Call, he reacted with concern.

“I come from a religious and traditional family,” Kabaha said. “He was worried that my new job would embarrass our family. But he also stressed that I should be responsible for my actions.

She began studying acting while working at Curtain Call. Today, at 32, with a graduate degree, she manages 30 groups in Arab towns around Israel. Kabaha said the groups have helped people communicate and listen to each other, combating the increase in violence in the Arab sector.

“Theatre is truly a tool for change,” Kabaha said.

“Curtain Call has helped me find my voice as a woman and a mother. It shows you can be creative and successful in life.

Impact on resilience

Studies show that theater can have a direct impact on people’s positive development and personal resilience, Bahar tells ISRAEL21c.

She cited the story of a woman of Ethiopian descent who came to the first meetings of a theater troupe in Ashdod and wanted “just to watch and listen”.

Community theater group for Ethiopian families in Ashdod. Photo by Ephrat Specktor/Curtain Call

Gradually, the woman began to participate and then, after a year of work, when she performed and danced on stage, her children told her that she was “incredible”.

This woman then joined the PTA in her children’s school, “something that may not have been a big step for some people but was a big step for her”, and is now helping other Ethiopian parents .

“The theatrical skills gave him the courage to act,” Bahar said. “Not just on stage but in life.”

You can find more information about Curtain Call here in Hebrew and here In English.


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