Performing (and Praying) for Palestine

By: Nadia Abuelezam

This week on the podcast we hear from a former Broadway actress - Gloria Zaghloul Olivier. Gloria has performed in plays like Fiddler on the Roof, Man of La Mancha, and The Desert Song. When you speak with Gloria, you realize almost immediately that she’s spent her life in theater. She is engaging and compelling about everything she discusses, from the mundane (like how she baked her scones) to the extraordinary (like her childhood visit to Palestine). She also knows how to work a room, receiving a rousing round of applause after telling her story entitled “Becoming Palestinian” at Palestinians, Live! in October of 2016 as part of the Boston Palestine Film Festival

When listening to #17: Gloria, Broadway and Bizr, you’ll realize almost instantly that Gloria’s story is not like many others we’ve told on the podcast. Her story is one of discovery and about settling into one’s identity. Despite the constant prodding of older actors during her days in theater, Gloria never found a need to focus on her Palestinian heritage during her youth. It was only after she’d started her family and her daughter became passionate about Palestine that she re-discovered this crucial part of her identity. 


A photo of Gloria (center left) in the 1973 production of Desert Song. 

Gloria’s story is also unique in that she discusses how Palestine has become a part of her spiritual ministry. After leaving acting, she decided to pursue theology and now leads a bible research class from her home with her husband. Advocating for the people in Palestine and for peace in the region has become a part of her calling. 

Gloria’s story and episode emphasizes that there is not a single mold that Palestinians fall into. Palestinians are diverse in history, makeup, and geographic placement. Gloria’s story puts into perspective that while the individual stories may be made up of different elements, the Palestinian narrative has many common elements, even in the diaspora.