Saturday, May 02, 2009

Seven Jewish Children

The play Seven Jewish Children is coming to Canada. It will play in Toronto's Theatre Passe Muraille, from May 15-17.

The play, written during the Gaza war by British playwright Caryl Churchill is only 10 minutes long, but has created a storm of controversy. Mainstream Jewish groups, the Canada Israel Committee for one, have labeled it antisemitic. Sara Saber-Freedman, executive vice-president of the CIC, said the play is an example of anti-Israel sentiment merging seamlessly into anti-Semitism. "If that's not a resuscitation of the blood libel, I don't know what is," she said, apparently referring to the plays final monologue. (See this story in the National Post.)

I don't know if she saw the play, read the script, or had some lines quoted to her out of context. But "Blood Libel?" Hardly!

When I watched the play, I thought it was moving, thought provoking, and disturbing. It is not without fault. But it is not antisemitic. That's for sure. I am not even sure that it is anti-Zionist, as it provides plenty of reasons to explain why Jews feel they need a State of their own. It is a nuanced look at the conflicted Jewish-Israeli psyche. Is it representative of all Jews or even all Israeli Jews? Certainly not. But it does represent a composite of a lot of mainstream Jewish and Jewish-Israeli opinion. There is not a word that the characters speak that I haven't personally heard out of some Jewish persons mouth at one time or another.

See the video on The Guardian web site and judge for yourself.

By the way, the original play was meant to be have different actors doing each of the main monologues and with suggestions for what to tell or not tell the Jewish child coming from various characters. This version has one actor reading all the parts. I rather like it that way, as the historical narratives blends seamlessly into the present day narrative. The different suggestions of what to say/not say are all coming from the same person, focusing the conflicts within one person's brain. Its all a bit of a jumble. Just like in the heads of most Jews in know.

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Update: According to a CBC web page, a tape of the May 2nd Montreal performance of Seven Jewish Children will broadcast on CBC Radio One on Sunday May 3rd on "Sunday Morning" between 9:10 and 10:00 AM. This will be followed by a "debate."

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Update: To hear a podcast of the CBC's Sunday Morning broadcast of the play, followed by discussion of it, click here and look for the May 3rd broadcast.


Anonymous Shmuel said...

I think it's a pretty bad piece of drama, but anyone who sees it with anything resembling an open mind will realise that it is humanising and actually creates empathy with or at least comprehension of the complexity of the 20th-21st century Jewish experience. Unfortunately, the fact that Jews/Israelis are not unidimensional amoral monsters is still news to some folks. Of course the CIC is at least as guilty of unidimensionality in their absurd insistence that Jews are all long-suffering super-human saints (except for "self-hating" leftists). If that isn't reverse anti-Semitism, I don't know what is. As I always tell non-Jews who insist on telling me how amazing Jews are: We have our fair share of jerks and morons, just like any other people. I know many of them personally.

4:14 pm  

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